Jan 26 2014

SCOTTISH PALESTINE SOLIDARITY CAMPAIGN AGM – Dundee, 11.1.14

tb.php

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign in action outside Sainsbury’s

The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) held its annual general meeting earlier this month in Dundee.

Continue reading “SCOTTISH PALESTINE SOLIDARITY CAMPAIGN AGM – Dundee, 11.1.14”

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


Mar 20 2009

Isolate ‘Apartheid’ Israel

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 17RCN @ 3:23 pm

Nick Clarke analyses the latest stages of Israel’s war on the Palestinians and the role of the solidarity movement

As the media spotlight on Israel’s latest re-invasion and brutal bombardment of Gaza begins to dim, the Israeli state’s punishment of the Palestinian people continues. The explicit aims of the new year invasion were to stop the sporadic missile launches against the southern Israeli towns of Sderot and Ashkelon and to close the tunnels from Egypt that bring much needed supplies into Gaza. The primitive weaponry available to Palestinian forces in Gaza is no match for the high-tech, state-of-the-art hardware deployed by the Israeli state, supplied by their own weapons manufacturers or provided on generous terms by the US and Britain.

However, there was another agenda underlying these overt aims. Firstly, in October 2008, the ruling coalition government led by Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert’s Kadima Party had unravelled, hastened by the corruption charges facing the Prime Minister. A general election had been called and Tzipi Livni, replacing Olmert as leader of Kadima, found her party trailing Netanyahu’s Likud Party in the opinion polls, by some distance.

To give themselves a chance of beating Likud, Kadima turned to the Israeli state’s favoured scapegoats, the Palestinians. By launching the attack on Gaza, Kadima and its Labour Party partners pandered to the right by adopting Likud’s open hostility to the Palestinians and making it their own.

The fronting of this cynical offensive by Livni almost brought success as by polling day Kadima had eliminated Likud’s lead. However, it was not enough. While they won the most seats, Kadima’s electoral tactics backfired on them spectacularly. The IDF’s onslaught also increased the votes for the ultra right, in particular, Avigdor Lieberman’s party – Yisraeli Beiteinu. Lieberman’s party favours Israel abandoning territory on the West Bank inhabited by Arab families and annexing blocs of Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories. He is also proposing a new loyalty test for Arab citizens of Israel. In other words, he is an open supporter of ethnic cleansing.

Whatever the differences between these Zionist parties as to tactics and policy, they are all committed to their fundamental support for Israel as a ‘Jewish state for a Jewish people’. Again the Palestinians are used and abused at the whim of Israeli electoral politics.

The second, unspoken agenda item was to clear the decks before the Obama presidency began in the US. Using the hiatus following his election but before his inauguration on 20th January, Israel knew that the final days of the Bush presidency would cause them little trouble over the Gaza bombardment and they were not disappointed. Bush’s response, or lack of it, was predictable. Israel wanted the crushing of Hamas and the pacification of Gaza to be complete before Bush left office. This would enable them to negotiate with the US from a position of strength just in case Obama had different ideas about how to handle the Israel/Palestine situation from his presidential predecessors.

Predictable response

They need not have worried. Obama’s response was as predictable as all the others. During June 2008 he made some very friendly noises to the Zionist American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), describing himself as a true friend of Israel and stating

Let me be clear. Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive, and that allows them to prosper — but any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.

So the Palestinians should not expect any equitable treatment from the Obama presidency.

And what of the Middle East envoy of the EU, US, UN and Russia – a certain Tony Blair? He was appointed to this role 2 years ago due to his ‘success’ in ‘resolving’ the Irish War, no doubt accompanied by a healthy remuneration. How could he ever be seen as a credible negotiator in the Middle East following his illegal and enthusiastic part in bloodbath of Arabs that was the Iraqi invasion? This was further compounded by his refusal to condemn Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 2006, while he was still Prime Minister.

In recent weeks Blair has been awarded the Dan David Prize, through Tel Aviv University for his leadership on the world stage and having shown exceptional intelligence and foresight, and demonstrated moral courage and leadership. Did it not occur to him how acceptance of this award might compromise his nominal role as ‘honest broker’? Presumably his vanity and the $1m prize outweighed this consideration.

Despite having his role as envoy for 2 years, it took Blair until 1st March 2009 to actually visit Gaza. On inspecting the devastation caused by the Israelis, his response was that it was shocking and enormous. That was obvious from the limited footage that came out of Gaza, despite Israeli censorship, during the bombardment in early January. As envoy for the EU, should he not be condemning the destruction by the IDF of projects funded by EU donations? It has taken him almost two months to call for the end of the blockade of Gaza. As with Obama, his silence in early January spoke volumes as to where his allegiance lies.

No imperialist solutions

So while the IDF’s military assault on Gaza has ceased for the time being, the siege being waged by the Israeli state against the Palestinian people has not. Gaza is a concentration camp. Israel still controls what goes in and out by land, sea and air (apart from that smuggled through the tunnels). They allow a drip of humanitarian aid to pass into Gaza. Convoys of food, medical supplies and other essentials such as fuel, including that being supplied by NGOs and the UN, are prevented from reaching the Palestinians who desperately need it.

The blockade, the Wall, the intimidation, the terror and deprivations imposed on the Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza amount to an attempt to crush all resistance, eradicate all historical memory of Palestinian settlement and prevent a Palestinian nation from emerging. The continued second class status, the denial of equal political rights and the continued removal of Palestinians and Bedouin people living within Israel itself, highlights the apartheid nature of the Israeli state. This is reinforced by the banning, in the run up to the general election, of political parties traditionally supported by Arabs in Israel.

Political solutions to the conflict must not be based
on the interests of British/US imperialism or Israeli
expansionism. All bids at imperialist ‘peace’ settlements (Camp David, Oslo and the Road Map) have all failed because they have not addressed the aspirations of the Palestinian people for genuine self-determination, and accept the continuation of Israel as an apartheid-type state, with Jewish people remaining as the economically and socially privileged, dominant political force.

Likewise any attempts made to broker agreements made by the corrupt rulers of the undemocratic Arab police states have been designed to buttress their own positions and privileges. The only meaningful wider support in the Middle East will come from the oppressed peoples in these lands.

All Palestinian refugees who have been displaced since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 must have the right of return to their homeland. All forms of ethnic cleansing must be opposed and the only truly democratic solution is for a singular, secular, democratic state for all the people of historic Palestine. Such a state needs to guarantee the democratic rights of all minority groups, irrespective of religious beliefs, including the right to practice their religion of choice.

A few on the Left have opposed any effective support for the Palestinians in Gaza. They argue that Palestinians have given their electoral support to Hamas, an Islamicist party. Ironically, it was Netanyahu, who originally gave Israeli state backing to Hamas in Palestine, to undermine the then politically dominant, secular nationalist PLO. However, since the PLO has fallen in behind an imperially imposed two-state ‘solution’, it has become more and more mired in corruption, accepting political backing and money from Israel, the US and the EU. Many now see the PLO-controlled Palestinian Authority as acting in much the same manner as those Judenrat officials who ran the Jewish ghettoes on behalf of the Nazis. It was the failure of the formerly politically dominant socialists in the Bund and communists in East European countries, to successfully defend Jews in the face of the Nazi onslaught, that led to the political victory of the Zionist Jewish supremacists amongst the surviving European Jews.

Hamas can, in some ways, be considered as Moslem ‘Zionists’, who want to create a state in which Moslems dominate. They can provide no just and democratic solution for the peoples of Palestine. However, just as the most committed socialists tried to defend all Jews persecuted by the Nazis, so today, we should provide active solidarity with the people of Palestine. As socialists we have to establish our political credentials amongst the Palestinians and other people in the Middle East. This means showing that the international solidarity we offer can be, not only more effective than any pan-Islamicist support, but also offer all the peoples living in historic Palestine an escape from the many forms of exploitation and oppression they face. Socialists also give their support to those Israeli Jews who defend Palestinian rights, especially those who refuse to perform military service.

Practical action, including occupations, has already been taken by students in some of Scotland’s universities, including Glasgow, Edinburgh, St Andrews and Dundee. Students have demanded that the universities boycott Israeli goods, as well as get rid of any investment in weapons manufacturers, such as BAE Systems.

The political atmosphere must be created in which workers also have the confidence to directly implement solidarity actions. The Viva Palestina convoy, which left London in February, with more than 100 vehicles driven by volunteers, is one action which shows the potential to raise wider support, including trade unions. This convoy eventually crossed into Gaza at Rafah on 9th March with £1.5m worth of aid including medical supplies, clothes, food and toys as well as 20 ambulances, two buses, a fire engine and a fishing boat.

The campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the Israeli state must be supported. The instruments and methods of oppression used against the Palestinians, by Israel today, have echoes of those used against the black population in apartheid-era South Africa. This comparison was picked up by South African dock workers in Durban who in February refused to off-load an Israeli ship in solidarity with the Palestinians as part of a week of action against apartheid Israel.

We have a special duty, living as we do in the UK, given successive British governments’ support for the Israeli state. The role of socialists in Scotland must be to provide practical solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and to support an international campaign to isolate Israel – economically, politically, socially and culturally.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Mar 16 2006

Imperialism’s Nuclear Hypocrisy

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 12RCN @ 4:01 pm

Nick Clarke exposes Labour’s double standards when it comes nuclear issues

Nothing better illustrates the hypocrisy of imperialism and its apologists at the United Nations than the nuclear issue. The break up of the Soviet Union and the subsequent diplomatic thaw ended the Cold War. The peace dividend that was supposed to flow from this would allow the finger to be taken off the trigger of the nuclear arsenals of the 5 acknowledged nuclear states. We were told that Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) was no longer an option. However, a Marxist understanding of the nature of capitalism in its imperialist stage meant the preparation for war would continue.

In the past few years, the nuclear debate has moved back to the centre of international politics. Membership of the nuclear club is the must-have status symbol of every aspirant, ‘wannabe’ imperialist state. Pakistan and India are engaged in a sub-continental arms race, Mordechai Vanunu exposed the nuclear ambitions and capabilities of Israel, Saddam Hussein was thwarted in his drive to build the first ‘Arab’ bomb and now there is a stand off between the UN and Iran over the latter’s nuclear developments. All indicatethe seriousness of the situation.

In 1970, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) came into force, with the backing of the United Nations. 187 countries have signed the treaty, including the original 5 nuclear states – US, UK, France, USSR and China. The UN website describes the NPT as

a landmark treaty, whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament. The Treaty represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States.

These are worthy aims, but the reality of the last 35 years is very different and is a case study exposing the lie of the neutrality and objectivity of the UN.

This glowing testimony to the NPT is exploded by the global experience of the last 3 decades, exemplified by current developments.

Exposing the lie

Over the years, the 5 nuclear states above have all been complicit in providing states in their ‘sphere of influence’ with the necessary technology, which has not prevent(ed) the spread, but has actually fuelled the proliferation of nuclear weapons. This continues today. Although not signatories to the NPT, India, Pakistan and Israel have escaped UN sanctions and anything but the mildest official criticism over their development and testing of nuclear weaponry. Where are the UN Security Council resolutions, the call for political and economic sanctions against these regimes that brazenly flout this landmark treaty?

Contrast this with the imperialist priority given to preventing both Iraq and Iran from acquiring such technology. Like UN Security Council resolutions, the NPT is rolled out as justification for isolating and vilifying ‘rogue’ states. While the members of the ‘axis of evil’ are threatened, cajoled and invaded, Western imperialism’s client states can ignore the NPT with impunity. The stench of nuclear hypocrisy is overpowering.

While the US and UK ramp up the pressure on Iran and its nuclear ambitions, by threatening action at the UN and pressurising the IAEA to do likewise, Tony Blair is bragging about upgrading Britain’s nuclear capability both in terms of energy production and weaponry. This is in blatant opposition to the NPT which commits signatories to furthering the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and a binding commitment….to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear weapon states.

Nuclear addiction

In the last month, Blair and, Defence Secretary, John Reid, have already pledged themselves to maintaining Britain’s nuclear ‘deterrent’. They are already looking at what will replace the Trident nuclear missile system. So, far from upholding the spirit of disarmament in the NPT, they are actually looking to upgrade. While lecturing the North Koreans and Iranians on the folly of possessing nuclear capability, they are preparing to spend an estimated £20billion enhancing their own.

Blair & Chirac: nuclear mates

Blair & Chirac: nuclear mates

This addiction to weapons of mass destruction is not just confined to Britain. At the start of the year, French President, Jacques Chirac declared he was prepared to use nuclear weapons against any incident of state sponsored ‘terrorism’ against France. Like Blair, these comments come at a time when France is also engaged in a debate about upgrading its own nuclear capabilities. The Labour government is also trying to rehabilitate the ‘N’ word in relation to Britain’s energy requirements. Blair is strongly indicating that he is in favour of a building programme of new nuclear power stations.

The impending energy crisis provoked by a thirst and dependency on fossil fuels is concerning the dependent Western economies. The use of oil, gas and coal is no longer guaranteed for a variety of reasons. The biggest suppliers of gas and oil are in the area of the world destabilised by imperialist intervention, inevitably leading to price rises and supply restrictions.

Palpitations

Combined with that, major oil producers such as Iran and Venezuela are flexing their political muscles that come with substantial oil reserves, and threatening to withdraw supplies to the US. Likewise, Russia recently caused palpitations in Europe when it raised gas prices to Ukraine. Until the election of Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine had enjoyed Russian gas at favourable rates; as the political regime changed in Kiev so Russian gas prices have increased.

Iraqi oil production levels are still a long way from the rosy predictions of the neo-con mates of Bush. These uncertainties are compounded by the environmental consequences of the continued burning of fossil fuels. It is inconceivable to think that new nuclear power stations are being planned for Britain, while there is still no solution as to how to dispose of the toxic waste that this source of power produces.

This waste remains dangerous for thousands of years. Combine this with the ‘war on terror’ and the panic over ‘dirty bombs’, and it is inconceivable that the government could promote the building of such explosive targets.

The world is threatened by any or all of the regimes of Bush, Blair, Chirac, Putin, Sharon, Musharraf, Ehud Olmert or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Humanity remains in danger whilst any of them have their finger hovering above the nuclear button. Ultimately, it is not them as individuals who threaten the existence of the world, but it is the system of capitalism and profit which endangers the planet.

Unless we challenge the very system that puts that interest of profit before the interest of humanity, then the horrors of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island will inevitably be repeated.

Smart Bombs and Dumb Bs = war by Rae Bridges

Smart Bombs and Dumb B's = war by Rae Bridges

Tags:


Sep 13 2005

Facing up to the Challenge

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 11RCN @ 1:38 pm

Nick Clarke looks at the Left’s response to G8

Over a year ago, comrades from the anti-capitalist movement, Globalise Resistance and the Scottish Socialist Party came together to create G8 Alternatives. G8 Alternatives immediately started organising, agitating, and campaigning to make sure that, when the world’s leading imperialists turned up at Gleneagles in July, they were met by an organised, militant, international opposition, in the tradition of Seattle, Genoa and Evian. A programme of events was planned; the G8 Alternative summit, demonstrations at Faslane Nuclear base and at Dungavel Asylum seeker detention centre. The centre piece was to be the Wednesday protest at the Gleneagles Hotel to make sure the G8 leaders heard our opposition. This last event then became the subject of lengthy, Kafkaesque negotiations between G8 Alternatives, Perth and Kinross council and the police – but more of that later.

In December 2004, the Make Poverty History campaign was launched – white wrist bands and a demonstration in Edinburgh on Saturday 2nd July were announced. Dozens of NGO’s and charities joined under the MPH banner. This was followed at the end of May 2005, by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure announcing the Live 8 concerts. By strange coincidence, the one in Edinburgh was due to take place on the same day as the Gleneagles demo.

The challenge to the left, including the SSP, was how to respond to these two belated initiatives. Of the MPH event: Following its launch, numerous celebrities publicly came out in support, including many with a genuine concern for the issues, a record of campaigning, but with a naïve perspective as to the solution. MPH caught a mood and this together with the media coverage that the organisers were able to drum up meant that this event was going to be huge. A glimpse of this was seen by the number of coaches that were being booked by all kinds of organisations, from all over the UK. It wasn’t just the usual suspects.

Hijacked by the right

The SSP’s response, to campaign and mobilise for an intervention on July 2nd, around the slogan Make Capitalism History, was correct. As July 2nd approached, we saw the campaign being hijacked from the right. Following the unprecedented anti-war demonstrations on 15th February 2003, the Labour government had developed new tactics in how to intervene with such mass movements. Government ministers were now insisting on joining the MPH event and speaking from the platform. And the organisers welcomed them – Gordon Brown, Jack McConnell and Hilary Benn all took to the streets.

At the same time as welcoming these representatives of British imperialism, the MPH officials were trying to marginalise the left and the less ‘compromising’ opponents of poverty and global capitalism. They attempted to deny the SSP and other progressive organisations the right to set up stalls in The Meadows – the assembly point for the march. The attempted sanitisation of this event was highlighted by the official call for everyone to wear white – was this a sign of surrender or counter-revolution?

Backfired

This backfired, as it gave socialists the perfect opportunity to make a recognisable intervention by wearing red – making a distinct socialist section of the demonstration highly visible. The SSP rightly seized that opportunity and we attracted many to our contingent from throughout Britain and internationally. Unfortunately the attitude of the SWP and the CWI meant that the size of the socialist section was not at the maximum.

The CWI adopted a sectarian position, refusing to join up with the SSP contingent. Instead of having a CWI section on the socialist contingent, they chose to march on their own – but at least they wore red! The SWP, on the other hand, appeared to submerge themselves into the white-banded, white-shirted morass. Although some of their platform members marched with the SSP contingent, the official SWP position was not to prioritise the building of the largest, coordinated, united socialist intervention.

Then we had Live 8. According to the official website: An estimated 3 BILLION PEOPLE watched LIVE 8 the greatest, greatest show on Earth. What was that about bread and circuses? How does 3 billion glued to a TV screen eradicate poverty? How does it pressurise the decision makers? Deliberately or not, the Live 8 initiative took attention away from the mass protests that were to take place. On July 2 and 3, the media was dominated with images and column inches of coverage of the concerts. TV and the print media treated us to photos and comments of the super-rich of the music business – Why were they here? What did they think of poverty? When’s their next album out? Then, following inane answers they tucked into the free, luxury buffet, as well as the complementary bar! Oh, and by the way, 250,000+ travelled to Edinburgh to take part in the largest demonstration in Scottish history.

MPH: mission accomplished?

MPH: mission accomplished?

So the message from Live 8 was leave it to those who know what they are doing; the masses should just sit back and enjoy the music – Sir Bob and Bono will change the nature of imperialism! Added to this was the decision taken by Bono, Bob and Midge to have the Edinburgh leg of Live 8 on the same day as the controversial Gleneagles demo! I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but… Was this a deliberate attempt to redirect protestors away from Gleneagles, as well as to divert the media from the state’s attacks on civil liberties – Ronan Keating was so marvellous, who cares about the right to march and the right to freedom of movement around Scotland?

Despite, the attempts of Live 8, Perth and Kinross council and various arms of the UK state, (with the US security services lurking behind the scenes) a successful, well attended demonstration did take place on July 6. Those taking part were remarkably patient and self-controlled despite the constant provocations of the authorities. In the lead up to the Gleneagles demonstration, the authorities had continually been obstructive to G8 Alternatives representatives who had tried to get the route and march details agreed with the police and local council. In March, SSP MSPs in the Scottish parliament had got that body to agree that the right to protest at Gleneagles should be upheld. As the G8 summit approached, Jack McConnell, Scotland’s First Minister, failed repeatedly to give assurances to that right.

Absolutely unrepentant

In response, all 4 SSP MSPs in the parliament that day stood up and in silent protest held up placards behind McConnell demanding he defend democracy and uphold the previous decision of the parliament. Reasonable enough you would think. However, by the end of the day, Parliament had imposed some of the most draconian sanctions against protesting parliamentarians in post war Europe. The 4 MSPs have been suspended for the month of September, their wages and allowances stopped for a month, as well as the wages of their researchers. All of this was imposed without them given a hearing. They were tried and sentenced in their absence, without any right of appeal. Frances Curran, one of those suspended, says she is absolutely unrepentant. Quite right.

We must be unequivocal in our support – both financially and morally. Although the August meeting of the SSP’s National Council voted almost unanimously to fully endorse the actions of the four MSPss, there are some in the SSP who have been critical of the MSPs’ action. The role of socialists in such a parliament must be different, to the run-of-the-mill careerists from the bourgeois parties. We are not a parliamentary party that believes that change and socialism will come through a vote in a parliamentary committee or First Minister’s Questions. It comes through the actions of those outside parliament.

If the SSP 4 had not protested about the suspension of our human rights to demonstrate against the world’s top 8 gangsters coming to Scotland, then when are we going to be different? They were articulating, not just the rights of people in Scotland, but of all those internationally that wanted to come and make their opposition seen and heard by those closeted away in the Scottish countryside.

Some critics say that the demonstration had already been given the go-ahead before the parliamentary protest. However the SSP 4’s actions were further vindicated by events on the day of the demonstration. Despite an agreement with the police at the eleventh hour for the protest to go ahead, on the day the police were determined to sabotage the event. It was only through the persistence and ingenuity of demonstrators that so many got to Gleneagles.

Rumours of cancellation, police road blocks and intimidation were all used to prevent us exercising our democratic right. In Edinburgh, many were denied the right to join the march and people were arrested when they organised a march along Princes Street to protest against police actions. (See separate article) However, the actions of the SSP MSPs, the draconian penalties and the media reaction meant that many more people were made aware of the Wednesday protest and the way the authorities from the Scottish parliament to Perth and Kinross council to the police tried to prevent the event taking place.

Although the G8 Alternatives slogan was ‘Stop the G8’, this was rhetorical, not a call to disrupt the official proceedings at Gleneagles. Some groups in the anarchist tradition tried to do just that. However, it was clear that the tactics of the combined security and police forces were able to handle all such attempts. Chillingly, it was only the actions of the suicide bombers in London, which brought a temporary halt to proceedings, as Blair was forced to leave the Summit. The ‘please don’t mention the war’ item, missing from the official G8 agenda, was rudely thrust forward. Not that the G8 leaders responded by recognising the enormity of their actions in Iraq (and elsewhere); the bombings just provided them with the excuse needed to ratchet up their attack on civil rights.

Although the Left’s successful defiance of the attempts by the state to obstruct the Wednesday protest was a definite victory; this too was soon swamped by the media attention devoted to the bombings. Internationally, particularly in many ‘Third World’ countries, where democratic rights hardly exist and imperialist violence is a daily reality, it won’t be the Left’s protests that have made an impact. The Left, particularly with its longstanding British constitutionalist tradition, has some way to go before it can make slogans, such as ‘Stop the G8’ a reality.

Nevertheless, unlike many well-intentioned, but politically naive, supporters of MPH, we at least knew the limitations of the G8 leaders. Is it not ironic that the two specially chosen official agenda items – African poverty and climatic change – should so soon explode in the G8 leaders’ faces? Within days of the Summit’s conclusion, Niger was revealed to be suffering abject famine conditions, with little being done officially to bring immediate aid. Within weeks, a hurricane struck New Orleans, revealing that ‘Third World’ conditions exist in the imperialist heartland of the USA, and the nagging worry that capitalist-induced climate change may be responsible. The need to ‘Make Capitalism History’ should now be clearer to many more people, who attended the massive protests in July. The SSP must match its wider political work with the policies, strategy and tactics, which can reach out to these people and make this slogan a reality.

Tags: ,


Mar 02 2004

Occupation is not liberation

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 07RCN @ 2:46 pm

Reflecting on recent events at home and abroad, Nick Clarke examines whether the world today is a freer, safer place.

Freedom to profit

In the aftermath of the atrocities of September 11 2001, Bush and his ruling junta declared the start of the War on Terror. The subtitle for this crusade was to make the world a safer place, particularly for the freedom loving peoples of the world i.e. for global capital and its client states. The subsequent attack on the Taliban and the destruction of Afghanistan was about revenge. Although, it was less for the 3000 deaths at the World Trade Centre and more for the symbolism these attacks meant for the US military industrial complex. However, it was also about letting the world know that every corner of the planet must be open to US imperialism and the capital it serves. The freedom they are fighting for is the freedom to make profit. This doctrine provoked the attack on Iraq and a hundred other interventions – military and ‘diplomatic’ – around the world. Continued US state attempts to overthrow the elected left populist Chavez in oil-rich Venezuela shows that the excuse of ‘defence against terrorism’ is a sham. Similarly, the former death squad leaders of the notorious ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier, who were prominent in the recent overthrow of Haiti’s populist President Aristide, also appear to have had clandestine US state backing for their efforts.

Meanwhile the ‘road map to peace’ in Palestine has hit a ‘brick’ wall – the so-called Israeli Peace Wall. ‘Apartheid Israel’ with its West Bank and Gaza Strip ‘bantustans’ now paves the way for something even more sinister – Palestinian ghettos, like Abu Dis, communities completely surrounded by Israeli policed walls, controlling all entrance and exit. Sharon’s government contains ministers who openly advocate a ‘final solution’, for the ‘Palestinian problem’ – mass ethnic cleansing. Israel is a state with an openly racist constitution; which illegally occupies Palestinian territory in defiance of UN resolutions; and is in possession of weapons of mass destruction. Far from being opposed by Bush and Blair, Israel receives massive amount of aid, as a loyal ally of imperialism.

Today, 2½ years since 9/11, one year since the official start of Gulf War Two and in the shadow of the devastating Madrid train bombs, is the world a safer place? Even to the casual follower of current affairs and international politics that aim has been perversely thrown into reverse. This has been demonstrated by events internationally and in Britain. The recent attacks in Madrid, which killed over 200 and injured 1,000, have shown that Islamic supremacist forces have increased their capacity to strike.

The attack on the British embassy in Istanbul on November 20th, designed to coincide with Bush’s state visit to the UK, was a warning of what was to come. The most likely culprits for this and other attacks in Turkey are forces formed from the Turkish state backed death squads. These were created to suppress the Kurds. Just as many current Al Qaeda operatives, received their initial training and finance from US and UK security forces in the 1980’s; so these shadowy Turkish Islamic supremacists, were armed by the Turkish military, which has received massive US and UK political and financial backing.

The attack on Iraq and the continued occupation of that country by thousands of US and British troops have definitely made the world a more precarious place on two levels. Firstly, as a direct result of US and British foreign policy over the last 3 years, international terrorism has multiplied. Those who live outside the metropolitan countries have had their lives made hard, brutish and short over decades of European colonialism and then imperialism. Since 2001 those conditions have been exacerbated. Secondly, the limited but hard-won democratic rights and freedoms that those in the metropolitan countries, such as the US, Britain and France, have come to expect are being snatched back. Safety fears and scares are being whipped up to justify these draconian measures.

Tool of imperialism

As each day passes, new revelations appear that support the claims made by anti-war protesters that the only way we could have stopped the attack on Iraq was by direct action. The UN role as a tool of imperialism has been reinforced; useful cover if it obeys instructions but discarded and discredited when it starts to produce the ‘wrong’ answers. Recent revelations of the bugging of Kofi Annan’s office illustrate the contempt they have for this body. The UN weapons inspectors, lead by Hans Blix, sent into Iraq by the Security Council came back with the clear message that there were no WMD with a launch time of 45 minutes or even 45 days. Recently Blix has stated that no WMD have been found in Iraq since 1994! The only person across the planet left believing that there are WMD’s in Iraq appears to be Blair.

Not only are experts with a certain independence, such as Hans Blix and Scott Ritter, repeating their claims from over a year ago, but they have now been joined by some of George Bush’s own appointees. Greg Thirlmann, former director of Strategic Proliferation at the US State Department claimed that the Bush administration had seriously misled the American people over Iraq and WMD through twisted, distorted, simplified intelligence; Paul O’Neill, Bush’s former US Treasury Secretary, saw no evidence Saddam possessed chemical or biological weapons and claims Bush was planning the invasion of Iraq from the moment he became president; David Kay, head of Iraq Survey Group, having spent months looking has also stated that Iraq has not had WMD for years.

Despite their recent cries to the contrary, Blair, Straw, Hoon et al based their arguments for war, both in the House of Commons and through the media, on the threat of these mythical WMDs. Their evidence – the two disreputable dossiers – produced with thin or obsolete evidence and fleshed out with much spin, were exposed during the proceedings of the Hutton Enquiry. Hutton’s findings cannot go unmentioned: a pillar of the British judiciary acting as crutch to a wounded Blair government. His conclusions almost produced gasps of disbelief from government ministers. They couldn’t believe their luck that he had blamed the BBC and Andrew Gilligan for everything as a result of his unscripted, slip of the tongue in an early morning interview with Radio 4’s Today programme.

The pressure continues to build

The substance of Gilligan’s report was true. After Hutton’s exoneration of Blair, the pressure has continued to build. Poll after poll showed Hutton’s findings to be totally discredited in the eyes of the British public. Katherine Gun, a GCHQ whistle-blower, has hurriedly had her court case dropped, when her legal team asked to see the government’s legal justification for war. The Official Secrets Act was again defied when Claire Short went public over the bugging of the UN. To compound Blair’s discomfort, lawyer Michael Mansfield has lodged a case with the International Criminal Court accusing Blair of war crimes.

Instead of putting the Iraq war behind him, Blair has had to announce another enquiry, this time headed by another champion of truth and justice, Lord Butler. His restricted remit is to look at the role of the security and civil services in the lead up to the war, in other words the systems and processes. This is such a sham that even the Tories have withdrawn from it. Butler will go nowhere near examining any of the political questions such as the Attorney General’s legal justification for war. Butler, like Hutton, is another safe, dependable and loyal member of the British establishment who does not like to see the truth get in the way of expedient government and ruling class interests. So while Blair took the decision to go war against the advice of so many including the millions in the anti war movement, he will continue to pass the buck of responsibility hoping it won’t land on his desk. He is already trying to change the casus belli by taking the credit for the downfall of the tyrannical Saddam, but regime change had never been the Blair government’s public justification prior to the attack. Furthermore, as Milan Rai in his book, Regime Unchanged: Why the War on Iraq Changed Nothing, has made clear, it is only the thinnest layer at the top of Saddam’s regime – ‘the 52 cards’ – who have been removed. Many senior Baathist officials, with an atrocious record of human rights abuses, have been quietly rehabilitated by the occupation regime. Their ‘skills’ are still needed!

Chaos & devastation

While all this goes on in Britain, Iraq and ordinary Iraqis face devastation. The chaos and confusion created by the US/UK attack and occupation has allowed the Islamic supremacists of Al Qaeda to gain a cause and credibility in Iraq. Despite some US claims, informed opinion states that Al Qaeda never had any links with the secular Saddam regime. However, it seems that their co-thinkers are now descending on Iraq to fight the Jihad, not just targeting the forces of occupation or those they identify as collaborating with those forces, but trying to set the three main interest groups – Kurds, Shias and Sunnis, against one another. Indiscriminate massacres such as the car bombing of a Shia festival in Karbala and Baghdad will only increase the prospect of communal violence.

This movement co-ordinated by Al Qaeda stretches from Kashmir thorough Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudia Arabia, the Gulf States, Yemen and right through to north Africa. It is gaining a substantial footing in the Central Asian Republics of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgystan, through such organisations as the IMU. The current conditions in this area provide an ideal breeding ground for such a movement. The dire poverty of the entire population ruled by a small scab of extremely wealthy, politically corrupt and dictatorial elite. Perhaps the worst example is Uzbekistan, where President Karimov operates an excessively repressive regime tolerating no dissent. It is so bad that, in 2002, Britain’s ambassador there delivered a speech that included an open attack on the brutality of that government. He argued that Karimov’s human rights abuses, including the boiling to death of opponents, were as bad as those of which Saddam was accused. However, despite such a record, (some might say because of such a record) Karimov still enjoys the financial, military and political backing of Washington. Some reasons for this include the use of Uzbek territory by the US military during the attack on Afghanistan, the US plans for an oil pipeline from the region, the vast reserves of oil and gas waiting to be exploited by transnational oil companies and lastly it also gives them a ‘friend’ and a bridgehead in Russia’s backyard – an opportunity too good to turn down, despite the brutality. US attitudes to such tyrants justify the collective cynicism to Bush’s ‘War on Terror’ and his safer world catchphrase. When do ordinary Uzbeks get their share of the ‘freedom and democracy’ being championed by Bush, Blair and their disciples?

Hysteria

By riding shotgun for Bush’s attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, Blair’s government has undoubtedly made Britain a priority target for Islamic supremacist groups looking for their own revenge. Fear has been stoked up to the advantage of the British state to enable it to implement draconian and anti-democratic measures that interfere with many aspects of life in Britain. Hysteria is the Labour government’s new weapon in the war on freedom. Sheffield’s ‘loony-left’ council leader of the 1980s, David Blunkett (Home Secretary), appears to take great delight in being even more authoritarian and extreme than some of his most severe Tory predecessors. As part of the general xenophobia being whipped up around asylum seekers, Blunkett’s Home Office has recently endorsed the forcible repatriation of Iraqi asylum seekers back to Iraq, presumably on the basis that that country is now a stable, democratic bulwark in the Middle East. Tell that to the Iraqi trade unionists that have had their offices smashed up by the occupying forces, or the many that continue to die or are injured through the continual violence fuelled by the occupation, or those who have, or will, suffer from the tonnes of depleted uranium and cluster bombs that pepper the Iraqi landscape causing cancers and amputations.

Other measures being implemented or up for consideration in Britain include the detention without charge of terror suspects, with Belmarsh Prison being an urban, British reflection of the Guantanamo Bay gulag, the recruitment of more spies to MI5 and trial without jury.

In the last two and a half years the world has become a more dangerous place. The thirst of imperialism for markets and profit, particularly in the medium developed and developing countries has caused a backlash. In a large strategically important section of the world, this backlash has taken the form of Islamicisation. Angry, alienated and impoverished masses have had enough of living as the victims of western imperialism and their local client puppets. Today, the mosque and the mullahs seem to be increasingly offering a ‘solution’. Our role internationally must be to show that real freedom, democracy and a valued life are best achieved through the fight for socialism, which can achieve a genuine emancipation and liberation. In the imperialist countries the role of the socialist and working class movement is to overthrow the class that survives and expands by sending other people’s sons and daughters to fight their wars.

Tags: , , , , ,


Aug 03 2003

Blair, Bush and the Iraqi occupation: reality bites

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 05&06RCN @ 2:56 pm

With a secure and supplicant Iraq still a long way off, Nick Clarke looks at the reality that faces Bush and his War on Terror and Blair and his weapons of mass destruction.

On May 1st, President Bush announced the official end of the second war with Iraq. Four months later, barely a day fails to go by without another serious armed assault on the occupying forces. It’s becoming a cliché, but more US and UK forces have been killed during the peace than during the war. And still those elusive Iraqi WMD have not been found. Blair and his coterie still attempt to convince an increasingly sceptical British public that they are out there somewhere. The Labour government still stands by the internationally discredited hoax that Iraq was trying to buy nuclear material from the African state of Niger. On the other hand, Bush and his ideologues have given up pretending that WMDs were their primary cause for the invasion.

Labour’s smoking gun

It should not be under-estimated what effect those mythical WMD’s are having on the governments of the coalitionUK, USA, Australia and Spain. There are now official enquiries taking place in all these countries reflecting the returning mood of popular and vocal scepticism that existed in those countries (and many others) in the days leading up to the invasion. Although sounding increasingly desperate, Blair insists they will be found. This is despite the fact that coalition forces have captured most of the deck of cards – the 55 most wanted sons and daughters of the Baathist regime. Surely one of them would have revealed their location in exchange for a comfortable and anonymous exile Nazi-style? This, together with 200,000 occupying troops roaming the country and of course the wide range of surveillance options targeted on Iraq, means that they are either bloody well hidden or these WMD do not exist in any state of readiness (45 minutes or other), or in quantities that could be effective.

While the limited remit of Hutton’s enquiry into the tragic death of Dr Kelly has thrown some light onto the murkier workings of government and the way it treats its employees, it has succeeded in deflecting from the central issues of where are the promised WMDs and did the government deliberately mislead the people. Alistair Campbell’s feud with journalist, Andrew Gilligan, and the BBC was a great diversion from Labour’s own smoking gun. Unfortunately David Kelly’s death was the collateral damage that had to be sustained for Blair and Labours’ survival. It is perhaps ironic that while Campbell attacked Gilligan for not verifying his source’s statements regarding the misleading 45 minutes, the intelligence on the 45 minute claim was second-hand, unverified hearsay.

While it is satisfying to see some of the smugness wiped off the face of New Labour at Hutton’s enquiry, we should be under no illusions that its conclusions will lay bare the truth of why Blair took us to war. Although only in its preliminary stages at the time of writing, it is likely it will produce some recommendations about the government’s treatment of civil servants and the responsibility of the media, in particular the BBC, but it is unlikely to lift the moral cover for Labour’s imperialist intervention.

WMD used against the Iraqi people

It must not be forgotten that WMD, by the tonne-load, were used in this war by the USAF and the RAF. Uranium tipped ordnance – very real WMD – litter the country polluting the land and the water, threatening the health of the ordinary people of Iraq. No less destructive, to the unsuspecting Iraqi who accidentally disturbs one, are the hordes of unexploded cluster bombs lying hidden across the country. On top of this there is also the scarcity of clean drinking water, food and healthcare. All this on a people that have suffered the brutal dictatorship of Saddam and a decade of UN sanctions.

The US’s pledge to bring civilisation, freedom and security to Iraq is an obscene joke; and they are starting to feel the heat. US casualties are multiplying day by day. Not only are the numbers of dead increasing, but over 500 have been injured since the official end of operations. There are British casualties too. However, coalition forces are covered in body armour and have technologically advanced firepower. The vast majority of Iraqis have no such protection, including those civilians caught in US indiscriminate shooting after their forces have come under attack. How many ordinary Iraqis have been injured, killed or detained by the occupying forces since the start of the war?

US climbdown

The optimism of the Bush administration is wearing thinner and thinner. The devastating bomb attacks on the Jordanian embassy and the UN headquarters, both in Baghdad, and the killing of over 100 people, including a leading Shiite cleric, in Najaf are just the most high profile examples of the failure of US security.

Bush’s popularity is just starting to ebb. As the next US presidential elections move nearer Democratic contenders are starting to become a bit braver, struggling free from the bi-partisan consensus that has existed in the two years since 9/11. They are trying to get noticed by criticising Bush over his foreign policy and on economic issues. The cost of pursuing the war on terrorism is not going to be cheap and it is the American working class who will end up paying for it either in tax dollars or through active service. The US is back-pedalling, after originally claiming they would go it alone if necessary. They are now looking to share the burden of the Iraqi occupation. A resolution, approved by Bush, will be put before the UN Security Council calling for the creation of a multi-national force, and looking for more foreign financial contributions to rebuild the country. Through tentative talks at the UN they are trying to convince other countries to commit more resources, both military and economic, although they will want to retain command. No doubt the horse trading will revolve around construction and service contracts that will be allocated in exchange for such aid.

This will be a huge climb down for the Bush administration and its leading hawks such as Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the annual cost of the US military occupation at between $8 billion and $29 billion, depending on the number of troops required. However with escalating budget deficits at home, Bush is desperate to procure financial contributions from other states. The obvious candidates are France, Germany and Russia – countries that the US government verbally abused after they failed to support the war. It will be interesting to see if imperialist equilibrium is restored to the UN Security Council.

Impact of the War on Terror

Even beyond Iraq’s borders, Bush and Blair’s global ‘war on terror’ has been a failure. In Afghanistan, the Taliban have been regrouping. There have been some major clashes between them and the Afghan army, backed up by US forces. US military power has still failed to crush this medieval force. US soldiers are being killed and injured here too. Hamid Karzai’s authority barely reaches the outskirts of Kabul and the much heralded reconstruction has not been delivered, as international focus shifted to the more lucrative pickings of Iraq.

Advocates of Islamic supremacism, coordinated by al-Qaeda, have continued to carry out attacks throughout the world from Indonesia to East Africa, from Russia to Morocco, killing injuring and terrorising thousands. Many commentators now report followers of many of al-Qaeda’s satellites joining the jihad on Iraqi soil to confront the US military machine.

The impact of 9/11 cannot be underestimated. Repressive powers have been significantly increased in the UK and US. These have taken the form of the Anti Terrorism Crime and Security Act, the Asylum Bill and the Patriot Act, which have had a huge impact on democratic rights and civil liberties in both countries. In the US, the vilification of celebrity opponents of the war and state intimidation of ordinary anti-war activists are everyday occurrences, under the guise of anti terrorism. The state can now search your library records with impunity! In the aftermath of any significant incident, officialdom’s first thought is to confirm or deny terrorist involvement. Witness the recent massive power cuts that affected the US and Canada’s eastern seaboard, followed a few days later by a similar incident that affected London. The first question asked was – terrorist attack? However, it appears that both were caused by chronic under-investment in public utilities by the profitplundering private sector. Ah, the benefits of privatisation and free trade!

The failure to stabilise and subjugate Iraq and the Iraqi people has also dampened the expectations of those who thought a swift victory in Iraq would resolve the Palestinian war in Zionism’s favour. Instead those following Bush’s Road Map have lost their way as Sharon’s government attempts to derail it by continuing to execute those Palestinian activists who fight back. This at a time when Hamas and Islamic Jihad had called a unilateral ceasefire. Again the US government tasted a big slice of humble pie as it approached Arafat, who they side-lined and humiliated, to try and broker a further ceasefire. However the US and Israel are adamant that they have a veto over the appointment of a Prime Ministerial replacement for Mahmoud Abbas – and they have the audacity to lecture others on democracy. No doubt the Iraqis will be expected to abide by similar guidelines when elections are held under US rule.

Across the globe we see imperialist concessions being withdrawn as part of the War on Terror. For example, the Indonesian military has ended the tentative ceasefire in Aceh and stepped up repression once more; Colombia is under a state of emergency, having its own Plan drawn up by the US and implemented by President Uribe; Spain’s Aznar government has banned Batasuna (the Basque nationalist party); and the British government continues to postpone democratic elections to the Stormont Assembly in Northern Ireland.

Where now for the anti-war movement?

Internationally the anti-war movement has to continue to raise the slogans of all occupying troops out of Iraq and self-determination for the Iraqi people. In Britain the movement has a special responsibility because it is our ruling class that is riding shotgun for US imperialism, hoping to get the scraps and left-overs, like some loyal canine. The manipulation and deceit of the Blair administration contributed to Dr Kelly’s death. The Labour government must continue to be challenged on the uncomfortable questions over WMD. They must not be allowed to forget that their primary reason for war was a hoax that led to the death and injury of thousands of Iraqis, destroying their country. At the same time it has resulted in the death and maiming of hundreds of working class squaddies.

It is over issues such as the war in Iraq that the bankruptcy of British parliamentary democracy is exposed to the full glare of public attention. Parliament’s failure to bring to account the government is highlighted by the farce over dishonest dossiers and vanishing WMDs. Nor must Jack McConnell’s supine role as Scotland’s First Minister be forgotten. He relayed Blair’s lies to the Scottish Parliament, finding all too willing support amongst New Labour MSPs. The Hutton enquiry has given a small glimpse of the secrecy that pervades British bourgeois democracy. It illustrates its limitations and the class interests it upholds. Something of the political role of the intelligence community, in the shape of John Scarlett, the Joint Intelligence Committee and other little-publicised bodies with an array of initials, has been revealed. The anti war movement must not neglect this denial of democracy as an area of concern.

Socialists must be at the forefront of arguing for genuine, active, participatory democracy. Transparency and openness are key ingredients in any working class organisation – trade union, tenants association or political party. They should also be a pre-requisite of any public body, especially government.

Tags: , ,


Aug 04 2002

Unfinished Business: 11 September, one year on

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 03RCN @ 1:30 pm

Twelve months after the attacks on New York & Washington, Nick Clarke examines what their impact has been internationally

It is now one year since two passenger jets were piloted into the World Trade Centre’s Twin Towers, while another was diverted into the Pentagon and a fourth crashed in Pennsylvania. The images of the attack were broadcast around the world, having a profound and disturbing effect. The fact that they were continuously played and replayed on national television added to the heightened sense of shock and foreboding of what was to follow. The Republican Communist Network, like many on the left, opposed these attacks. Our pamphlet September 11th and The War after the War put those events in context and explained why. It concluded with an assessment of what it would mean for global politics and particularly for the left in the UK and internationally. It is important to collate what has happened in those 12 months; what has the effect been on global politics and the anti-imperialist and revolutionary left. We need to be alert to immediate, and longer term, imperialist threats, and to develop our response.

In recent months, the imperialist alliance between Bush and Blair has succeeded in shifting the political and media focus away from Afghanistan, the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. Instead they are concentrating on how to rid Iraq of the usual Western scapegoat Saddam Hussein and his Baathist dictatorship in Baghdad. From the very outset the US was determined to link, no matter how spuriously, the September 11 attacks and al-Qaeda with Saddam, but none of their accusations held any credibility. In fact, prior to 9/11, the CIA probably had more contact with the Taliban than the Iraqi leadership. The US also tried to blame al-Qaeda and Saddam for the outbreak of anthrax attacks that swept across America almost a year ago. Now the evidence points to someone working at Fort Dettrick, the top secret US biological weapons establishment. Most of the briefings coming out of Washington are not about whether there will be a substantial attack on Iraq, but when and how. As a result of Blair’s determination to stand shoulder to shoulder with Bush and the US, he has been publicly parroting the same line. However, it is clear that opposition to war with Iraq is appearing in military and ruling circles. Before dealing in any more depth with the imminent situation regarding Iraq, what has the War on Terror meant in the last 12 months?

What Bush’s New World Order and the ‘Coalition against terrorism’ have meant is the proliferation of state sponsored terrorism around the world. It has legitimised and sponsored the use of official death squads to eliminate internal opposition in all parts of the globe. Whereas before such activity was kept under wraps and the preserve of the darkest dictatorships or murky black ops teams, now we have those same dictators, along with democratically elected governments around the world in every continent, proudly and publicly announcing military action against their own citizens or their neighbours. Bush’s justification for carpet bombing Afghanistan and pursuing regime change in that impoverished divided country has allowed Russia to use the same tactics against the Chechens, India against the Kashmiris, Colombia against the FARC and of course Israel against the Palestinians. US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has given permission for US Special Forces to use lethal force in countries the US is not at war with. He has also sanctioned the boarding and searching of suspicious (sic) vessels in international waters.

So what has happened in the past year?

Afghanistan

The Taliban, the stooges of two US allies (Pakistan and Saudi Arabia), were driven from power in Afghanistan by a combination of US carpet bombing, hi-tech surveillance and Northern Alliance forces on the ground. After years of warlordism and the Taliban, ordinary Afghans hoped things would change. What has replaced it? Hamid Karzai’s US-sponsored coalition government was formally endorsed by the Loya Jirga in June. The situation on the ground seems to be as volatile as ever. Tribal and ethnic warlords police their people, while vying for power and influence. The real scope of Karzai’s power goes little further than Kabul. Symbolic of the lack of unity and trust in his coalition government is his decision to replace his Afghan bodyguards with US Special Forces, following the killing of other government ministers.

If reports are to be believed then the main targets of the US, Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, are still alive and active. So that’s one of the Coalition’s goals not achieved. This is a double-edged sword for the US. On the one hand eliminate them and claim victory. On the other keep them, and their myth, alive. This justifies US forces patrolling the world, stamping their imperialist prejudices and values with the alibi of making pre-emptive strikes against potential terrorists and enemies of the United States.

The view from Afghanistan is that the US and its local agents are rapidly losing any popularity that they had in the aftermath of the overthrow of the Taliban. Promised international aid for the country’s reconstruction has been very slow in coming. Combine this with the rising collateral damage inflicted through continuing attacks on Afghan civilians and villages by US forces, and the post- Taliban euphoria and goodwill is draining away. The routine intimidation, humiliation and interrogation of Afghans by American forces continues. In June, the bombing of a wedding party in Uruzam killed 55. No wonder the backlash has started as Americans come under attack almost every night.

Palestine

Israel continues its ruthless occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Even the independent Bantustans, created by Oslo, have been shown to be worthless. The Israeli-biased Oslo agreement is dead. The US, with Israel’s goading, is attempting to get Arafat replaced, as the leader of the Palestinians. Although this is likely to backfire on them. While the US is unilaterally prepared to go to war with Iraq over a flagrant breach of UN resolutions, it positively condones and connives in Israel’s flouting of 30-year-old UN resolutions. Such hypocrisy is breathtaking. The last few months have thrown up example after example of Israeli atrocities against the Palestinian people: the attack on the Jenin refugee camp, the use of civilians as human shields by the IDF, continual destruction of civilian housing, the routine killing, maiming and brutalisation of Palestinian children, the daily assassination of militants and the exiling of relatives of militants. The list is endless.

At the end of July a 1 tonne missile dropped from an F16 into a residential area of Gaza City, killed 15 and wounded 145. Their target was Salah Shehada, the leader of Hamas’ military wing. The other casualties were just the collateral damage that the US and Israel tolerate, as long as they are Palestinian bodies and not Jewish or American. Sharon bragged that the operation as one of the great successes, stating that Israel cannot reach any compromise with terror; terror must be fought. As the worldwide condemnations of these Israeli actions started to fly, so even the US was sceptical of the shrewdness of this attack. Sharon, the butcher of the refugee camps and the racist leader of an apartheid state, had to apologise for the loss of life. However, this apology was small price to pay for his achievement in destroying a ceasefire that was about to be announced. It had been brokered by, amongst others, EU diplomats, who had got a commitment from the secular wing of the Palestinian liberation movement (the Tanzim militia and the Al Aqsa brigades) to stop using suicide bombers against Israeli cities. Even Hamas stated, before the missile was dropped, that they would do likewise if Israeli forces withdrew from the West Bank and Gaza and stopped targeting civilians. The F16 relies on components supplied from the UK, indirectly to Israel, via the US. Therefore the British government are complicit in these indiscriminate attacks on residential areas. Did anybody really believe Robin Cook, Blair’s first foreign minister, when he laid out the principles of Labour’s ethical foreign policy?

Since September 11 there is no pretence. Jack Straw, Cook’s replacement, does not even bother to try and throw up a smokescreen on this issue. At the height of the recent India-Pakistan tension he was happy to encourage British arms producers to supply the latest military equipment to either, or preferably both, sides – more profit to be made. British arms sales to Israel in the last two years have been £22.5 million – double what they were before the start of the current intifada.

Truth is the first casualty?

Objectivity in reporting and analysis is another casualty of the Twin Tower attacks. Journalists of the calibre of John Pilger, and Robert Fisk are rare gems in the reams and reams of mediocrity and the lazy parroting of government press releases and prejudiced conviction. Murder bombers seems to be the newly-spun term for suicide bombers. While not condoning the use of suicide bombers, it is important to understand the despair, the hopelessness, the alienation that drives young men and women to such ends. At least Cherie Blair tried to show some understanding of the issue and was widely condemned for expressing her thoughts. Steve Earle, the US rock musician, has recently released a song called John Walker Blues, which tries to give some understanding to the actions of the American Taliban, who was captured at Mazar-I-Sharif. Walker has been more vilified than Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh, who killed hundreds of Americans. There have been threats of organising a boycott of any radio station that dares play Earle’s song.

Spain

Another attack on opposition and dissent has been taken up in Spain. Echoing the British government’s gagging of Sinn Fein in the 1980s, as well as Franco’s oppression of the Basques, the Spanish government has banned Batasuna, the most radical of the Basque nationalist parties, because of their alleged links with ETA. In June, a law was passed outlawing parties deemed to be actively supporting terrorism. At the end of August, the Supreme Court suspended the party’s activities for 3 years: closing its offices, banning demos and rallies. This is a party that has almost 1,000 elected representatives at various levels.

Colombia

In Colombia Alvaro Uribe, the newly-installed, right wing president, is one of Bush’s newest and enthusiastic recruits to the War against Terrorism. Their joint aim, with the help of right wing paramilitaries, is to crush the FARC army, which controls large areas of the country and number at least 17,000, and the smaller ELN. Their strength, and threat to the Colombian government, was highlighted by their disruption of the new president’s inauguration ceremony, causing a great deal of embarrassment to Uribe and Bush. In standing shoulder to shoulder with Uribe, Bush has lifted restrictions on £1 billion of military aid from the US to Colombia, which was initially earmarked for the War on Drugs, to pay for the Colombian War on Terror and has pledged more if Colombia increases its own military spending. On August 13, the new president announced a state of internal commotion (emergency), an additional 3,000 elite troops, 10,000 new police and a million strong militia who will act as informers, in an effort to defeat the FARC. No doubt US arms manufacturers will be rubbing their hands with glee, knowing they will be at the front of the queue when new weapons contracts are handed out.

Colombia is also willing to play its part in the co-ordinated discrediting of anti-imperialist and liberation movements across the world. Following the arrest last year of three Irish men in Colombia accused of training the FARC, Luis Osorio, Colombia’s prosecutor general, has blamed the IRA for hundreds of deaths in the country. Sinn Fein has condemned his accusations as a disgrace, and Mitchel McLaughlin, Sinn Fein’s national chairman, has questioned whether the three can get a fair trial in Colombia. Very unlikely I would think. It seems as if the concept of a fair trial is becoming a thing of the past, as the Western bourgeois democracies suspend established civil rights and encourage, collaborate and pander to their totalitarian allies. There are a number of examples of the US delivering al-Qaeda and terrorist suspects to Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, on the understanding that they will use torture to extract information and confessions from such hostages, which will then be passed back to the US. Thus minimising the US‘s direct human rights’ abuses, but getting the required confessions!

Venezuela

Venezuela has also received the unwelcome attentions of Bush’s administration. In April, a military coup led by the country’s business elite, with the backing of the US, overthrew the elected president Hugo Chavez. However within 48 hours Chavez was reinstated through the mass mobilisation of the country’s poor. The coup started with a protest organised by the country’s business federation, demanding the reinstatement of the pro-US management at the country’s state-owned oil company. A confrontation between the demonstrators and Chavez supporters, set up by the coup leaders, gave them the opportunity they wanted. As snipers opened fire on both sets of protestors, General Vasquez announced on TV that the military had taken over, claiming that Chavez supporters had opened fire on an unarmed crowd, and to give the coup legitimacy claimed that Chavez had resigned. Within hours, Pedro Carmona, head of the country’s confederation of business and industry, an oilman, had been installed as president. His first acts were to suspend elections and laws regulating big business, he dissolved the elected national assembly and the Supreme Court, at the same time declaring a pluralistic vision, democratic, civil and ensuring the implementation of the law. To the delight of the foreign oil companies, big business and the big plantation owners he scrapped 49 laws regulating big business. Following the mobilisation of the masses in huge street demonstrations and serious splits in the armed forces, 36 hours later Chavez was restored to the presidency. Carmona’s US sponsored government had been crushed.

Venezuela is a key supplier of oil to the US, and therefore its stability is vital. Linked with this is Chavez’ willingness to supply oil to Cuba, his opposition to both the free trade agenda of the World Trade Organisation, and the attempt by the US to draw South America even further under its economic control. It is not difficult to find the White House’s fingerprints all over this failed coup. Senior officials in the US government with experience of the Central American dirty wars of the 1980s include John Negroponte, Elliot Abrams and Otto Reich.

These events illustrate the lengths that the US is prepared to go to prevent a critic such as Chavez from challenging their world view and economic interests. So the lesson for more and more countries around the world is that you can have a democracy but only if it coincides with US imperialist interests.

Russia

At the end of August Russian helicopters bombed villages in northern Georgia while trying to attack Chechen separatist fighters in the Pankisi Gorge. Their targets allegedly have links with al-Qaeda. So how did the White House respond: Ari Fleischer its spokesman, stated The US regrets the loss of life and deplores the violation of sovereignty he was deeply concerned about credible reports that Russian military aircraft indiscriminately bombed villages…resulting in the killing of civilians. The hypocrisy of such comments defies belief. What about Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Palestine, Venezuela, Somalia, Panama, Grenada, Cuba, Vietnam…the list is endless. The harshness of the condemnation might also have had something to do with revenge for the recent signing of a large trade agreement between Russia and Iraq. Back to the Bush administration’s main focus on the War on Terror: Iraq. As with most of Bush’s policy initiatives he tends to open his mouth without thinking. He is committed to regime change in Baghdad.

Iraq

At present there is quite a debate going on amongst the higher echelons of government and the military both in Britain and the US. Bush states that America is prepared to go to war with Iraq alone. It does not need UN resolutions or an international coalition. Bush, with his eager and vociferous hawks, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, believe that the USA, as the world’s only superpower can thunder around the world, like a rogue elephant, imposing its will in any hemisphere or region it chooses, irrespective of international mandates, clear war aims or the chaos and carnage that results. However some caution is being sounded in some unexpected quarters and must go someway to showing the unease in a substantial section of the American ruling class to Bush’s warmongering. The following Republican Party heavyweights have made comments suggesting they are against unilateral US action to overthrow Saddam: James Baker, George Bush senior’s Secretary of State, Lawrence Eagleburger, Baker’s successor and Brent Scowcroft, Bush senior’s National Security Advisor, the current Secretary of State Colin Powell, General Norman Swarzkopf. In Britain, while Tony Blair publicly supports the Bush plan, opposition is growing. This includes significant sections of the government, the Labour Party, the military and public opinion polls: Robin Cook, Margaret Becket, Douglas Hurd, Clare Short, former chief of the defence staff, Lord Bramall and a large number of back bench MPs. Most importantly though is the swelling anti-war mood on the streets. In recent weeks there has been conjecture as to whether Blair will allow a debate in the Parliament, before any commitment of British troops to a war against Iraq. Under the Royal Prerogative, Blair, as Prime Minister, has powers that mean he neither needs to consult his cabinet nor parliament before declaring war. Internationally, apart from the Australian government (who have already pledged troops), most countries oppose unilateral, precipitative US action. In the words of Hosni Mubarak, President of Egypt, If you (US) strike at the Iraqi people because of one or two individuals and leave the Palestinian issue unsolved not a single Arab ruler will be able to curb popular sentiments.

There might be repercussions and we fear a state of disorder and chaos may prevail in the region.

Mubarak, considered one of the most pro-Western Arab leaders, spoke for most rulers in the region. King Abdullah of Jordan delivered a similar message to Bush in his summer visit to the White House. Pakistan’s Musharaf, an early convert to the War on Terror, warned against a unilateral US attack. Saudi Arabia is saying that Saddam should be dealt with diplomatically. These are all Usfriendly leaders. Their opposition to an attack is based primarily on the popular revolt such US aggression would unleash in their own states, against their despotic regimes.

It is not just the Middle East where official opposition is public. Many European leaders, including Chirac and Shroeder, see the danger of a US attack on Iraq without the fig leaf of a UN resolution. Even prior to any new Gulf War, Iraq is already devastated. Ten years of sanctions have meant premature death to more than a million Iraqis, due to lack of food, good quality water, medical supplies and drugs. Then there also the massive rise in numbers of cancer sufferers, brought on by the huge quantity of depleted uranium ammunition used by the coalition forces in the 1991 Gulf war. This spent, contaminated ammunition still pollutes the towns and cities of Iraq and is responsible for much illness. Due to the sanctions, the Iraqis cannot clean up these radioactive killers.

The role of communists, socialists and the international revolutionary left must be to build a mass, working class movement against imperialist aggression – military, economic and political. Here in Britain, it is not enough just to oppose and rail against Bush and US imperialism, the main focus has to be our own ruling class and its complicity with the New World Order. A mass movement has to be built in Britain, in Europe and worldwide to prevent the ruling classes in all states from engaging in such state terrorism in our name. Neither Washington, London nor Baghdad. It is not enough just to be against such aggression. The bottom line is that capitalism in its imperialist stage cannot act in any other way. It has to be replaced. We have to develop a positive, communist alternative. An alternative based on an emancipation from exploitation and a liberation from oppression, where humanity can really call itself civilised.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


Mar 23 2002

Lords of the Rings

Category: Issue 01RCN @ 7:43 pm

Nick Clarke describes how the USA has used the Salt Lake City Olympics as war propaganda

Nationalism has always been a central and integral part of the Olympics – both winter and summer varieties. However, it seems as if the recent events in Salt Lake City have seen jingoism hit new heights. So much so that it has upset the guardians of the rings – the International Olympic Committee.

Pawn in the Crusade against terrorism

The explicit American patriotism and chauvinism that has enveloped most events at the Winter Olympics has the official blessing of George W. Bush and his White House lieutenants. These games are another pawn in his crusade against terrorism. Their overt use as propaganda in support of the USA’s war has even embarrassed some of the IOC’s senior officials. This is a show designed to send a message to Osama bin Laden, said one IOC member. President Bush is saying: Look at us: you bombed us but you can’t stop us going about our normal lives. But that is not what the Olympic Games are supposed to be about. In opening the Games, Bush broke with protocol by ad-libbing the Olympic Charter. Instead of declaring them open with the line I declare open the Games of Salt Lake City he preceded them with On behalf of a proud, determined and grateful nation. The IOC is concerned that this has set a precedent that could be followed by other heads of state, including the Chinese President at the start of the Beijing Games in 2008. How will the Americans react to that?

Continue reading “Lords of the Rings”

Tags: , , , ,