Must a hundred more troops die in Afghanistan?

The actual number is a hundred and six.

Nine deaths within the last ten days.

On the other side, the death toll is even greater and includes many civilians caught up in fighting or bombed by mistake.

The Morning Star comments:

<blockquote>”THE Taliban are losing in Afghanistan. I know it may not appear like that at the moment, but we are enjoying a degree of success.”

This moronic statement ought to be chiselled on oafish Defence Secretary Des Browne’s head with a bayonet. Another four British soldiers have been killed in an unwinnable war and he greets their deaths with the usual gush of predictable meaningless words – “deepest condolences … deeply mourned … bravery, dedication and professionalism … the noblest of causes.”

These weasel words have been churned out so often that they have lost all meaning.

The Brown government is paralysed over what to do in Iraq, having indicated that it wanted to pull out all troops by the end of this year before bowing to Washington political pressure not to bring them home for fear of encouraging US military families to demand a similar response.

British forces are now bogged down at Basra airbase, with occasional sorties to give the impression of ongoing involvement in the US occupation.

Some British soldiers’ families may prefer this situation, knowing that new Labour’s response to withdrawal from Iraq will be to beef up the presence in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, where nine British troops have been killed in the past 10 days.

The government insists that matters are improving in Afghanistan and that good times are just around the corner. Every attempted occupation and pacification campaign in Afghanistan has claimed the same since the 19th century.

When British troops were first dispatched seven years ago, we were told that they were part of a peacekeeping and reconstruction operation.

They were concentrated in Kabul and ventured outside the city for the first time in 2003 when 60 were deployed to the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif as “a provincial construction team.”

Then defence secretary Geoff Hoon said that they would “focus on improving dialogue between local warlords and politicians.”

When Tony Blair’s jack of all trades John Reid took over from “Buff” as defence secretary, he fell in line with White House wishes by sending 3,300 British soldiers to Helmand to replace US forces.

And this was just two years ago, when Mr Reid suggested: “We hope we will leave Afghanistan without firing a single shot.”

Since then, our troops have been embroiled in an occupation war in conditions that have defeated every would-be occupier. Earlier this week, former chief of the general staff Gen Sir Mike Jackson declared that British troops must be prepared to match the “strategic endurance” of the Taliban.

No, they must not. British troops are not defending their own homeland and they cannot be expected to match the “strategic endurance” of the Afghan people who are doing precisely this.

They are under strength to carry out a military task that has been falsely justified in anti-terrorism or democracy-building terms.

This US-assigned task is neither. It is part of an imperialist strategy of building permanent military bases in central Asia to dominate the region and control oil and gas resources.

There is nothing to be gained by maintaining or increasing our troop numbers there. They should be brought home without delay.</blockquote>

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Work-related deaths are higher than the murder rate

Violent crime is a serious and complex problem. The capitalist media gives it a lot of coverage, but not so those preventable safety crimes that last year caused twice as many deaths as violent criminals.

The solutions offered by the corporate press for violent crime – longer sentences, new offences – are often inferior to policies which would tackle the production and distribution of dangerous weapons. But as Britain has now become the worlds foremost arms exporter, you’d hardly expect the Sun to be demanding restrictions on the manufacture and sale of dangerous weapons…

Because safety crime has not been “problematised” – it not thought of as a problem – no solutions are offered by the mainstream media. In fact, government policy has lead to increasing numbers of safety crimes. You might even say, New Labour is a soft-touch when it comes to crimes against the safety of workers and consumers.

From The Guardian:

In January Garry Weddell, who was on bail awaiting trial for the murder of his wife, killed his mother-in-law before taking his own life. The fact that he was out on bail generated a huge public row and Jack Straw, the justice secretary, ordered a review of the bail arrangements for murder suspects that was published today.

The review concluded that banning bail for all murder suspects would “present legal problems”. Straw said that the important thing was to “strike the right balance between respecting individuals’ right to liberty and protecting the public”.

But, if he wanted to learn more about protecting the public, Straw should have dropped in to committee room 11 in the Commons this afternoon where the authors of a new report from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies were presenting the findings of a fascinating study into “the decriminalisation of death and injury at work”.

Officially, you are more likely to be murdered in the UK than to die in a workplace accident. In 2005-06 there were 765 homicides in England and Wales (14 per million) and 217 fatal injuries to workers (7 per million).

But the authors tried to get a more accurate figure for workplace fatalities. The official Health and Safety Executive figures only include fatal injuries to employees and the self-employed. If you include accidents that kill members of the public and road deaths involving “at work” vehicles, the number of people killed from occupational injuries rises to around 1,300.

Or, as the authors say, “at least twice as many people die from fatal injuries at work than are victims of homicide”.

The authors described this as “safety crime” (a term I have never heard before). And they suggest that Labour’s light-touch regulatory approach to business is making it easier for employers to get away with it.

“What is remarkable about these unremarkable processes is how they attract little or no popular, political or academic attention,” they say.

“Just as remarkable here is the contrast between this deafening silence on the one hand and the ongoing moral panic that characterises social responses to most ‘mainstream’ violent crime on the other.”

Abandon the Lisbon Treaty – sign the petition

The wording is as follows:

The Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty has resulted in a decisive no vote.

However, politicians across Europe are calling for the ratification of the Treaty to go ahead.

The British Government are planning to put the Lisbon Treaty to its third and final reading in the Lords next Wednesday 18 June. This would complete its ratification in the UK.

We believe that the Prime Minister should respect the result of the Irish referendum and abandon the attempt to ratify the Lisbon Treaty

Even if every country other than Ireland and the Czech Republic goes ahead with ratification, the Treaty will have no force in law.

But I’m sure there’s a loophole to be found somewhere – if not, the law can be ignored if it suits the corporate elite.

So, sign the petition!

As I write, there’s over twenty thousand signatures. Spread the word.