America’s war in Pakistan threatens our security

UK PM Gordon Brown has said he is “permanently on guard” against the threat of terrorism. (If only the security services had been in 2005 when Saudi intelligence warned of a terrorist attack which killed 52 people.)

Today’s Guardian reveals that Bush is planning a war in Pakistan, something which is sure to increase the chances of another 7/7 occurring here. Secret orders have been signed by the president allowing special forces to operate within Pakistan – even though they do not have permission from Pakistan’s government.

Brown will be compounding the terror threat, which is to a large extent caused by the UK’s involvement in occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, by backing this terror campaign in Pakistan and perhaps sending UK forces across the border from Afghanistan to assist. UK forces in Afghanistan are likely to come under increase attacks as the conflict esculates – leading to more fatalities and injuries amongst service personnel and Afghan civilians.

On Tuesday a US drone killed 23 people in North Waziristan and injured 20 others. Ironically, this was an attack on a school set up by Jalaluddin Haqqani, one of the mujahideen fighters the US backed in the 80s – you know, the foreign fighters who used the porous border to enter Afghanistan…

Pakistan’s armed forces aren’t pleased about US plans to enter the country and wage war on the population – already attacks carried out by drones have prompted the army to cut off Nato supplies. And it is unlikely that Nato forces will be used in these operations – something which is sure to increase the tensions between Nato member states.

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Mark Steel on the media’s made-up Muslim stories

The attacks indured by Muslims in the UK are no laughing matter – and the extent of such violence and intimidation has been highlighted by the conservative journalist Peter Oborne, who links it to sensationalist (and usually false) media reportage of Muslims.

The reason the tabloid press is full of made-up stories about the Muslim community? The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan need legitimising and by linking a domestic threat of terrorism to a foreign war of occupation, opposition to these unpopular wars can be diluted. In the seventies and eighties it was the Irish, now it is the Muslims.

Here’s Mark’s hilarious Indie column in full:

Wife-beating? That’s fine – unless you’re a Muslim

The Sun newspaper has come over a bit modest. Following a Channel 4 documentary about media reporting of Muslims, the paper accepts some of its stories were “distorted”. But they’re not doing themselves justice. They weren’t distorted – they were entirely made up. For example, a story about a Muslim bus driver who ordered his passengers off the bus so he could pray was pure fabrication.

But if reporters are allowed to make up what they like, that one should be disciplined for displaying a shocking lack of imagination. He could have continued, “The driver has now won a case at the Court of Human Rights that his bus route should be altered so it only goes east. This means the 37A from Sutton Coldfield will no longer stop at Selly Oak library, but go the wrong way up a one-way street and carry on to Mecca. Local depot manager Stan Tubworth said, ‘I suggested he only take it as far as Athens but he threatened a Jihad, and a holy war is just the sort of thing that could put a service like the Selly Oak Clipper out of business’.”

Then there was a story about “Muslim thugs” in Windsor who attacked a house used by soldiers, except it was another invention. But with this tale the reporter still claims it’s true, despite a complete absence of evidence, because, “The police are too politically correct to admit it.” This must be the solution to all unsolved crimes. With Jack the Ripper it’s obvious – he was facing the East End of London, his victims were infidels and he’d have access to a burqua which would give him vital camouflage in the smog. But do the pro-Muslim police even bother to investigate? Of course not, because it’s just “Allah Allah Allah” down at the stations these days.

Maybe Muslim newspapers should retaliate by publishing their own made-up stories. So it will be reported that “Barmy PC teachers in Leicester have banned children from playing Noughts and Crosses, claiming the cross reminds Church of England kiddies of the suffering undertaken by Lord Jesus. A spokesman for the Board of Education said, ‘We have to be sensitive. Which is why we’ve replaced the game with ‘Noughts and Hexagons’. We did look into calling it ‘Noughts and Crowns of Thorns’ but decided Hexagons was more appropriate.”

Or, “Doctors have been told that patients are no longer to be referred to as ‘stable’, as this is offensive to followers of Jesus, who was said to have been born in one. So medical staff have been informed they must use an alternative word, or if they can’t think of one just let the patient die.”

The most common justification for ridiculing Islam is that the religion is “backward”, particularly towards women, as a fundamental part of its beliefs. The Sun’s old political editor suggests this as a defence of his newspaper’s stance, saying that under Islam, “women are treated as chattels”. And it’s true that religious scriptures can command this, such as the insistence that, “a man may sell his daughter as a slave, but she will not be freed at the end of six years as men are.” Except that comes from the Bible – Exodus, Chapter 21, verse 7.

The Bible is packed with justifications for slavery, including killing your slaves. So presumably the Sun, along with others who regard Islam as a threat to our civilisation, will soon be campaigning against “Sunday Schools of Hate” where children as young as seven are taught to read this grisly book. And next Easter they’ll report how, “I saw a small child smile with glee as he opened a Cadbury’s egg filled with chocolate buttons. But behind his grin I couldn’t help but wonder whether he wanted to turn me into a pillar of salt, then maybe sprinkle me on his menacing confectionary treat.”

In his defence of making stuff up, the Sun’s ex-political editor spoke about the amount of domestic violence suffered by Muslim women. But there’s just as much chance of suffering domestic violence if you’re not a Muslim, as one of the 10 million such incidents a year that take place in Britain. Presumably the anti-Islam lobby would say, “Ah yes, but those other ones involve secular wife-beating, which is not founded on archaic religious customs, but rational reasoning such as not letting him watch the snooker.”

And finally the Sun’s man defends the line of his paper by saying that, after all, these Muslims “are trying to bomb our country”. So it’s their civic duty to make stuff up – the same as keeping a look-out for spies during the Second World War.

So we should all do our bit, and every day send in something, until the press is full of stories like “Muslims in Darlington have been raising money for semtex by organising panda fights.” Or “In Bradford all nurseries have been ordered to convert their dolls’ houses into miniature mosques so that Muslim teddies have somewhere to pray.”

Bliar wanted short war in Afghanistan?

Seems the ruling classes of Britain and America were so eager to get into Iraq, they thought there’d be no trouble occupying Afghanistan

(And notice how Ashdown confuses the Taliban with Al Qaeda – accidental or what?)

Tony Blair said privately that he wanted the UK to get out of Afghanistan “very quickly” after the 2001 invasion, ex-Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown claims.

Lord Ashdown said the then prime minister was anxious not to become entangled in a lengthy conflict.

Britain deployed troops to Afghanistan shortly after the 11 September attacks.

Since then 108 British troops have been killed in fierce fighting as part of Nato’s International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF).

The government has not officially said how long it believes British troops will have to stay in Afghanistan.

But in confidential government papers leaked to The Daily Telegraph earlier this month, Foreign Secretary David Miliband warns cabinet colleagues of a “long hard struggle” against the Taleban and opium trade that could last many years.

[…]

“I just happened to be looking through – actually this morning – the notes of a meeting I had with the prime minister on the 6th December 2001, and what he says to me is, ‘Paddy, we are going to have to go in and do this’. And I said of course he’d have our support.”

Lord Ashdown says Mr Blair went on: “But it’s going to be in and out very quickly. We’re going to go into Kabul, we’ll take Kabul and then we’ll leave straight away.”

The peer, who was recently blocked from being UN envoy to Afghanistan by President Hamid Karzai, recalls telling Mr Blair that avoiding becoming entangled in a conflict there was a “good idea”.

He goes on: “There’s no doubt that we started off actually wanting to go in, remove Al-Qaeda and get out quickly, and that plan changed.

“I guess it changed because somebody said, if you get out, Al-Qaeda will take over again. But there’s no doubt that it has become bigger than we thought it was.”

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>

Why Labour won’t fight David Davis – their MPs support his stand

Not Andy Burnham, obviously. I’m talking about your average real Labour MP, not one of the New Labour Borg. Backbenchers Bob Marshall-Andrews and Ian Gibson have come out in favour of David Davis.

Labour won’t stand against him, Kelvin Mackenzie’s not been on the box spouting his mouth off for a few days, not since footage of him slagging off Hull surfaced (and someone might have told him his old pal Rupert Murdoch, Australia’s answer to Mr Burns, can’t fund his campaign because he’s an American citizen!).

The Liberals aren’t opposing Davis, as promised. Violinist Nigel Kennedy is backing Davis, and folk singer Billy Bragg is being sounded out (pardon the pun). Former British Army Colonel Tim Collins, who was one of those rumoured ‘independents’, has said he backs Davis. Even the fascist BNP aren’t standing against his Freedom campaign, which smacks of opportunism – they would probably introduce indefinite internment…

Can we conclude that the argument in favour of 42 day pre-charge dentention has been lost?

Who will come forward to defend the nascent police state before the voters? Not even the fascists will!

Brown’s defence of his police state measures was overshadowed by Hazel Blears losing her laptop and the sensitive data on it, but we can be certain he won’t be taking fight against David Davis.

Now, I recall watching David Davis being interviewed by Andrew Marr on the Sunday before the vote which led to his Howard Beale moment. My thoughts were: here’s a sincere guy, talking about an important policy – it’s just a shame he’s a Tory.

I don’t know where Davis is going with this – if it’s part of a scheme to win Tory leadership, to form a new party, or to actually reverse the many draconian laws passed in recent years. But I do know that, on the issues he’s dealing with at the moment – I’m on his side.

These are turbulent times, for sure. Seemingly strange things will happen – and Davis going out on a limb to fight terrorism by defending democratic rights, well, that’s just one of those things…

As The Socialist observes:

This incident shows the volatility of British politics at present; many people feel there is no alternative to the sleaze-ridden incompetence of the main political parties. But it also shows the possibility of a new right-wing populist party forming in future. The Tory Party’s fault lines run deep – patrician one-nation Tories rub shoulders with Thatcherites, right-wing libertarians, right-wing authoritarians, anti-EU nationalists etc – and the consensus behind Cameron is a fragile one.

But we can put no faith in capitalist politicians leading the fight against the dangerous 42-day law. It should be opposed by the workers’ movement as a danger to innocent Muslims and to all opposing unjust wars and other government policies, as the legislation can be potentially used against any worker.

Davis cannot speak for workers, he is a right-wing Tory. He supports the anti-gay section 28, the return of the death penalty, and has called for the Human Rights Act to be scrapped; yet his attacks on Britain’s ‘surveillance society’ struck a chord. It shows how far the Labour Party has moved to the right that such a politician may be seen as the only sane man in the asylum.

Govt bans peaceful protest against war criminal

We will defy the ban on peaceful protest
13/06/2008

Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne has requested Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to lift the ban on the peaceful protest against George Bush this Sunday. The Stop the War Coalition has vowed to defy the ban.

Lindsey German, Convenor of the Stop the War Coalition said, “We are still intending to march to Whitehall this Sunday. We don’t accept that this is an issue of security, it’s an issue of the right to protest against the greatest war criminal the world has ever seen.

Coming after the 42 days fiasco we see the ban as a further infringement of our civil liberties. So we will have to defy the ban.”

The Left List will have a major presence on the demonstration and call on our supporters to join us on the march. Stop the War put out the following press release after Chris Huhne’s letter to the Home Office earlier today.

British right to protest must not be curtailed by US requests

Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne today wrote to Jacqui Smith calling on her to overturn the ban on a march against George Bush this Sunday.

Calling the ban ‘the final straw’ after Wednesday’s vote on 42-day detention, he wrote: “Just because the votes of these protesters cannot be bought, it does not mean that their voices should not be heard by those in 10 Downing Street.

“In this country we have a long tradition of peaceful protest and would be shocked if British civil liberties were curtailed at the request of a foreign government.”

The scandal of armed forces poverty pay

From the World Socialist Web Site:

Low pay leads to poverty in British Army
By Harvey Thompson
29 May 2008

A report on the state of the British Army released this month revealed considerable resentment amongst ordinary soldiers over low pay, leading many into financial difficulties, under-nourishment and the quitting of the armed forces altogether.

The findings are contained in a briefing team report prepared for the head of the British Army, Chief of the General Staff Richard Dannatt, and are based on months of interviews with thousands of soldiers and their families between July 2007 and January 2008.

Much of the report is concerned with manning levels in the armed forces in light of the increased military engagement, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. But new light is also thrown on the levels of poverty suffered by many frontline soldiers.

In a section entitled Pace of Life, the report says:

“It is viewed that the ‘pace of life’ has been compounded by undermanning, the amount of change being implemented and the lack of support and expertise to deliver that change. COs [Commanding Officers] are concerned at the impact this is having on the moral component.”

The report goes on to say that undermanning is “having a serious impact on the retention in infantry battalions.”

Almost half of all troops are unable to take their entitled annual leave as they are forced to cover gaps.

The brief section on pay then reveals:

“More and more single income soldiers in the UK are now close to the UK Gov’t definition of poverty. Thus many married junior soldiers feel that they are being forced to leave because they cannot afford to raise a family on current pay.”

The study also states:

“A number of soldiers were not eating properly because they had run out of money by the end of the month.”

Army COs now enforce “hungry soldier schemes,” whereby destitute soldiers are loaned money in order to enable them to eat sufficiently.

A scheme known as Pay as You Dine (PAYD) requires soldiers not on active duty to pay for their meals. COs have reported being inundated with angry complaints from soldiers due to the quality of the food and the large amount of paperwork involved. Such schemes are a break from the past when the army provided, as a bare minimum, a staple of three square meals a day, free of charge to all serving soldiers.

According to the Independent newspaper, “Now hard-up soldiers have to fill out a form which entitles them to a voucher. The cost is deducted from their future wages, adding to the problems of soldiers on low pay.”

The report contains warnings from senior officers that “there is a duty of care issue” involved. Also the “core meal” on offer “is often not the healthy option.”

Despite the obvious alarm among senior ranks, General Dannatt has made clear that he intends to persist with the current food schemes. He said recently, “I am determined that PAYD must be made to work to both the financial and physical well-being of those who are fed.”

Along with millions of workers, rising costs have made buying a home impossible for many serving soldiers. “The ability to purchase a property was a major area of concern across all ranks. Discussion included an increase in… Buy to Let legislation and the cost of moving from one private home to another private home near their new appointment.”

Also cited as growing concerns amongst soldiers and their families were children’s school fees and the lack of medical support for families, especially dentists.

Previous studies show that, due to their hours of service, UK soldiers are actually paid well below the national minimum wage. Most serving soldiers earn only £16,000 a year, with a “new entrant rate of pay” of just £13,012.

According to the Armed Forces Pay Review Board, a 2007-08 pay increase of 2.6 percent has to be measured against an estimated net increase in charges of 3.9 percent.

The report also touched on the increasing resentment felt amongst the ranks towards the governments’ cap on the amount of compensation received by the families of wounded soldiers, as well as the growing incidents of “accidental deaths.”

Dannatt said, “I am concerned at the comments from the chain of command, some elements of which clearly believe that they will lose influence over their soldiers and that this will impact on unit cohesion.”

Douglas Young of the British Armed Forces Federation was one of a number of military figures who utilised the report to demand an increase in funding for the Army, in line with the demands of fighting wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

He told the Independent, “People are leaving the armed forces for financial reasons. There’s no question about it.”

Patrick Mercer, a Conservative MP and former army colonel said, “I’ve been talking to some very senior officers recently, all of whom privately have said to me that the Army is running on empty; the money has run out. The manpower situation is in crisis, and the so-called Military Covenant is abused at every turn. The thing that really worries them is that the MoD [Military of Defence] seems to be in denial about it.”

Colonel Bob Stewart, a former commander of British forces in Bosnia, said that the British Army was “woefully imbalanced, badly equipped, particularly for training, and quite honestly I’m afraid to say it is losing its edge as a top-rate army in the world because it cannot maintain it.”

Major Gen Patrick Cordingley, who led the “Desert Rats” into Iraq during the first Gulf War in 1991, said, “I would be very concerned about the strain on the armed forces remaining at this level of deployment in both Afghanistan and Iraq. It cannot be sustained for longer than perhaps another two years.”

Colonel Clive Fairweather, former deputy commander of the elite SAS, commented, “I really do think the Army is heading for the rocks and I don’t say this lightly.”

There has been a concerted campaign, sanctioned by the government, orchestrated by the military, and aided by the press and the monarchy to “rehabilitate” the British Army which is now associated with the brutal video and photographic images of detainee abuse in Iraq.

The government is, for example, proposing a new law making it a criminal offence to “discriminate” against anyone wearing a military uniform in public. The hostility toward soldiers from members of the public, which the law is supposedly directed against, was largely concocted by the media and the government by amplifying a few isolated cases.

It is one of 40 proposals contained in a report, “National Recognition of Our Armed Forces,” ordered by Prime Minister Gordon Brown and drawn up by Quentin Davies, the former Tory MP who switched to Labour last year. Davies has called for a “new era of greater openness and public involvement of the [armed] services.”

A new Armed Forces and veteran day is under consideration as a public holiday, as well as more media-friendly parades for regiments returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, secondary schools are being strongly urged to set up cadet forces. At present only 260 grammar and independently maintained schools have them.

The current report into the actual conditions faced by soldiers in the British Army goes some way to unmasking this grotesque propaganda campaign, whereby princes and aristocrats born into privilege and plenty parade at the head of an ill-fed, poverty-waged army prosecuting wars of imperialist aggression.