Gordon’s new year resolution should be to bring all the troops home

The war in Afghanistan isn’t going well. Not for the forces battling there and certainly not for the civilian population. The people of Afghanistan need bread, not bombs. If the plans of the US government to increase the numbers of troops fighting go ahead, casualties on both sides will increase – meanwhile reconstruction work will be further sidelined and aid agencies will be unable to operate inside the country.

This must be the last Christmas that our armed forces spend in the Middle East. They are owed an apology by those who sent them, and the people of Iraq and Afghanistan deserve to see a war crimes trial take place as soon as possible.

From the Morning Star:

Medics reveal massive cost of Afghan war
(Tuesday 23 December 2008)
by PAUL HASTE

ANTI-WAR campaigners urged the Prime Minister on Tuesday to make a new year’s resolution to bring home in 2009 all British troops involved in the “colonial” Afghanistan war.

The call came as British army medics revealed the mounting cost of the war, now in its eighth year, on young soldiers sent to prop up an occupation that is increasingly beset with problems.

Never-ending massacres of civilians by Western warplanes, rising casualties among the US-led military forces and insurgent attacks that reach deep into neighbouring Pakistan to destroy vital weapons supply lines confirm the increasingly intractable nature of the war.

Working at a British military base in eastern Afghanistan, Royal Army Nursing Core medic Lee Collins admitted that “we’ve got a constant flow of casualties on a daily basis here.”

Mr Collins explained that he works 12-hour shifts, while his “day off” has to be spent on call in case of emergencies.

Navy Commando squadron medical assistant Kate Parkman added that she expected Christmas Day to be “a normal working day,” describing her work as a Quick Response Force medic loading wounded soldiers into helicopters.

“A soldier had stepped on a mine. He lost his left leg and some of his fingers and he suffered severe facial wounds, but, by the time he had left us, we had controlled his pain,” Ms Parkman related.

“You get all this training on dolls with make-up, but it’s different here.”

Some 135 British troops have been killed so far during the occupation of Afghanistan. Almost 1,000 other Western soldiers have also died, but the number of Afghan civilians that have lost their lives is literally uncountable.

US military commanders refuse to count the casualties that their air strikes and “counterinsurgency” tactics cause among the Afghan people, but independent researchers estimate that the occupation has caused almost 28,000 deaths.

This toll, plus the British medics’ experience in dealing with their comrades’ injuries, prompted Stop the War Coalition spokesman David Wilson to call for an end to “this bloody colonial war.

“We have finally admitted its time to leave Iraq, but Gordon Brown should go one step further and make it his new year’s resolution to leave Afghanistan,” he declared.

“There will be no end in sight for this intractable and dangerously unstable occupation unless all the troops are brought home in 2009.

Oppressed Tories and other jokes

Mark Steel: The Tories fight against the filth
All of a sudden, Tory MPs sound like radical students from the 1970s
Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Strangely, the past 30 years of police abusing their powers have passed the Tories by. Now, all of a sudden, they are sounding like radical students from the 1970s. Tory MPs will start making speeches in Parliament that go: “Mister Speaker, would the honourable member for Wilmslow not agree that, in the light of recent findings, the pigs are out of control, man? And would he not draw the conclusion, accepted by all decent citizens, that the only remedy is to fight the filth, fight the filth, fight the filth, they’re FASCISTS, man, FASCIST SCUM, FASCIST SCUM.”

Maybe they’ll start turning up to protest meetings called against police behaviour, where they can make statements such as: “I think we can forgive them for lying to convict the Birmingham Six. And laying siege to the nation’s mining communities was the sort of over-exuberance we have all taken part in when spirits are high.

And who among us can honestly say we haven’t, from time to time, shot dead an innocent man on the Underground and rewritten evidence to cover our arse? But CHECKING THE COMPUTER OF A TORY MP??!! ASKING HIM QUESTIONS??? WHAT IS THIS – CAMBODIA UNDER POL POT????!!!!!”

Several MPs, including Michael Howard, have told us the intrusion of the police into Damian Green’s office was similar to the attempted arrest of MPs in 1642 that led to the Civil War. They’ve got a point, because if it turns out the police were acting on orders from the Queen, who wants to regain total control of Parliament so she can rule by divine right, and Mr Green heroically uses his computer to mobilise the common people to stop her, then yes, it’s exactly the same. Soon they will tell us the arrest was identical to the imprisonment of opposition leaders in Nazi Germany.

Michael Howard is the MP who has undergone the most spectacular conversion to anti-police activism. When he was Home Secretary, he was notoriously stubborn about refusing to refer cases to the Court of Appeal, even when it was obvious the wrong people were in prison.

For example, he was “not minded” to refer the case of the men convicted of killing the schoolboy Carl Bridgwater, who stayed in jail another year before their convictions were overturned. So maybe he is unsettled because this time the police have got the right person. His full statement will say: “The police have disgracefully breached legal procedures. What they SHOULD have done is arrested a dustman from Ipswich, yelling, ‘Don’t lie to us, we know you’re the shadow Immigration spokesman’, and not let him out until 2021.”

Howard also insisted he would not implement the recommendations of the Macpherson Report, which he called “sociological mumbo jumbo” – whereas the arrest of Damian Green is clearly far more serious than bungling the Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry.

So now they do want a thorough investigation, which presumably will expose the scandal of institutional anti-Tory MP-ism within the force. And maybe it will turn out that every day, as Tory MPs innocently hang around at garden parties, officers taunt them, sneering: “I know you. Prospective candidate for Epsom and Ewell, isn’t it? Come on then, let’s have a look in the boot of your car; I suppose it’s full of leaked documents, is it? Right, which one of you called me ‘Babylon’? Get in the van.”

Galloway asks police to investigate Osborne

Forget Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand for a moment, and concentrate on another obnoxious pair: Gideon George Osborne and Peter Mandelson…

Respect MP George Galloway has today written to Sir Ian Blair (copy of letter below) asking him to investigate the possibility that shadow chancellor George Osborne has breached the law governing political donations in his admitted Corfu confab with Nathaniel Rothschild and others about how a Russian billionaire could help fund the Conservative Party.

Galloway expressed surprise that the authorities had been slow to take action on this matter and wondered if it was because those concerned constituted “what was left of the British establishment, albeit wintering in Corfu”.

In his letter to Sir Ian Blair, Galloway makes the point that in the “cash for honours” inquiry Scotland Yard waded in comprehensively, including interviewing the then Prime Minister under caution.

Galloway said today, “When I was suspended from Parliament last year I said that being lectured by the current House of Commons on the ethics of political fundraising was like being told to sit up straight by the hunchback of Notre Dame or taking lessons on good taste from Donald Trump.

“The Tory toff who made the complaint about me and the bicycling baronet Sir George Young who disposed of it have both been silent on the old Etonian Mr Osborne’s really quite transparent attempt to raise funds for the Tory party from a Russian oligarch who was clearly not permitted under the law to give the funds.”

Text of letter to Sir Ian Blair:

Sir Ian Blair
Commissioner, Metropolitan Police
Metropolitan Police Service
New Scotland Yard
Broadway
London
SW1H 0BG

29 October 2008

Dear Sir Ian,

I write on the subject of Gideon George Osborne MP and his admitted discussions in Corfu with Mr Nathaniel Rothschild and others on funding of the Conservative Party. It seems to me that these discussions may well have constituted an offence under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 Section 61 (Evasion of restrictions on donations) (1) paragraph b, in which it explicitly states that a person commits an offence “if he knowingly does any act in furtherance of any arrangement which facilitates or is likely to facilitate whether by means of any concealment or disguise or otherwise the making of donations to a registered party by any person or body other than a permissible donor.”

On Mr Osborne’s own admission he did so discuss with Mr Rothschild and others means by which funds provided by the Russian billionaire oligarch Oleg Deripaska (an impermissible donor to a British registered political party in every sense) could be channelled into the Conservative Party in evasion of the rules governing donations.

I am puzzled why what the Prime Minister described as “the appropriate authorities” have not yet acted on this matter. Is it because Mr Osborne and his wealthy friends constitute what remains of the “British establishment”, albeit wintering in Corfu. After all, Scotland Yard moved in comprehensively in other such cases, including, in the matter of allegations of “cash for honours”, interviewing the former Prime Minister under caution.

I am therefore writing to you to request that you institute police inquiries into the conduct of George Osborne on the basis that, prima facie, the 2000 Act has been breached giving rise to a criminal offence.

Yours sincerely,

George Galloway MP

Banker bail-out backlash!

Banks in trouble?

Oh dear, how sad, never mind.

Govt bailing out banks?!

What a fucking liberty:

“Don’t bail out the bankers’ demonstration stops the City online only
by Simon Assaf

Several hundred students and other activists brought the City of London to a standstill in a flash protest on Friday evening.

Chanting “No bail! send the bankers to jail” they stormed into the upmarket Royal Exchange Mall outside the Bank of England. A section of the the protesters was able to march through the glitzy mall before police could bar the entrance.

The demonstrators then regrouped and attempted to force their way into the Bank of England building. There followed a short sit down protest encouraged by motorists who hooted in support.

The protest, organised by the Socialist Worker Student Society, was called in response to the multi-billion pound bailout of the crisis-wracked banking system.

Students from Oxford, Sussex, Essex and Sheffield joined London colleges including Soas, Goldmiths, the LSE, Kings and UEL in a good natured, but determined, show of force.

As police desperately cleared the entrance to the bank, protesters turned up Threadneedle Street, past the Royal Bank of Scotland building and the French banking giant BNP Paribas bank, towards Bishopsgate.

Again police struggled to contain the demonstration – and despite striking out at the protesters – were shoved backwards to the main junction.

A tense stand-off ensued while the commander desperately radioed for backup. The police formed a new cordon, but protesters chanting “anti capitalista” (a slogan made famous during European mass anticaptialist struggles in the early 2000s) slipped either side of the police and poured into the main thouroughfare snarling up the rush hour traffic.

The police were so outnumbered they called on a French Gendarme, over on an official visit, help in their attempt to corral the crowd.

Riot vans and police dogs then joined the chase, finally blocking the crowd outside the 99 Bishopsgate tower.

Martin Smith of the SWP told a rally that ended the flash protest, “This is the beginning of our fightback. Today thousands of bus drivers are on strike. We are here in support of them, and to protest against a capitalist system that just isn’t working.”

Holding up a copy of the Evening Standard newspaper with its headline “Blind Panic as shares crash”, he declared: “They call this Black Friday. We say it’s fightback Friday and from this day we are letting it be known that we will be calling more protests”.

The demonstration then broke up. According to police there were no arrests.

Gordon Brown? Lock ‘im up!

Mark Thomas explains in Red Pepper:

Such is the state of democracy in Britain that you could be forgiven for thinking that there are two types of MPs: those who have been in prison and those who should be. There are many reasons to sling the blighters behind bars, not least of which is the fact that they are an MP, crime enough in most folk’s books. However, there is now an even more compelling legal and moral reason to call in the police to deal with our honourable members. Put simply – we have them bang to rights. They have broken the law and there is a way we might get these elected miscreants in the dock. This is how we can do it.

MPs have a curious habit of passing laws and then believing they don’t really apply to them. No more so than the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, sometimes referred to as the ‘Brian Haw law’ as it was framed specifically to kick out the veteran peace protestor Haw from Parliament Square. Socpa, as it’s fondly known, requires us to get permission from the police should we wish to demonstrate in an area of London that spans from Tate Britain to the Mall and over Westminster Bridge to the South Bank of the Thames.

This is the law that Maya Evans was arrested under for reading out the names of the Iraqi and British war dead at the Cenotaph. She did not have permission and was convicted of taking part in an illegal demonstration.

But this is just the start of the Kafkaesque madness of this law. One person with one banner counts as a demonstration and must get permission from the police six days in advance of holding said banner. I have had to apply for, and have been given permission, to wear a red nose on Red Nose Day in Parliament Square as this is classed as a demonstration. I have got permission to stand holding a small banner saying ‘Support the Poppy Appeal’, as this too is deemed to be a demonstration.

This law is not just idiotic, it is totemic. Nowhere is the relationship of the citizen to the state so clearly defined as here. We have to account for ourselves to the state, while the state becomes less accountable to us. This is not the way things work in democracy.

However, MPs who rushed this law through parliament with little heed to what it really meant could now find themselves on the receiving end of it. On 29 August 2007, when Gordon Brown, along with Ken Livingstone and Nelson Mandela, unveiled the Mandela statue in Parliament Square, they took part in a political demonstration. They celebrated the life of a man who ran the armed wing of the ANC, dedicated his life to the collapse of apartheid and made political speeches.

Did they have permission from the police under Socpa? No. They have broken the law.

Wrexham MP Ian Lucas spoke about the need to redesign the Union Jack flag to include the Welsh dragon on 6 November 2008. He was then photographed holding said flag in Parliament Square. Did he have permission under Socpa? I think not. And if I need the police to say I can wear a red nose, then he needs them to say he can wave a politically contentious flag.

As there is no definition of what constitutes a demonstration you have to turn to the Oxford English Dictionary, which states a demo can be ‘an expression of opinion’. Thus each time an MP speaks to the TV cameras on College Green they could be breaking the very law they blithely rushed through parliament. They are, after all, expressing an opinion, vocally and intended for public consumption, in an area where they need to write to the police six days in advance for permission.

Just before Christmas my lawyers wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions asking them to investigate MPs, including the prime minister, for breaches of Socpa. The DPP insisted that the police should judge if there was a case to answer and the matter is now in the hands of D/Supt Peter Newman of Westminster South Division.

Will the police bring charges against Mr Brown and Mr Lucas and a host of other offenders? I doubt it, which is why I am preparing a legal fund to challenge any decision not to prosecute.

Here is how you can help dear reader. You can buy a badge – I put Gordon Brown in the dock – online at http://www.markthomasinfo.com for £2. All monies not used in the legal case will go to Index on Censorship.

You can also go to http://www.shopanmp.com and report any MPs you see on the news giving interviews on College Green or Parliament Square, so we can constantly update D/Supt Newman with a list of fresh offenders. If luck is with us, Jack Straw won’t be picking a shit-kicking fight with prison officers over no strike agreements – they could be locking his cell door if he is not too careful.

England’s asbestos scandal

Socialist Appeal reports on the latest example of a) the need for an English parliament, and b) New Labour being soft on safety crime.

The judicial House of Lords has recently ruled that pleural plaque (scarring of the lung – a condition caused by breathing in asbestos) is not an industrial illness for which compensation can be claimed. This reverses twenty years of common law practice. What do the Law Lords know about it? Asbestosis related conditions are not exactly an occupational hazard for judicial bigwigs.

Linda Walman, reporting the House of Lords decision (Guardian 17.10.2007), commented, “While industry and society have benefited from the use of asbestos, today’s ruling effectively means that the people who worked with it – mining it, installing it, using it in manufacture and, more recently, removing it – and those who lived in the vicinity of asbestos companies will continue to bear the social and physical costs. It is the workers, ordinary men and their families, who will continue to pay the price for the mining and manufacture of asbestos. Their experience – watching friends suffer, dealing with doctors and lawyers, trying to find a way in which they can support their families – confirms their deep suspicion of the medical and legal establishment.”

At first Gordon Brown promised to rush through a law reversing the decision. Now he’s decided to have a ‘review’. The Scottish Executive responded by tabling a bill to reverse the Lords’ decision. The English review falls a long way short of doing the same

Construction workers will this week target the constituencies of cabinet ministers David Miliband and John Hutton, in a campaign to force the government to rule that the insurance industry has to pay a £1.4bn compensation bill to sufferers of pleural plaque.

Alan Ritchie, general secretary of construction union Ucatt, said: ‘The insurance industry seems intent on dismantling the industrial injury compensation system and it has to be fought.’

It seems the government is the prisoner of big business. How gutless can Gordon get? It appears pleural plaque is an industrial illness in Scotland, but not in England.

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.”