the Disillusioned kid: January 2004
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Saturday, January 31, 2004

Hmmm... Don't seem to have updated this in a while. So much for my new year's resolution. Not that anybody actually reads this thing I s'pose. In case anyone gives a fuck, here's some stuff you might find interesting. Or not.

Unsuprisingly Blair has survived this week, winning the vote on "top-up" fees and being "exonnerated" by the whitewash that is Lord Hutton's report into the events surrounding David kelly's death. While the complete lack of spine among Labour "rebels", demonstrated in the fees vote, is unsurprising, it is interesting to discover that in modern British society an illegal, aggresive war is seen as a less serious offence than being slightly overzealous in one's criticism of the government pursuing that policy. Isn't democracy wonderful?

In less widely covered news, it has been warned that 1,500 people may die and as many as 10,000 may be admitted to hospital as a result of the cold snap we are currently experiencing. Many of these deaths are completely unneccesary resulting from poverty pensions which force pensioners to choose between eating and having their heating on (for more on the causes and possible short-term solutions, see here). In an economy vying with France to be the fourth largest in the world, such a death toll is nothing short of a scandal and the fact that it has been ignored or underplayed by the corporate media is a damning indictment of it's claims to public service.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Diego Garcia is a British controlled island on which there is a US base from which bombers have attacked Iraq and Afghanistan (remember that?). It is also used as a Guantanamo Bay style detention facility for Al-Qaeda suspects. The Chagossians, the territory's indigenous population, were deported by the British in a campaign which began in 1968 and have been fighting to return ever since.

Members of the socialist Lalit (Struggle) and feminist Muvman Liberasyon Fam (Women's Liberation Movement) organisations from Mauritius, along with representatives of the Chagossians, are currently planning to sail to Diego Garcia to demand the removal of the base and the rights of its people to return. Prior to their trip, they will meet with other activists at the World Social Forum in Mumbai to discuss resistance to US hegemony and the effects of corporate globalisation and seek to build support for their campaign.

There have been calls for other activists and groups to send them messages of support and encouragement. And if anyone actually reads this thing, it'd be nice if they could do just that.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

The growing refusenik movement within the Israeli armed forces is not only a positive sign in a conflict so often relentlessly depressing, but an inspiration to those of us around the world campaigning against the violence of their own governments. However the movement has clearly got the Israeli government rattled. This was demonstrated by the sentencing of rive Concientious Objectors (CO's) to a year in prison no top of the year they had already spent for refusing to serve in the army, although as they are to be held until they agree to serve there sentence is in fact unlimited. Typically CO's only get a light sentence, but an example is being made of them. A campaign has been launched demanding their release and is already attracting considerable support.
New Year's Day marked the tenth anniversary of the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Southern Mexico. Janauary 1st 1994 saw the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, made up primarily of indigenous peoples, take control of several key towns in the region including San Cristobal. This action ws taken in protest against the policies of the Mexican government and the implementation of NAFTA the 'free trade' agreement which came into effect on the same day.

The Zapatistas have subsequently been an inspiration to those resisting throughout the world and served as a major influence on the grassroots globablisation movemernt which forced it's way into the mainstream, conciousness at the protests against the WTO in Seattle in November 1999.

Despite international support the Zapatistas and their communities have come under attack by the Mexican state, often with US support. This has taken the form of what is known in military-speak as "low-intensity warfare", the term terrorism might be applied if such tactics were used by them against us rather than vice versa.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

A reassuring report by Robert Fisk from Friday's Independent suggests that we can look forward to another year of peace, harmony and love in the Middle-East. Book your holiday now!

Friday, January 02, 2004

Pro-Israel propaganda typically presents the image that the entire Israeli population and Jewish diaspora are united behind the country's policies within the occupied territories. This, of course, is completely untrue. Last Friday (26/12/03) Gil Na'amati, an Israeli anarchist demonstrating against the "Separation Wall" being constructed around the West Bank, was injured by Israeli soldiers firing live bullets at him. The young kibutznik, who only recently finished his military service, was eventually taken to hospital where he was operated on.

Some 200 furious fellow activists organised a demonstration outside Tel-Aviv's Defence Ministry the following evening and proceeded to block the road. According to David Merhav's report of the event, the demonstration included former MP Uri Avnery, Attorney Leah Tzemel, Michel Warshavsky (Alternative Information Center), Ran Cohen MP (Meretz) and the historian Teddy Katz, as well as Oren Medicks and Nimrod Kerrett who both been heavily involved in the anti-Wall protest and the Masha camp. Groups present represented a wide political spectrum and included Anarchists Against The Wall, the anti-militaristic New Profile organization, Gush Shalom, the LGBT militant group Kvisa Schora (Black Laundry), youth from the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality and the Israeli Communist Youth League. Some demonstrators apparently even chanted "for Zionism".

According to Gush Shalom, the police arrived with limited numbers and proceeded to arrest eleven demonstrators, among them David Tartakover, graphic artist and laureate of the prestigious Israel Prize. However the others continued their demonstration. Gush Shalom's report of the event continues,
A slight rain fell from time to time, but the demonstrators did not budge. At last the police car with the prisoners started to move a great speed, threatening to overrun the people crowding around it. One activist, 16 years old Matan Cohen, was wounded in the abdomen and removed by an ambulance, who could not reach him for 20 minutes. When the police promised to release the prisoners after the peaceful dispersion of the demonstration, the activists decided to march en bloc to the police station to make sure that the detained people were actually released.
This show of force by the Israeli Left/anti-occupation movement is a positive sign in a conflict which seems so negative. Much of the international movement opposed to the Israeli occupation has fallen into the trap of seeing Israel as a homogenous entity lacking any internal dissent, thereby cutting themselves of from potentially very important allies, who would benefit greatly from our support.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Saddam's capture is one of the few positivie stories to have emerged from Iraq recently. All of us concerned about human rights and freedom should celebrate this event and look forward to his being tried for his crimes. Nonetheless we should not lose sight of the role of Western corporations and governments in supporting and arming him during some of his worst crimes during the 1980s, a role the corporate media has underplayed or ignored during it's coverage of the story. The articles below should help to put the capture in context, while one looks at the events leading up to it and considers the accuracy of the "official" story.

Stephen R. Shalom, 'A Saddam Chronology', Z-Net, 15/12/03

Maria Tomchick, 'Got Saddam But Not Much Else', Z-Net, 15/12/03

Robert Fisk, 'This dictator will continue to haunt Iraq', The Independent, 17/12/03

Robert Fisk, 'Saddam's capture will not stop the relentless killings from insurgents', The Independent, 15/12/03

David Pratt, 'Revealed: Who Really Found Saddam?', Sunday Herald, 21/12/03

Steve Bell's depiction of the capture of a notorious war criminal...
So here it is, 2004! Another year has passed into the annals of history and people have again begun pontificating about New Year's resolutions they will probably have broken within a week. In this spirit I have decided, inspired by Salam Pax's brilliant book, to actually make an effort to post here not only regularly, but with something interesting, so here goes...


As we enter a New Year, 2003 comes to an end, but it is unlikely to be a year which will be forgotten quickly. The invasion and occupation of Iraq which was threatened this time last year has taken place and the consequences of the Bush-Blair Axis's decision are hard to ignore.

Resistance attacks continue on a daily basis, creating a situation which US/UK forces seem unable to cope with. With the "heart and minds" campaign failing, they are turning to increasingly aggressive responses, even surrounding villages with barbed wire. A move unlikely to endear them to the local population.

Meanwhile away from the glare focused on the military aspects of the occupation, the economic colonisation of the country continues apace. September 19 saw Paul Bremer enact Order 39 which announced the privatisation of 200 Iraqi state companies, decreed that foreign firms could retain 100% ownership of Iraqi banks and factories; and allowed these firms to move 100% of their profits out of Iraq. The Economist described the rules as a "capitalist dream", not without good reason. Not only is this decision nonsensical from a development point of view and morally abhorrent given the complete lack of imput into the decision from the Iraqi people, but it is also as Naomi Klein has noted illegal.

The Hague regulations of 1907 are the companion to the 1947 Geneva Convention and have been ratified by the US. These require that occupying powers "shall be regarded only as administrator and usufructuary of public buildings, real estate, forests and agricultural estates belonging to the hostile state, and situated in the occupied country. It must safeguard the capital of these properties, and administer them in accordance with the rules of usufruct." (Usufruct refers to an arrangement that grants one party the right to use and derive benefit from another's property without altering the substance of the thing.) This means, as Klein notes,
[I]f you are a housesitter, you can eat the food in the fridge, but you can't sell the house and turn it into condos. And yet that is just what Bremer is doing: what could more substantially alter "the substance" of a public asset than to turn it into a private one?" The US army's Law of Land Warfare reinforces the point stating that "the occupant does not have the right of sale or unqualified use of [non-military] property.
The UN Security Council resolution passed in May which recognised the US and UK's authority in Iraq provides no legal cover, specifically requiring the occupying powers to "comply fully with their obligations under international law including in particular the Geneva conventions of 1949 and the Hague regulations of 1907". It seems likely that the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) are aware of the illegality of their plans. A leaked memo from Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith to Tony Blair in March warned that "the imposition of major structural economic reforms would not be authorised by international law".

Unfortunately the "Great Iraqi Sell-Off", as Voices in the Wilderness have described it, is only one example of how US/UK policy in the country is driven less by humanitarian concerns than by economic considerations of even straight-forward greed. Something in the region of sixty to seventy per-cent of Iraqis are unemployed yet US employers hire overwhelmingly non-Iraqis either Americans or inexpensive migrant laborers from South Asia. Meanwhile US efforts to have Iraq's debts written off are a positive step the US decision to limit bidding for lucrative reconstruction contracts in Iraq to "Coalition" members, announced while James Baker toured Europe trying to build support for debt forgiveness, demonstrate the real reasoning behind the move: To allow US firms to get rich on the spoils of war.

Elsewhere, the occupying forces have sought to undermine efforts amongst Iraqi workers to organise unions. Saddam Hussein's 1987 anti-labor legislation remains in place, while a decree issued by the CPA in June forbade strikes. Furthermore there have been several arrests of prominent union activists. For instance, on the night of the 23/4 November, US soldiers in Baghdad arrested Mr. Kasim Hadi, president of the Union of the Unemployed in Iraq (UUI) and Adil Salih an UUI activist. Throughout world history trade unions have played a central role in the democratisation process, US/UK attacks on the labour movement within Iraq, many of whose members fought courageously against the Baath regime, demonstrates the contempt they have for genuine democracy in the country.

In short the occupation of Iraq will benefit US/UK elites and allow Western corporations to exploit the country's resources. It is possible that democracy will also emerge, but it certainly does not appear to be the occupier's primary concern and it is difficult to remain optimistic.

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