the Disillusioned kid: July 2005
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Saturday, July 30, 2005


Regular and/or attentive readers will be aware that I have resided for sometime in Nottingham. Although, as I have been a student for the past three years, my time there was somewhat transient, interspersed with periods back home. Unfortunately, I've now graduated and the real world beckons. I hope to stave this of for as long as possible by going to do a Masters, but am not starting this for a year in order to generate some funds in the intervening period.

Long story short: I'm no longer in Nottingham.

For the next year I'm going to be living in Chelmsford, Essex, which is about as far from the political, cultural and social centre of the universe as it is possible to get. Fortunately I'm now quite a bit closer to London so I can always pop over there to stop myself dying of boredom and/or inaction, as I may do next week. That said, there are a handful of activists around who I have some links with and, all being well, will be meeting up with later in the week. I've been saying for years that I want to radicalise this place, perhaps nows the time. Probably not, but who knows?

Friday, July 29, 2005


The Zapatistas in Mexico have announced a major rethink about their approach to the struggle for autonomy and against neoliberalism. In this intriguing article, Immanuel Wallerstein considers the influence of the Zapatistas on global movements against oppression and suggests that their recent declaration could reinvigorate movements around the world.

In other news, the guys over at the ever brilliant UK Watch have got a blog which you can peruse at your leisure here. Milan Rai, co-founder of Justice Not Vengeance and Voices in the Wilderness and author of War Plan Iraq and Regime Unchanged, will soon be joining the team as a regular contributor.

Elsewhere can I suggest you keep your ears open for stuff about this. It's gonna be good and hopefully it's gonna be big.

In less serious matters, Alex pointed me in the direction of this which led - inexorably - to this.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Terrorism Has Absolutely Nothing to do with Iraq, Part 2.

Lenin links to a article by Scott Horton on the motivations of suicide bombers. Drawing heavily from University of Chicago associate professor of political science Robert A. Pape's new book Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. Pape has researched the subject thoroughly and his conclusions are controversial, but merit close attention:
[In a radio interview Pape] said that after 9/11 he assumed the Koran might contain clues toward understanding what motivates a person to commit a suicide bombing. For his book, however, Pape started with the bombings themselves – every documented case between 1980 and 2004 – and noticed some suggestive common threads. Foreign occupation, it seems – not religion – is the core motivating factor behind suicide terrorism. From Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank to Sikhs in India, from the jihadists of 9/11 to the secular Marxist Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka – for all of these, it is "a nationalistic response."

Professor Pape says that while al-Qaeda terrorists are twice as likely to be from a country where radical Salafist/Wahhabist Islam is widely practiced, they are 10 times more likely to have come from a country that has U.S. troops stationed in it. In most cases, this foreign military presence is not hostile in a traditional sense, since the local governments have agreed to their stay. But according to a Saudi poll after 9/11, 95 percent of educated Saudi males between the ages of 25 and 41 agreed with bin Laden's goal of driving Americans off their holy land.
And there's more:
No suicide bombers have ever come from Iran, where there are no foreign troops. Iraq had never seen a suicide bombing on its soil before U.S. troops arrived in 2003. While Ayatollah Khomeini spent the 1980s criticizing American culture, many people agreed, but none resorted to suicide bombing. When bin Laden cited U.S. forces in the land of Mecca and Medina, men hopped on planes with knives.
At this point those who Lenin describes as "chronologists" would no doubt interject that September 11th took place before the invasion and occupation of Iraq. While being undeniably true, this argument also misses the point, as Horton makes clear:
As Harry Browne has pointed out, history does not begin on 9/11. In fact, American intervention in the Middle East dates back to 1919, when U.S. participation in World War I helped turn the entire region over to the British and the French, who then drew borders to their own liking for the states of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, what was Palestine, etc.

Since the Second World War, the U.S. government has dominated each of the Middle Eastern states at one time or another, and consistently a majority of them. It has supported bloody coups; backed fascist monsters like Shah Reza Pahlavi, Saddam Hussein, and Hosni Mubarak; armed and financed both sides of wars; propped up puppet kings, sultans, and emirs; and helped the Israeli government kill, steal, and destroy with our money. To top it off, it has now waged a bloody war and a terrible blockade of Iraq – all from bases in the "land of two Holy Places," the Arabian Peninsula.

There's even a few words for our own Jack Straw who, as Lenin observes, responded to a question about the motivations of the bombers in London noted, "[the terrorists] struck in Kenya, in Tanzania, in Indonesia, in the Yemen. They struck this weekend in Turkey, which was not supporting our action in Iraq. It is the terrorists who will seek any excuse whatsoever for their action":
The terrorists struck Americans in Kenya, Tanzania, Indonesia, and Yemen. Locals who were also killed were collateral damage, so to speak. As for the attack in Turkey, it was committed by our allies the Kurds. Why didn't Straw go ahead and mention the Mujahedin e-Khalq terrorist cult of Islamo-Marxists that the coalition of the willing sent into Iran to bomb civilians only a few weeks back?
The conclusions which follow from all this seem obvious, which is perhaps why our leaders have made such an effort to deny the role of occupation in motivating suicide bombers. An end to the occupations of Iraq is worth fighting for in its own right. That it is likely to make us safer in the UK is simply a positive (and in my opinion very desirable) side-effect. The same goes for Afghanistan, Palestine, Chechnnya and elsewhere.

The Terrors of Counter-Terrorism, Part 2.

"I guess the lesson of the week is, Don't run away from an English cop in the London Underground, or anywhere else, particularly if you're brown or black. This means, don't run for a train or a bus, particularly with a bag in your hand. If you want to run, or even surrender to the cops, take all your clothes off and put all your hands up, as Eldridge Cleaver recommended in Soul on Ice. One in every ten of these London cops is heavily armed and will kill you without compunction."
-- Andrew Cockburn

"The rush by leading London and national politicians, and by most sections of the media, to support the police action was breath taking. In a democratic society, the first response when a member of the public is killed by the police should be to suspend the officers involved and to announce an independent inquiry. There are circumstances, obviously, when an inquiry might conclude that the only thing that the police could have done, to protect the public or themselves, was to kill. But the gravity of that conclusion is such that it should only be reached after independent scrutiny of all the circumstances, not as a knee-jerk reaction on the day. Instead, politician after politician queued up to explain that shoot-to-kill is now necessary."

-- Liz Davies

"In a clear indication of how terrorism not only destroys bodies but contaminates perceptions, fellow travellers say they saw an 'Asian man' with 'a bomb belt and wires coming out'. What they actually saw was a young Brazilian in a Puffa jacket. The police saw a threat. To them De Menezes looked like another 'clean skin' (a perpetrator with no history of previous terrorist involvement or affiliation) on the run and possibly about to act. Having cornered him and pinned him to the ground they pumped five bullets into his head at close range.

"In a world where every brown skin is little more than a 'clean-skin' waiting to happen, stop and search will inevitably become stop and shoot. The dominant mood that we are better safe than sorry is understandable. But after Friday's incident we are left with one man dead, nobody safe and everybody sorry. If there's one thing we've learned over the past two years, it's that a pre-emptive strike with no evidence causes more problems than it solves."

-- Gary Younge

The Terrors of Counter-Terrorism

Let's get something straight. Nothing has changed since July 6. You are no more likely to get blown up by a suicide bomber than you were a month ago. All that's changed is what people are prepared to accept. Fear is a very powerful tool in the hands of governments seeking to extend their power. Dictators understand that and I'm more than a little concerned that Blair does as well. If the police can shoot a brown man for wearing a coat then things are getting pretty bad.

Oh, and anyone wondering why Jean Charles de Menezes ran may care to read this and recall that the poor bastard was Brazillian. Would you have reacted any differently in his position? Are you sure?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Terrorism Has Absolutely Nothing to do with Iraq

No. No. No.

Good Riddance to Old Rubbish

Bye bye.


John Pilger's excellent documentary, Stealing A Nation, is being repeated tomorrow (Thursday July 21) at 11pm on ITV1. If you haven't seen it do. If you're going to be out record it. The programme recounts the plight of the Chagossian people, exiled from the Chagos Archipelago by the British Government in order to make way for a US military base on the island of Diego Garcia. Widely accclaimed, the documentary won the Royal Television Society's Britain's best documentary in 2004-5 award in March.

For more info check out the UK Chagos Support Association. You can also see my review of the programme, written after its original showing, and a response I wrote to a critical review in the Times

Monday, July 18, 2005

Inspector Gadg8

Check out this video. (Viewable in Real Player.)

Friday, July 15, 2005

Make Photography History

(What do you mean you're tiring of the Make XYZ History jokes?!)

I'm usually a waste of time with cameras. I carry them round and completely forget I have them or forget to develop the film when I get back. In Scotland, however, there were various points where I found myself wishing I had a camera, but I'd forgotten to bring one. Fortunately Dan (of Naked Lunch fame) who I spent a lot of my time with was much better organised in this regard than I and took quite a few photos which he's now made available here. I've cheekily selected and appropriated a few of my favourites.

Saturday July 2: Some clever person thought it would be a good idea to spell out "MAKE POVERTY HISTORY" in very large letters during the MPH rally and suspend it using cranes. Of course they had to do this in sections. Clearly they didn't think much about how to break the words down... Some might say it's quite appropriate though.

Saturday July 2: The aftermath of the MPH demo. How somebody managed this with so many police around is beyond me.

Tuesday July 5: Dungavel detention centre. Transylvanian castle meets concentration camp. This is where they keep people before deporting them to be tortured. Just in case anybody tried to get in the inmates were moved for the duration of the summit. Into a prison. *pauses as national pride wells up*

Wednesday July 6: Believe it or no, this was the policing at the *Kids* Blockade!

Friday July 8(?): Oh, and here's a picture of the Stirling countryside. Which I never got to see :(

Make the G8 History, Part IV

(See also Parts 1, Deux and Third.)

Given that the G8 is made up of the world's most powerful states, it should hardly be surprising that it is supremely influential. It's slimy, life-sucking tentacles find their way into the daily lives of billions of people in a variety of ways. Some subtle. Others less so. For this reason the motivations for people turning up to protest were many and varied, a fact reflected in the wide range of actions which took place. There were protests about global poverty, war, climate change, nuclear weapons, immigration, road building, even something called "precarity". Although I tried to make the most of my time in Scotland and do as much as I could, there was no way I could hope to be involved in all of these. Among the events I did take part in were the blockade of Faslane and the the picket of Dunagvel on Monday July 4 and Tuesday July 5 respectively.

Faslane is a Royal Navy submarine base on the Clyde. It is the largest military base (something I can really believe having walked from one end to the other) and the home port for Britain's four Trident nuclear submarines. It has been a recurring target for anti-nuclear activists who have blockaded it, cut through the fence and set up a peace camp just beyond its perimeter. Organisers hoped that with so many activists in Scotland to participate in actions against the G8 they would be able to organise one of the largest ever blockades and shut-down the base. With this as our goal a number of tired looking activists forced themselves from their sleeping bags on the Edinburgh campsite to catch a bus to the base at the ungodly hour of four in the morning.

The early start was necessary because the blockade was due to start at seven, the idea being that the base would be closed all day, stopping anybody coming or going and preventing it from operating. In fact it emerged when we got there that the base had been closed anyway in anticipation of our arrival. While this constitutes a major victory (and may even be unprecedented) it rendered the blockades, which continued anyway, almost entirely symbolic. There were people blocking all four of the base's gates, with the police making no effort to clear people out of the way.

Entertainment was provided by a number of samba bands, radical cheerleaders, the ubiquitous Rinky Dink Sound System and, of course, the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army. We encountered a CIRCA battallion while making our way from the north to the south gate. They were making the same journey, but also attempting to make the police ,who had been assigned - at intervals of perhaps ten metres - to guard the fence, laugh. We followed them for a while and, before we knew it, we were all "hiding" from a cameraman on a police boat, using little more than twigs a cover. A sight which reduced the crew of the boat to fits of laughter. Later the clowns announced Communique #666 part of "Operation Weapons of Mass Distraction" which turned out to be an amusing piece of street theatre about the way the G8 leaders were trying to obscure the real issues and divert attention away from their own wrongdoing.

Intriguingly a friend we ran into on one of the blockades set that he'd seen helicpoters flying over the base with the US presidential livery. Presumably these were either ferrying people to the summit site or - as the summit didn't begin until Wednesday - practising to do so.

The whole day was very chilled out and when we eventually did a brief stint sitting in the road I think I actually managed to fall asleep, the early morning finally getting the better of me. We also took the time to visit the peace camp, a small community which seemed quite pleasant, although the toilets left something to be desired, environmentally friendly or no.

Tuesday's trip to Dungavel detention centre was less positive. Dungavel is a facility used for the detnetion of asylum seekers, often prior to deportation. It has been particularly criticised because children have been held there, although the authorities insist that this now doesn't happen for longer than a few days.

We left for Dungavel rather later than we had for Faslane, catching one of the second wave of coaches at 11.30. Unfortunately, we left late and this coupled with the closing of roads by the police meant we were soon running very late. The fact that they boarded our bus didn't help.

Apparently they were stopping and searching all the buses going to the protest under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. This allowed them to search individuals and their bags, but didn't require us to give them any personal information. Unfortunately, the police on our bus either didn't know this or thought they would try their luck and demanded our names and addresses which we refused to give. As a result there was a stand-off which lasted something like half an hour, perhaps longer. The police response to our refusal was thoroughly recorded with a barrage of microphones and cameras appearing as soon as they got on the coach. Just to make sure they knew we were onto them I made a point of recording their epaulet numbers (which they have to wear on their shoulders). Eventually they conceeded the point after some negotiating on the part of Scottish Socialist Party MSP Rosie Kane and allowed us to go with only a brief (even cursory) search, which seemed something of an anti-climax after the long wait.

We arrived barely half an hour before we had been scheduled to leave, although the organisers of the coach agreed to extend our stay. As we walked the rest of the way to the centre many protesters were already leaving, so many in fact that we began to wonder if it was worth continuing on. The numbers of police assigned to defending the centre confirmed that we were in fact in the right place, however. Dungavel is a horrific place resembling a Transylvanian castle contained behind a fence which must have been twice the height of that at Faslane (asylum seekers, of course, being far more dangerous than nuclear weapons) and topped with razor wire. The idea that anyone might be held in such a hell-hole in the middle of nowhere (pretty as the countryside nearby was) was horrific. The idea that people in fear of being deported to a country where they might face torture - even death - was soul-destroying.

The rally was an angry, impassioned affair, but felt somewhat pointless given there was nobody in the centre to solidarise with and nobody nearby to convert as we were miles from anywhere. Instead, various speakers tried to apeal to the police, with limited apparent success. Even Ms Kane who berated the system they were defending in no uncertain terms failed to generate any converts. We had turned up so late that the rally was soon drawing to a close and an organiser announced that we were to form up and march, as one, back to our coaches with radical American singer-songwriter David Rovics providing musical accompaniment. While short, the march was angry and recorded by a swarm of camera people including journalists, fellow activists and the odd police evidence gathering team. I hope they got my best side.

Activists 1, Police 1?

UKzbekistan, Part 2.

The ever worthwhile UK Watch has the transcript of a speech by former British Amabassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray, famously ejected from his post for speaking out on human rights abuses in the country:
I’ll concentrate this evening on the remit I was given – what the West has done wrong, in my view, what we should be doing to put it right. I’ll start off with just a couple of facts. The first one comes from Human Rights Watch’s report on the Andijan massacre, which I’d recommend to you. They interviewed over fifty eye-witnesses; it’s a very good report. And it wasn’t just that the crowds were fired on, and fired on continually, and chased and fired on as they ran, on the May 13th, but afterwards Babur Square, where the main massacre happened, was sealed and the wounded were left lying, left overnight with no care, no attention, no medical treatment. And the next morning troops walked through the wounded finishing them off with shots to the head.

To anyone who knows Uzbekistan it is conceivable, though extremely unlikely, that troops could have opened fire on the 13th due to some situation that developed and got out of control locally. But it is completely inconceivable that twenty-four hours later troops would be walking through the streets shooting people without having authority right from the top of what is an extremely efficient totalitarian dictatorship.
But don't worry. The British Government is hard at work doing all it can to achieive regime change:
One of the Uzbek opposition leaders, a gentleman who’s in exile, Muhammed Salih, fought the only vaguely democratic election that President Karimov has ever faced when he opposed him in the presidential election in, I think, ’92. It wasn’t a very democratic election. The media was 100% government controlled. Salih had no access and no coverage except complete vilifications. His supporters were subject to violence and arrest and the polls were rigged in every conceivable way. He still officially got about 15% of the vote, which was quite extraordinary in the circumstances. He now lives in exile in Germany.

Last August when I was still British Ambassador I suggested that we invited him to the Foreign Office to perhaps meet a junior minister or senior officials. My suggestion was greeted with stunned horror in the Foreign Office, where I was told – Did I not know that he’d been convicted of terrorism? I said, ‘nobody, but nobody, believes Muhammed Salih is a terrorist. It’s a propaganda conviction.’ The Foreign Office checked with its research analysts, who confirmed that absolutely nobody thinks Muhammed Salih is a terrorist. I was then told that OK, he may not be a terrorist but he has been convicted of terrorism and therefore it would be awful insulting to President Karimov, were we to speak to him. And I was also told off for having even suggested it, and Muhammed Salih was not invited to meet anyone in the Foreign Office.

Subsequently last autumn, PEN, the campaign group for imprisoned writers, and the BBC World Service, invited Muhammed Salih to the UK anyway, and the government refused him a visa. They did so on the grounds that he might seek to illegally immigrate here. The facts are that he already has political asylum in Germany, he lives in Germany with his family, he speaks German and he doesn’t speak English – but it was plainly just not on to have anyone from the democratic Uzbek opposition walking around the streets of London, because it might upset our dear friend Mr Karimov. And to my knowledge still to this day, certainly since September 11th 2001, neither ministers nor senior officials in the Foreign Office have met anyone from the Uzbek opposition.

This is not typical of the way the Foreign Office works. The Foreign Office is usually very open to meeting democratic opposition figures from dictatorial states. And I give it to you as an example of the way the Foreign Office’s attitude, the British Government’s attitude to Uzbekistan does not stand up anywhere near official British Government policy on democracy and human rights.
And there's more.


Red Pepper provide an interesting run through of the responses by various NGOs and campaign groups to the much hyped G8 communique. Unsurprisingly many of them are critical. Some vociferously so.

The G8 Legal Support Group (who produced some incredibly helpful literature for those involved in actions during the G8) have a statement on policing during the summit which is similarly unfavourable, but in my opinion entirely accurate.

Over the Atlantic, Doug Ireland writes (in a post discovered via Empire Notes) about the "Palestinian Gandhis" of Bilin. A fascinating and inspiring story largely ignored by the corporate media who's coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict rarely seems to get beyond reportage of suicide bombings.

Meanwhile, Dead Men Left reports that French farmer and "anti-globalisation activist" José Bové, famous for dismantaling a McDonalds in protest against US trade subsidies, is considereing standing for the French Presidency.

Elsewhere, I was relieved to discover via In The Water that the Zapatista Red Alert, which I posted about a while back, has been lifted.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Make the G8 History, Part Third

(See also: Part 1 and Part Deux.)

Before continuing my reporting of events at last weeks G8 I'd like to point people in the direction of DanR's own record of event (here, here and here with more to come). I spent a lot of my time in Edinburgh with Dan and anybody looking for an accurate account of what went on could do worse than cross-referencing our respective efforts. His also has pictures. Which is nice.

Anyway. Please secure your seatbelts as we descend from the rarified heights of the blogosphere and prepare for landing in Edinburgh.

I, like many activists, have been strongly critical of the Make Poverty History coalition (see e.g. here, here and here). Nonetheless I have to confess that I experienced a not inconsiderable amount of excitement at the prospect of participating in the MPH march in Edinburgh on the Saturday prior to the opening of the G8 summit, naive as that excitement may have been. Wishy-washy politics aside there was, for me at least, a sense that I was participating in a moment in history. A moment reminiscent of the enormous anti-war demonstration on Fenruary 15, 2003. I even went to the effort of finding and washing a white t-shirt so that I could participate in their "human white band" around the city, although I made a point of chosing one emblazoned with a political slogan (albeit the rather tongue in cheek "Make Tea Not War").

It was clear when I arrrived at the march's starting point in the Meadows that it would not disappoint in numerical terms. There were already thousands of people in attendance many listening to speakers from around the world decry the evils of global poverty; others millied around the various stalls set up by an impressive range of organisations ranging from Friends of the Earth to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Islamic Aid. The Meadows can be broadly divided into four fields. Two of these had MPH stages, one a series of marquees containing the execrably designated Contempl8ion and Gener8ion Zones and the fourth the stage set-up by the Stop the War Coalition after they were barred from participating in the 'official' festivities.

The march itself was huge, but not all that exciting. We did briefly find the much-touted anarchist "Make Capitalism History bloc," distinguished by apparently de rigueur hoodies and bandana concealed faces. They had already picked up their own Forward Intelligence Team (FIT) who were scurrying along to keep up. The anarchists would later find themselves surrounded by police, but we lost them very quickly and were probably some distance from them at that juncture.

Apart from that brief moment of excitement the demonstration was largely uneventful, punctuated only by a minute's silence preceded by the firing of a cannon. This, when it happened was in fact quite unsettling. There was a large bang, source unknown, followed by everyone going silent. We worked out what was going on quickly enough, however. The end of the minute was marked by a wave of sound travelling from the Meadows along the marches entire length, apparently started by flashing the word "noise" on the screens at one (or perhaps both?) of the stages.

We amused ourselves for a while at the buildings which had been boarded up, presumably fearful of the hoards of baby-eating anarchists police had warned were to descend on the city. One shop (I forget which) had decided to hedge its bets, boarding up, but still flying a rainbow peace flag.

The rally at the end, which we reached after skipping the end of the march, was a surprisingly enjoyable affair with much more of a focus on entertainment than I'm used to at such events. There was music from various world music stars who I have to confess to being unfamiliar with and the always amazing Billy Bragg. The latter also shared compering duties with the likes of Eddie Izzard and that woman of Loose Women. There was even an attempt to organise a world-record breaking Eightsome Reel, a traditional Scottish dance, wittily dubbed the G8some Reel, in which I attempted to participate. The whole affair was drawn to a close with a collective rendition
of Auld Lang Syne (fortunately with the words displayed on a large screen) followed by Billy Bragg's performance of an acapella version of socialist anthem The Internationale (which I have to confess I didn't recognise at the time).

The contemporaneous rally at the Stop the War rally was a less jovial affair. John Rees, Lindsey German, George Monbiot and George Galloway made powerful, angry speeches criticising the cosiness of MPH and its figureheads Browno ad Blairoff (to borrow Monbiot's conjunctions) with the government and pointing to the links between global poverty and military imperialism. Bizzarely the rally attracted a police cordon. When I asked one of the police officers why this was his only response was to shrug his shoulders. Which proably summed up the policing for the whole week.

Imagine. All that and I didn't mention Live 8 once.

Make Memetics History

Proving just how virulent the Make Bad Stuff History meme is some clever sod's managed to get a letter about it published in the Grauniad.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Make the G8 History, Part Deux

Given that my write-up of my experiences during protests against the G8 began at the end, it seems consistently logical to follow it up with an overview of the whole week.

Despite having been involved in radical/progressive/leftist/anarchist politics for more years than I care to remember, I have never been to a G8 before. Indeed, this was my first summit of any description, although I did turn up for protests against two of the meetings which brought together ministers responsible for specific areas (namely the environment and development ministers meeting in Derbyshire and the interior and justice ministers confab in Sheffield). As such I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I knew we weren't in for a repeat of the events in Genoa in 2003 when demonstrators clashed with Italian paramilitary police, one activist was shot and police raided a converegence centre beating those inside. The UK just doesn't work like that. That didn't mean, however, that the possibility of things getting hairy could be discounted.

The ease of getting from the train station to the campsite, provided for free by Edinburgh Council, was encouraging, as was the chilled-out atmosphere when I arrived. Sitting in a field eating vegetarian curry and sipping Mecca Cola, both provided by a local mosque, it would have been easy to forget about the politics and think that this was just a holiday. We were there to do a job (so to speak) however and that would begin the next day with the set-piece Make Poverty History march, an event which would attract 225,000 people. I was struck by the fact that the site was largely empty, which remained the case throughout the week. This is at least partly attributable to concerns about security on the site amongst some activist groups (rumours about razor wire, omnipresent surveillance and guard towers had spread quickly, including some of my friends who arrived a day after I did and were surprised to see how civil the whole set-up was).

Much had been made in media coverage prior to the summit on the amount of time and money invested in security: thousands of police were brought in from around the country; riot cops were trained fro some eighteen months; Gleneagles Hotel where the summit was taking place was to be surrounded by a £1 million fence, described by police as merely a "line in the sand". It was not difficult to see where this money had been spent. Every action I participated in was attended by huge numbers of police, oftentimes kitted out in full riot gear. The sheer number of police quickly came to feel oppressive, particularly when they began stopping and searching people under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. The fact that they often tried to get more out of those being searched than they were legally obliged to give, sometimes under duress didn't help.

Apart from the police presence, the week was in fact fascinating, inspiring and enjoyable, if higely tiring: the sheer scale of the MPH demo was impressive and reminiscent of the gargantuan anti-war march on February 15 2003; the counter-conference the following day included contributions from a wide range of inspiring speakers including writer George Monbiot, South African anti-privatisation campaigner Trevor Ngwane, executive director of NGO Focus on the Global South Walden Bello and situationist troublemakers the Yes Men; Monday's blockade of Faslane was surprisingly effective, while simultaneously remaining chilled - a striking counterpoint it would emerge later to events taking place at the same time in Edinburgh; the protest against Dungavel refugee detention centre on Tuesday was much more disempowering with the centre having been emptied prior to our arrival and police boarding and searching buses carrying demonstrators.

The highlight of the week for me, and - I think - for many others, was the chance to see the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army (CIRCA) in action. I have to confess, when I first heard of the idea of people going along to actions dressed as clowns I was dismissive, but having seen them in action I've completely changed my opinion. I had previously seen CIRCA in action in Sheffield, but there they were few in number. In Scotland there seemed to be hundreds of them. There activities were amusing and entertaining, while retaining a strong political element. There ability to engage with the police in new ways was particularly interesting. I watched on group of clowns, for instance, pursue an evidence gathering team, trying to film those involved in blockading Faslane, getting in the way of their filming and ultimately forcing them to retreat across police lines. The incident was never going to flare into violence, yet it was effectively able to neuter police tactics. Testament to the Army's success was the number of people I spoke to who expressed an intention to do the CIRCA training workshop and become a rebel clown.

While there is much more which could be said, I should save something for 'Part Third' of this report and so I will end on a positive note. I was amazed in my time in Edinburgh by how ridiculously friendly everybody I met was from the bus drivers carting us from campsite to city-centre to those running the community centre which had been commandered by the council for campers. I wonder how the inhabitants of Nottingham would have responded to a similar influx of protesters. Thank you Edinburgh.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Make Bad Stuff History

I've written briefly on the concept of memes before. Essentially they are ideas (in the widest sense) propagated by imitation. The "Make Bad Stuff History" meme started by the Make Poverty History campaign is a fascinating example having been picked up and varied by a wide range of campaign groups. Below are a list of examples which I have encountered, most during my time in Edinburgh. Some very clever. Others less so.
  • Don't Make Poverty (Actionaid banner)
  • History Makes Poverty (Philosophy Football t-shirt)
  • Make Bono History (sign stuck up in phone booth)
  • Make Borders History (MBH campaign)
  • Make Capitalism History (anarchists, Radical Activist Network, SWP, just about everybody else on the anti-capitalist left)
  • Make Child Povery History (Save the Children)
  • Make Civillisation History (primitivist graffiti, Edingurgh University)
  • Make (the) G8 History (various, with and without article)
  • Make History: Stop the G8 (Dissent! flyer)
  • Make Marxist Dogmatic Critiques History (graffiti, Edinburgh University)
  • Make Nuclear Weapons History (Stop the War Coalition banner)
  • Make Nukes History (banner at Faslane)
  • Make Occupation History (MOH campaign)
  • Make Palestinian Poverty History (Palestine Solidarity Campaign flyer)
  • Make Partition History (Irish Republican sticker)
  • Make popstars, politicians and the police history (graffiti, Edinburgh University)
  • Make Poverty History (MPH campaign)
  • Make Poverty and Injustice History in Palestine: End The Occupation (MOH flyer, see above)
  • Make poverty, debt, war, capitalism history - make socialism the future (Scottish Socialist Party flyer)
  • Make Racism History (banner at MPH demo)
  • Make Richard Curtis History (Lenin's Tomb post)
  • make the Arms Trade History (article by James O'Nions)
  • Make the Occupation History (Scottish PSC flyer)
  • Make Tony Blair History (graffiti, Edinburgh University)
  • Make tyranny history (article by Michael Wrong)
  • Make War History (t-shirt)
  • Making Politics History (Lenin's Tomb post)
  • Mbeki, when will you make history in Zimbabwe? (placard at MPH demo)
  • Nuke Africa. Make it History (graffiti, Edinburgh University - clearly somebody not getting into the spirit of things)
For some interesting - but as yet unused - possibilities check this out.

The New Great Game Kicks Off

There are some interesting noises being made by the Uzbek government which you may have missed with the understandable focus on Thursday's bombings.

On Tuesday the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which brings together Uzbekistan, Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan called for the US and its Coalition Allies to set a timeline for the withdrawal of its forces from several member states in Central Asia. The US set up shop in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in the aftermath of September 11.

Bagila Burkhabayeva writing for Associated Press, suggests,
The alliance's move appeared to be an attempt to push the United States out of a region that Moscow regards as historically part of its sphere of influence and in which China seeks a dominant role because of its extensive energy resources.
Writer and expert on the region Ahmed Rashid has talked of a "New Great Game" (a reference to "the Great Game" when the British and Tsarist Empires struggled for control of Central Asia during the nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries) as world powers struggle to control the not inconsiderable natural resources (particularly oil) in the region. Noam Chomsky also suggested that the establishment of permanent US bases in the region was one of the most significant consequences of the US-led assault on Afghanistan both for this reason and because it helps surround the even more significant Persian energy system. In light of this it is clear that the SCO's statement could prove to be of considerable significance.

As if to prove the point, Uzbekistan's foreign ministry suggested on Thursday that it was reconsidering the future of the US airbase at Karshi-Khanabad. This had been used to support operations in northern Afghanistan during the US-led assault on the country in late-2001. The ministry stated that it was only intended for combat operations leading to the overthrow of the Taliban. "Any other prospects for a US military presence in Uzbekistan were not considered by the Uzbek side," they insisted.

Uzbekistan also claimed that the US had not paid takeoff and landing fees for all flights to and from the base, nor had it adequately compensated Uzbek authorities for additional costs which they incurred for guarding the base and providing new infrastructure. "In the view of the foreign ministry of Uzbekistan, these considerations should be central to examining the prospects of the future presence of the US military force at the Khanabad air base," they concluded.

Where this goes next remains to be seen. I think it is unlikely that Uzbekistan will go so far as to kick out the US. It also seems unlikely that the US will abandon its bases in so strategically significant a region without a fight. Perhaps we will see a redeployment of US forces to bases in Afghanistan with its more compliant government, although the ongoing violence led by guerilla groups which seems to be becoming more effective may make this difficult.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Make the G8 History, Part 1

I travelled up to Edinburgh to participate in protests against the G8 on Friday. There was a load of stuff taking place over the week including the Make Poverty History march on Saturday; a blockade of Faslane nuclear submarine base; a protest outside Dungavel refugee detention centre; the Carnival for Full Enjoyment (which I didn't attend, perhaps fortunately as it descended into violence); a Counter-Summit; and a Stop the War Coalition organised march and rally. While the Make Poverty History march and the Carnival (subsequently dubbed the "Battle of Princes' Street" by the media) attracted most of the attention there was a real sense amongst those on the ground that Wednesday July 6 was the big one towards which everything was building. This was the first day of the actual summit and activists had announced their intention of doing all they could to disrupt this sometime ago.

My main contribution to the day was my participation in efforts to prevent the Japanese delegation who were staying at the Sheraton hotel from getting to Gleneagles. This involved getting there at six in the morning, a painfully early time, not helped by the inclement weather (it was pissing it down). Unfortunately, despite attempts to keep the blockade secret, the police had discovered we were coming and turned up in force. Some sixteen police vans were lined up in front of the hotel with a ful complement of policemen (and the odd policewoman) many of them in full riot gear.

For my trouble I was stopped and searched under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, the second time I had been subject to this in as many days. This time the search was much more thorough and the policeman carrying it out even took the liberty of going through my wallet. I pointed out that as Section 60 exists to allow police to search "for offensive weapons or dangerous instruments" this did not entitle him to look at the contents of my wallet or read any documents I was carrying. He didn't take to well to this and told me that he was looking for a map or instructions for getting to the hotel, which he clearly was not entitled to do under the Act. He also threatened to arrrest me if I continued "obstructing" him. Unfortunately I relented and allowed him to continue the search. It would have been very embarassing for him and his superiors if he had arrested me and then had to concede that he was in the wrong.

Once the search was completed I was led, along with two others, across the road and allowed to go. There I joined a small band of protesters which was beginning to form. After some standing around we moved off to try around the side of the hotel complex (which was huge). This forced the police to move quickly to redeploy some of their number to weak-points in their perimeter. For a while we had them on the run as they had to keep moving to ensure that they were in a good position to deal with any efforts we might make to breach their lines. Unfortunately we quickly became fragmented and ended up standing around in small groups, unsure of what to do next.

After a while, word reached us that a bus containing passengers of Japanese appearance in suits had been blocked. I and two others ran off to see what we could do, but were dispatched in the wrong direction. We were eventually sent to the right place and came around the corner to see two National Express coaches (National Express appear to have been co-ordinating all transport to the summit, even if not always using their own coaches) drive off. They had apparently been blocked for some ten-fifteen minutes by only a handful of activists sitting in the road. Despite our small victory the sense of failure was palpable.

Later I met up with a friend and acted as an unofficial legal observer while he sat in front of a bus which was to take journalists and one guy claiming to represent "one of 25 NGOs allowed into the summit" to Gleneagles. This turned out to be a surprisingly effective action. The bus was delayed by between a quarter and a half an hour. While it was taking place I engaged in a debate with a number of the passengers which led to me being interviewed by Abu Dhabi TV and United Press International. This gave me a chance to explain the motivations behind the actions of many protesters. Eventually the coach was reversed out and my friend removed from the road.

There was then an extended period of standing around while my friend was "processed". During this time I discovered that the FIT (Forward Intelligence Team) sent up from Metropolitan police didn't have a clue how to find their way around Edinburgh (although they had been given very flashy Mitsubishi Shoguns in black and silver to rush around in - the irony of those protecting a summit which would ostensibly be seeking to deal with climate change being given 4x4s was apparently lost on the police). Eventually the police, who were clearly trying to mimise the number of arrests they made, telling my friend that he was free to go, but that he would be arrested if he returned to the hotel. I don't know if he went back, but I think it's more than likely that he had at least one more go at disrupting coaches.

There were also a wide range of other actions taking place during the day, these are neatly summarised by Stuart Hodkinson Stuart Hodkinson on the Red Pepper G8 Blog. Surprisingly one of the most interesting was the authorised demonstration organised by the G8 Alternatives coalition, made up of socialists, Greens and Stop the War-types. Although cancelled by the police for a while this ultimately went ahead and included participants from across the country, including Nottingham. During the march, there was a break-away which saw part of the fence surrounding the summit torn down, a deviation which drew swift retribution from the authorities in the form of riot-cops flown in by Chinook helicopter.

Religious Differences

The observant amongst you may have noticed that you can email me from a link beneath this site's title. While few people make use of this facility (a reflection, perhaps, of my limited readership) I do occasionally receive communications from interested passers-by. Some are fascinating, others less so. Looking through the emails I received while away at the G8 (a trip which I intend to write up at some point) I noticed one promoting Different Religions Week. While the name is hardly very inspiring, the concept itself seems worthy, particularly in light of yesterday's terrorist attacks in London.

The organisers of the, week which runs from Friday July 15 to Friday July 22, encourage participants to "consider attending a religious service of a faith different from your own." They hope that this will challenge the ignorance which fuels bigotry and religious fundamentalism. This is perhaps a little naive and it is unlikely that those who most require such inter-cultural interaction will actually participate in the week. Nevertheless, at the present time anything which can help to smooth racial and religious tensions can only be a good thing. I have no idea if I'll participate myself. As an atheist "a faith different from my own" could potentially encompass all of them, although I suppose that to be of any value I would have to go to a service of a faith other than Christianity, with which I have some familiarity. Others may wish to consider taking part as well or telling others.

The Day After the Morning Before

Having returned from Edinburgh, where I was involved in various anti-G8 protests, on Wednesday evening, I had planned to write up my experiences yesterday. Events, however, distracted me somewhat. I spent several hours sat in front of the TV watching the rolling news reports. As is always the case with such events there was actually very little to report, but the whole thing was grimly captivating.

The BBC is currently reporting that the death toll is more than 50, but that an unknown number of bodies remain undiscovered. While far lower than the death-toll of September 11th and a tiny fration of the numbers killed as a result of the invasion and occupation of Iraq (estimated to be around 100,000 by last year's lancet report) there is no question that the attack was indiscriminate, unjustifiable and contemptible. I've never been Ken Livingstone's greatest fan, but I think his statement released yesterday hits all the right notes. He remarked:
This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful. It was not aimed at Presidents or Prime Ministers. It was aimed at ordinary, working-class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old. It was an indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, for class, for religion, or whatever.

That isn't an ideology, it isn't even a perverted faith - it is just an indiscriminate attempt at mass murder and we know what the objective is. They seek to divide Londoners. They seek to turn Londoners against each other. I said yesterday to the International Olympic Committee, that the city of London is the greatest in the world, because everybody lives side by side in harmony. Londoners will not be divided by this cowardly attack. They will stand together in solidarity alongside those who have been injured and those who have been bereaved and that is why I'm proud to be the mayor of that city.
I can only hope that Livingstone's faith in Londoners is well placed. I have no reson to suspect that it won't be.

Attention is increasingly turning to the question of who carried out the attack. While it is too early to be sure of anything, it is clear that it bears all the hallmarks of Islamic extremism. The lack of a warning; the co-ordination of multiple bombs; the timing at the start of the day. Even if understandable suspicions are later proved to be incorrect we can expect that the attack will serve to further exacerbate pressures felt by Muslims living in the UK. Not only is this unfortunate in itself, but there is also a risk that it may drive the victims into the arms of extremists.

Again, without being sure of who carried out the attack, we should be wary of passing comment on its causes, but it is clear that the "War on Terror", now over three and a half years old has done little if anything to make us any safer. It may even have had the opposite effect, strengthening anti-Western and anti-British sentiments within the Islamic world.

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