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Topics - Phil Talbot

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Focussing in on Dunkirk - but not the 'Dunkirk Spirit' British 'nationalistic' kitsch sort of stuff. Instead, a 'rescue' attempt/effort, not a 'triumph' ...

South Tyneside Stop the War / Nostalgia? In The Beginning ...
« on: May 12, 2022, 02:19:50 PM »
 In The Beginning ...

The start of the South Tyneside Stop the War Coalition forum in committee room C at South Shields town hall, 7pm [BST], 21st May, 2003, was almost delayed because it was growing dark outside, and so inside, and most of the dozen or so people present in the room could not find the light switch.

No town hall staff seemed to be on duty to help with this technical problem.

Fortunately one person present, Roger Nettleship, hospital worker, union official [Unison], and one-time independent parliamentary candidate, had the wit and wisdom to continue searching the wall area near the main door until he found the switch ... just in the nick of time ... so that the meeting could start in a brightened state ... more or less on time ...

As Roger later said: “We must make our own history.”

In the forum's opening address, Alan Newham celebrated the "unlikely alliances" that have been building up in the anti-war movement.

He cited the well-testified example of: "The Socialist Workers' Party marching shoulder-to-shoulder with The Mothers' Union."

From an openly open-minded socialist perspective, Alan [who remembers that Marx's mottoes included 'DE OMNIBUS DUBITANDUM - to doubt of everything'] then started to address the historical background of the present world situation.

He called attention to the recently published Perpetual War For Perpetual Peace, by Gore Vidal.

The title is a quote from the American historian Charles A. Beard.

Gore’s book lists the number of wars and conflicts in which the U.S. has been involved.

To quote: "In these several hundred wars against communism, terrorism, drugs, or something nothing much between Pearl Harbour and Tuesday, September 11, 2001, we tended to strike the first blow. But then we`re the good guys, right? Right."

Gore is a quite prickly, partly exiled, fairly ageing, somewhat ironic, thorn in the American - and wider world - consciousness.

In an article published in the British Observer [27/10/02 - copyrights observed] Gore directly quoted the words of James Madison [aka - in the U.S. - ‘Father of the Constitution’] at the dawn of the American Republic, around the time of the constitutional convention, Philadelphia, 1787:

"Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded beause it comprises and develops the germ of every other. As the parent of armies, war encourges debts and taxes, the known insturments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the executive is extended ... and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people ..."

Words that might give all food for thought, it might be thought.

But as everyone knows, words are not enough ... and actions speak louder than ...

Speaking at the forum, Alan Newham emphasized the local basis and do-it-yourself ethos of the South Tyneside Stop the War Coalition, and wondered: "What do we DO here - our area?"

What indeed?

In all cases, individual human actions and communications take place on a relatively small local scale, in a spreading [literal or metaphorical] forest of associated symbols, which include sounds, smells, tastes ... and physical things ...

While giving his opening address Alan was wearing a commercially produced sweatshirt of complex design, which included a representation of a musical score by Shostakovich.

Dmitry Dmitryevich Shostakovich [some of whose name might be distorted in transliteration] was a state-sponsored musician working mostly in the former USSR, who is widely recognized as one of the 20th Century's greatest classical composers.

Dmitry was privately appalled - but felt almost powerless himself to do anything in response to his emotional reaction - when he learned that the Stalinist state machine [which supported his own work, and which he mostly theoretically supported on principle] was systematically slaughtering [along with many others] the folk bards of the Ukraine, as part of a cultural war.

Most of the bards massacred in the purges of the 1920s and 1930s were old and frail, and from the point of view of the Soviet authorities represented out-of-date ways of thinking, feeling and doing. which had no place in the new Soviet world of the early 20th Centruy. [But where is that 'brave new world' now?]

The official justification of the purge was a clampdown on nationalism in the name of 'Internationalism' - even though, at the time, the Stalinists themselves were in the process diverting their ideology from one of 'international socialism' to one of 'socialism in one country'.

Observing indirectly the killing of the bards - and many others - from a personally relatively safe academic distance, Dmitry wondered about his own compromised position.

What was he to do? Give up his state-sponsored vocation in protest? - and probably be persecuted himself as a consequence. Or continue to compose in what many would regard as the service of a regime that violently suppressed the freeedom of music?

Wracked by such private doubts - which perhaps helped his creative flows - Dmitry went on making music - which in some ways preserved and recreated the massacred bards' work ...

Despite his personal caution, and despite his mostly orthodox Soviet outlook, Dmitry was himself almost purged in 1936, when the offiicial Soviet paper ‘Pravda’ published an article headlined 'Chaos Instead Of Music' accusing him of 'leftist distortion', 'petty bourgeois sensationalism' and 'formalism' - all apparently serious crimes in the Stalinist state.

His survival largely depended on the popular success of his 5th symphony - to which he gave the politic subtitle “a Soviet artists' practical creative response to just criticism”.

In the second world war, Dmitry worked as a firefighter during the Nazi seige of Leningrad - out of which came his 7th Symphony, The Leningrad, which became a genuinely popular classical anthem of the struggle against fascism, widely performed in the USSR, the UK, and the USA during the war.

Dmitry's works are marked by sharp contrasts, which some interpret as akin to political dialectics. They mix tragic intensity with sometimes grotesque, often bizarre, wit, humour, parody and satire - and he frequently uses quotation, including of his own previous work.

The ways of free expression - musical or otherwise - and open dialogue are never without complexities ... and compromises ... and ambiguites ...

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum ...

At the People's Assembly, Westminister Hall, London, March 12, 2003, Nader A-Naderi, who gave the second opening address at the STSTWC forum on May 21, met George Galloway.

George is a maverick British Labour MP who - since meeting Nader - has been smeared and pilloried by the mainstream British media for saying things about the war in Iraq that many other people believe - in this country and elsewhere. [Many others believe George went too far ... but that is the way open debate sometimes goes ...]

What happened when Scottish socialist George [known to some as 'Georgeous'] met Nader, a respectably married South Tynesider, with family links to Iran, and, by his own description, a 'capitalist'?

In Nader's own words: 'I shook him by the hand and said to him: "May I commend you on your balls?".'

[Context. Just before Nader spoke to him, George had openly suggested to the People's Assembly - attended by more than 1,000 people, but little reported in the mainstream media - that British troops should refuse to fight in Iraq. Nader reported this remark back to STSTWC a few days later - and expressed surprize that what seemed to be an open call to mutiny by an elected MP of the governing party had not attracted the attention of the national press, tv, and radio. Later a few British soliders did refuse to fight - in barely reported episodes - and later still George was widely accused of 'treason', and suspended from the Labour Party - but the idea that the soldiers were directly influenced by George's previously barely reported remarks must be very open to doubt.]

Nader can spin out ambiguous - even kinky - sounding lines, but he can also put things straight.

He told it as he saw it to the forum:

"The fact was, and is, Saddam offered little in the way of a threat to the national security of the U.S., and the U.K - a historical fact, considering the length of the war, and the manner of defeat of an ill-equipped, and rag-tag Iraqi Army. However, since the downfall of the tryannical regime of Saddam, one fact is clearly emerging: annexation of the Iraqi oil by the warring factions, and its incorporation into various American corporate bodies - with further money being siphoned by those managing to get lucrative contracts for rebuilding Iraq. Simple fact is if these players were to divert such funds from U.S., and U.K. taxes, they most probably would have been found guilty of fraud, and sent to jail, however by going through the route of war, they have laundered their proceeeds, at the cost to those who died fighting this war. The simple fact you should all remember is: crime should not pay, however sophisticated the criminal, and his or her methods of committing crimes. In other words, it is up to you to be aware of why violence is chosen in preference to civilized modes of human discourse."

Anna Snowdon, who was informally chairing the forum on 21 May, thanked Nader and Alan for their opening contributions, and went on to highlight some of the relative successes of the anti-war movement.

It had without doubt helped to save lives by acting as a restraining influence on the use of force by the U.S. and U.K.

And then Anna said: "We nearly stopped the war."

This simple phrase was not greeted with universal politeness.

It was a trigger for a somewhat heated discussion on the question of: 'How nearly was "nearly"?'

Why the idea of 'nearly' stopping a war should provoke responses including something approaching anger is a question perhaps deserving a pause for thought ...

Meanwhile, the forum continues ... and now includes the ongoing regret that, for the people killed an maimed in the war - and its consequences - our 'nearly' was, indeed, not nearly enough ...

by John Pilger

17 February 2022

Marshall McLuhan's prophecy that "the successor to politics will be propaganda" has happened.  Raw propaganda is now the rule in Western democracies, especially the US and Britain

On matters of war and peace, ministerial deceit is reported as news. Inconvenient facts are censored, demons are nurtured. The model is corporate spin, the currency of the age. In 1964, McLuhan famously declared, "The medium is the message." The lie is the message now.

But is this new? It is more than a century since Edward Bernays, the father of spin, invented "public relations" as a cover for war propaganda. What is new is the virtual elimination of dissent in the mainstream.

The great editor David Bowman, author of The Captive Press, called this "a defenestration of all who refuse to follow a line and to swallow the unpalatable and are brave". He was referring to independent journalists and whistle blowers, the honest mavericks to whom media organisations once gave space, often with pride. The space has been abolished.

The war hysteria that has rolled in like a tidal wave in recent weeks and months is the most striking example. Known by its jargon, "shaping the narrative", much if not most of it is pure propaganda.

The Russians are coming. Russia is worse than bad. Putin is evil, "a Nazi like Hitler", salivated the Labour MP Chris Bryant. Ukraine is about to be invaded by Russia - tonight, this week, next week. The sources include an ex CIA propagandist who now speaks for the US State Department and offers no evidence of his claims about Russian actions because "it comes from the US Government".

The no-evidence rule also applies in London. The British Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, who spent £500,000 of public money flying to Australia in a private plane to warn the Canberra government that both Russia and China were about to pounce,  offered no evidence. Antipodean heads nodded; the "narrative" is unchallenged there. One rare exception, former prime minister Paul Keating, called Truss's warmongering "demented".

Truss has blithely confused the countries of the Baltic and Black Sea. In Moscow, she told the Russian foreign minister that Britain would never accept Russian sovereignty over Rostov and Voronezh - until it was pointed out to her that these places were not part of Ukraine but in Russia. Read the Russian press about the buffoonery of this pretender to 10 Downing Street and cringe.

This entire farce, recently starring Boris Johnson in Moscow playing a clownish version of his hero, Churchill, might be enjoyed as satire were it not for its wilful abuse of facts and historical understanding and the real danger of war.

Vladimir Putin refers to the "genocide" in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine. Following the coup in Ukraine in 2014 - orchestrated by Barack Obama's "point person" in Kyiv, Victoria Nuland - the coup regime, infested with neo-Nazis, launched a campaign of terror against Russian-speaking Donbas, which accounts for a third of Ukraine's population.

Overseen by CIA director John Brennan in Kyiv, "special security units" coordinated savage attacks on the people of Donbas, who opposed the coup. Video and eyewitness reports show bussed fascist thugs burning the trade union headquarters in the city of Odessa, killing 41 people trapped inside. The police are standing by. Obama congratulated the "duly elected" coup regime for its "remarkable restraint".

In the US media the Odessa atrocity was played down as "murky" and a "tragedy" in which "nationalists" (neo-Nazis) attacked "separatists" (people collecting signatures for a referendum on a federal Ukraine). Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal damned the victims - "Deadly Ukraine Fire Likely Sparked by Rebels, Government Says".

Professor Stephen Cohen, acclaimed as America's leading authority on Russia, wrote, "The pogrom-like burning to death of ethnic Russians and others in Odessa reawakened memories of Nazi extermination squads in Ukraine during world war two. [Today] storm-like assaults on gays, Jews, elderly ethnic Russians, and other 'impure' citizens are widespread throughout Kyiv-ruled Ukraine, along with torchlight marches reminiscent of those that eventually inflamed Germany in the late 1920s and 1930s...

"The police and official legal authorities do virtually nothing to prevent these neo-fascist acts or to prosecute them. On the contrary, Kyiv has officially encouraged them by systematically rehabilitating and even memorialising Ukrainian collaborators with Nazi German extermination pogroms, renaming streets in their honour, building monuments to them, rewriting history to glorify them, and more."

Today, neo-Nazi Ukraine is seldom mentioned. That the British are training the Ukrainian National Guard, which includes neo-Nazis, is not news. (See Matt Kennard's Declassified report in Consortium 15 February). The return  of violent, endorsed fascism to 21st-century Europe, to quote Harold Pinter, "never happened ... even while it was happening".

On 16 December, the United Nations tabled a resolution that called for "combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism". The only nations to vote against it were the United States and Ukraine.

Almost every Russian knows that it was across the plains of Ukraine's "borderland" that Hitler's divisions swept from the west in 1941, bolstered by Ukraine's Nazi cultists and collaborators. The result was more than 20 million Russian dead.

Setting aside the manoeuvres and cynicism of geopolitics, whomever the players, this historical memory is the driving force behind Russia's respect-seeking, self-protective security proposals, which were published in Moscow in the week the UN voted 130-2 to outlaw Nazism. They are:

- NATO guarantees that it will not deploy missiles in nations bordering Russia. (They are already in place from Slovenia to Romania, with Poland to follow)
- NATO to stop military and naval exercises in nations and seas bordering Russia.
- Ukraine will not become a member of NATO.
- the West and Russia to sign a binding East-West security pact.
- the landmark treaty between the US and Russia covering intermediate-range nuclear weapons to be restored. (The US abandoned it in 2019)

These amount to a comprehensive draft of a peace plan for all of post-war Europe and ought to be welcomed in the West. But who understands their significance in Britain? What they are told is that Putin is a pariah and a threat to Christendom.

Russian-speaking Ukrainians, under economic blockade by Kyiv for seven years, are fighting for their survival. The "massing" army we seldom hear about are the thirteen Ukrainian army brigades laying siege to Donbas: an estimated 150,000 troops. If they attack, the provocation to Russia will almost certainly mean war.

In 2015, brokered by the Germans and French, the presidents of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France met in Minsk and signed an interim peace deal. Ukraine agreed to offer autonomy to Donbas, now the self declared republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

The Minsk agreement has never been given a chance. In Britain, the line,  amplified by Boris Johnson, is that Ukraine is being "dictated to" by world leaders. For its part, Britain is arming Ukraine and training its army.

Since the first Cold War, NATO has effectively marched right up to Russia's most sensitive border having demonstrated its bloody aggression in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and broken solemn promises to pull back.  Having dragged European "allies" into American wars that do not concern them, the great unspoken is that NATO itself is the real threat to European security.

In Britain, a state and media xenophobia is triggered at the very mention of "Russia". Mark the knee-jerk hostility with which the BBC reports Russia. Why? Is it because the restoration of imperial mythology demands, above all, a permanent enemy? Certainly, we deserve better.

South Tyneside Stop the War / John Tinmouth
« on: February 01, 2022, 03:27:44 PM »
We at South Tyneside Stop The War Coalition would like to convey our sadness at the sudden passing of our comrade John Tinmouth.

John was a strong supporter of Stop The War for twenty years or so, during which time we attended many demonstrations and meetings together.

He was a fearless debater and would engage with any stranger in the street while dishing out huge amounts of leaflets on whatever cause he was supporting.

His passionate support for the Palestinian cause via the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign led to many well researched articles published on our website.

We met regularly every Tuesday evening and John brought reports and comments on various political world events sparking off some very noisy debates the air being the bluest blue imaginable – he would question everything and was determined to promote his point of view.

He was also extremely funny and irreverent and was full of stories from his life.

He was unique and we loved him for it.

We will miss him.


Israeli policies against Palestinians amount to apartheid - Amnesty

Israeli laws, policies and practices against Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories amount to apartheid, Amnesty International says.

A new report alleges that the Israeli state maintains "an institutionalized regime of oppression and domination of the Palestinian population for the benefit of Jewish Israelis".

Apartheid is considered a crime against humanity under international law.

Israel says it "absolutely rejects all the false allegations" in the report.

A foreign ministry spokesperson accused Amnesty of recycling "lies, inconsistencies, and unfounded assertions that originate from well-known anti-Israeli hate organisations".

"The report denies the State of Israel's right to exist as the nation state of the Jewish people. Its extremist language and distortion of historical context were designed to demonize Israel and pour fuel onto the fire of anti-Semitism," they said in a statement.

The Palestinian foreign ministry welcomed the report, saying it was a "detailed affirmation of the cruel reality of entrenched racism, exclusion, oppression, colonialism, apartheid, and attempted erasure that the Palestinian people have endured".

Israel committing crime of apartheid - HRW
Israel to snub ICC war crimes investigation
Apartheid was a policy of racial segregation and discrimination that was enforced by the white minority government in South Africa against the country's black majority from 1948 until 1991.

Three main international treaties prohibit apartheid, including the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.

The convention defines apartheid as "inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them".


Israeli policies against Palestinians amount to apartheid - Amnesty

Israeli laws, policies and practices against Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories amount to apartheid, Amnesty International says.

A new report alleges that the Israeli state maintains "an institutionalized regime of oppression and domination of the Palestinian population for the benefit of Jewish Israelis".

Apartheid is considered a crime against humanity under international law.

Israel says it "absolutely rejects all the false allegations" in the report.

A foreign ministry spokesperson accused Amnesty of recycling "lies, inconsistencies, and unfounded assertions that originate from well-known anti-Israeli hate organisations".

"The report denies the State of Israel's right to exist as the nation state of the Jewish people. Its extremist language and distortion of historical context were designed to demonize Israel and pour fuel onto the fire of anti-Semitism," they said in a statement.

The Palestinian foreign ministry welcomed the report, saying it was a "detailed affirmation of the cruel reality of entrenched racism, exclusion, oppression, colonialism, apartheid, and attempted erasure that the Palestinian people have endured".

Israel committing crime of apartheid - HRW
Israel to snub ICC war crimes investigation
Apartheid was a policy of racial segregation and discrimination that was enforced by the white minority government in South Africa against the country's black majority from 1948 until 1991.

Three main international treaties prohibit apartheid, including the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.

The convention defines apartheid as "inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them".

For Your Information / Brian Eno: Why We Need Stop the War
« on: August 22, 2017, 02:17:27 PM »
Brian Eno: Why We Need Stop the War

Written by Brian Eno on 21 August 2017

[Stop the War's new President on the importance of the anti-war movement.]

Stopping wars isn’t something that happens when hostilities have already begun. It starts much earlier than that, in the very fabric of society. Our society is increasingly built around war - or the threat of war - and a lot of people have an interest in keeping things that way.
Who are they?
First there are the ideologues, those so certain of their moral (and military) superiority that they’re ready to force it down another’s throat. In their minds, war is supported with the excuse that it’s ‘for the good’ of the other side: to liberate them from ignorance and tyranny. The intellectuals behind the Iraq War, for example, were convinced that, bristling with guns and bombs and chewing gum, they would be welcomed as saviours. They predicted a ‘cakewalk in Iraq’ which would be ‘over in weeks’. Such sunny predictions are always part of the recipe.
Then there are the weapons manufacturers. Britain is the 4th biggest weapons exporter globally. BAE systems, for example, one of our largest companies, makes over 95% of its (huge) income from defence contracts. We sell weapons indiscriminately, to almost anybody who’ll pay: and our biggest clients are the Saudis, who in turn fund extremist groups like Isis. The world is awash with lethal weapons, many of which we built, and these often end up being directed against us….and then we spend even more on weapons to defend ourselves.
Beyond the technology of war - the weapons systems and the materiel - there is the science. Advanced weaponry systems employ lots of scientists and technologists, people who could be doing something useful in the world. A climate of endless war has to be maintained, otherwise people might start to wonder why we spend so much of our national resources building generations of jets and tanks and ships that never see action, and why all that expensive brainpower is being squandered while the world is melting.
Think also of the media: they relish the prospect of war, and talk it up relentlessly. They know that alarm sells papers and gets clicks, and that’s often all they want. It’s the rubberneck syndrome: we can’t help looking. Most of the media business is about turning attention into money, holding your attention so that you can be advertised to. On the other hand, peace talks are a bit dull by comparison, so nobody bothers reporting them. So, intentionally or not, the media nurture and perpetuate the climate of continuous war.
And think of the politicians, anxious to advertise their ‘strength’ and ‘determination’, shoring up failing popularity by rattling sabres. Think of Blair and Bush swaggering about the White House as though setting fire to a whole nation was some kind of laddish game. Or think of Trump with his ‘Fire and Fury’ tough guy talk. Again, the media revel in this. It’s what editors call ‘great copy’.
And then there’s the ‘security’ business - one of the only growth sectors on the British employment scene. As ‘security’ increases, society becomes tighter, more paranoid, more spied upon and suspected, than ever before. It shouldn’t be called the security business: it’s the insecurity business. The business is to create insecurity, to make you scared, to make you believe that war is the only option.
How did all this happen? Why are we where we are now? The truth is that the economies of both the US and the UK (and lots of other countries) have become so centred around military production that they have grown to need an ongoing threat of war. America emerged from WWII as a very wealthy country, having learned that the people who really win wars are the people making the weapons.
But they learned something else too:
Societies can be made coherent - can be held together - in two broad ways. One is through hope; the other is through fear. But for a society to be held together through hope there has to be a credible sense of promise in the future: a majority of people have to believe that things will get better. Until perhaps 25 years ago that majority existed, but, with neoliberalism rolling back post-war social arrangements like the welfare state, unions, free education and job security things started to look different. The prospect of automation, which ought to have liberated us, instead translates into even bigger profits for the elites. As a result, working people now look forward to a much more precarious and uncertain future than they have done for decades.
You can't have a hopeful society if its elites prioritise aggressive foreign wars and 6 billion pound floating bombing platforms over social spending. You can’t have a hopeful society focused on fighting aggressive foreign wars which in turn flood your shores with refugees.
What we now have instead of hope is rising unemployment, a surfeit of both overqualified and underqualified young people, the gig economy, zero-hour contracts, and automation. Our politicians could be working on that problem, on rethinking our future prospects, and throwing off the disastrous market fundamentalism of neoliberalism.but by and large they are timid minds who live in mortal fear of the press and run a mile from anything that might conceivably be called socialism, so they don’t. Instead they default to option two…fear.
Fear is a great paralyser. A frightened population is easy to govern. In a climate of fear, people are willing to allow their rights and freedoms to be limited. They’re willing to follow orders and penalise resisters. They’re willing to fall for easy, quick and ill-conceived military ‘solutions’. They’re willing to serve as defenders of the state without asking why that state needs defending, or from what.
So it’s fear that keeps the hamster-wheel turning; but it’s hope that will get us out of the cage.
Stopping war means building a society based not on relentless consumption and profiteering but instead on sustainability and conservation and sharing. It means making a world that is worth saving for everybody, so that the idea of war - of destroying all that - becomes unthinkable, ridiculous.
It means breaking up those entrenched hierarchies that regularly produce over-privileged halfwits - con-artists who know how to talk but not how to think, and who exist in some eternal public-school-of-the-mind*. Their unshakeable sense of natural superiority fosters a hubristic arrogance with which they ride into war after war, certain that they couldn’t possibly be wrong.
And Stopping war entails, perhaps beyond anything else, distributing the wealth of the planet so it doesn’t automatically accrue in the hands of the already-powerful but instead is used to build a world where more people get better chances.
We live in the wealthiest societies in history. The creativity and ingenuity and labour of generations of humans has produced enormous wealth. With that wealth properly deployed, a world of peace is more feasible than ever before.
Stop the War Coalition is part of a big, wide movement to change the way we think, and what we think about. Instead of making destructive wars, let’s think how we make a creative peace. Instead of thinking how we get more as individuals, let’s think how we can better share what we already have as a society. Instead of thinking that our role in life is to keep our heads down and be obedient shoppers, let’s stand up straight and proud and create something new together.
Brian Eno 2017
*I remind foreign readers that ‘public school’ in English means ‘least public of all schools’

South Tyneside Stop the War / Silence Is Shame, Number 14, July 2015
« on: July 14, 2015, 04:08:18 PM »
Click the link below to download the latest volume (pdf format) of our 'Silence Is Shame' pamphlet series:


pdf versions of Volumes 1 to 13 of 'Silence Is Shame' are still available via:

South Tyneside Stop the War / Open emails ...
« on: March 03, 2015, 02:59:57 PM »
28 November 2014

Dear Mr Talbot

Thank you for your recent email regarding the Trident nuclear weapons system.

I want to see a world free of nuclear weapons, and I believe the UK should do everything it can to work alongside international allies towards the goal of multilateral disarmament.

However, Labour’s position is that the uncertainties of the UK’s position in a complex and constantly changing world mean a credible deterrent is still a necessary part of Britain’s defence policy. Labour is therefore committed to a minimum, credible independent nuclear deterrent. Last year’s Trident Alternatives Review concluded that there is no realistic alternative to maintaining an at-sea deterrent, and so Labour will continue to support this approach while continuing to pursue international cooperation towards eradicating nuclear weapons. I agree that this policy should be kept under review, and would encourage a Labour government in 2015 to consider every possibility when deciding on the future of the UK’s nuclear policy.

I hope this reply is useful, and thank you again for contacting me about this important issue.

Yours sincerely

Emma Lewell-Buck MP
Member of Parliament for South Shields

House of Commons

Parliamentary Office: 0207 219 4468

Ede House
143 Westoe Road
South Shields
NE33 3PD

Constituency Office: 0191 427 1240

Twitter: @EmmaLewellBuck


From: Philip Talbot
Sent: 17 November 2014 14:08
Subject: Will you vote to Scrap Trident if elected?

Philip Talbot
65 St Cuthbert's Avenue
South Shields
NE34 7LN

Dear Emma Lewell-Buck,

I am writing to you to ask your views on the UK's Trident nuclear weapon system. I am particularly concerned because a decision on whether or not to replace Trident - at a cost of £100bn - is due in 2016 and successfully elected Members of Parliament will have to vote on this.

It is therefore important to me that you set out your views on Trident.

I believe that maintaining Trident is irrelevant to modern security threats; runs counter to our Non-Proliferation Treaty commitment to nuclear disarmament; and is not the best use of tax payers' money given the cuts deemed necessary in other areas of public spending.

In particular, before deciding how I will vote, I would like to know your views on the following four questions:

The UK's submarine-based Trident nuclear weapon system is approaching the end of its operational life. Do you think the UK should replace its nuclear weapon system?
The next government will conduct a Strategic Defence and Security Review. Do you think that should consider the possibilities and implications of scrapping and not replacing Trident?
The next government will need to attend the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York. Do you think it should support a nuclear weapons convention or ban, similar to those for chemical or biological weapons?
The next government will have to decide whether to carry out the current coalition government's projected austerity programme. Do you think spending £100 billion on Trident replacement can be justified?

I hope you can set out your responses, either in a simple yes or no form, or in greater depth if you have time.

I look forward to discussing this with you further on the campaign trail.

Yours sincerely,

Philip Talbot

UK Parliament Disclaimer: This e-mail is confidential to the intended recipient. If you have received it in error, please notify the sender and delete it from your system. Any unauthorised use, disclosure, or copying is not permitted. This e-mail has been checked for viruses, but no liability is accepted for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this e-mail.

Why the rise of fascism is again the issue, by John Pilger

26 February 2015

The recent 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz was a reminder of the great crime of fascism, whose Nazi iconography is embedded in our consciousness. Fascism is preserved as history, as flickering footage of goose-stepping blackshirts, their criminality terrible and clear. Yet in the same liberal societies, whose war-making elites urge us never to forget, the accelerating danger of a modern kind of fascism is suppressed; for it is their fascism.

"To initiate a war of aggression...," said the Nuremberg Tribunal judges in 1946, "is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."

Had the Nazis not invaded Europe, Auschwitz and the Holocaust would not have happened. Had the United States and its satellites not initiated their war of aggression in Iraq in 2003, almost a million people would be alive today; and Islamic State, or ISIS, would not have us in thrall to its savagery. They are the progeny of modern fascism, weaned by the bombs, bloodbaths and lies that are the surreal theatre known as news.

Like the fascism of the 1930s and 1940s, big lies are delivered with the precision of a metronome: thanks to an omnipresent, repetitive media and its virulent censorship by omission. Take the catastrophe in Libya.

In 2011, Nato launched 9,700 "strike sorties" against Libya, of which more than a third were aimed at civilian targets. Uranium warheads were used; the cities of Misurata and Sirte were carpet-bombed. The Red Cross identified mass graves, and Unicef reported that "most [of the children killed] were under the age of ten".

The public sodomising of the Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi with a "rebel" bayonet was greeted by the then US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, with the words: "We came, we saw, he died." His murder, like the destruction of his country, was justified with a familiar big lie; he was planning "genocide" against his own people. "We knew... that if we waited one more day," said President Obama, "Benghazi, a city the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world."

This was the fabrication of Islamist militias facing defeat by Libyan government forces. They told Reuters there would be "a real bloodbath, a massacre like we saw in Rwanda". Reported on March 14, 2011, the lie provided the first spark for Nato's inferno, described by David Cameron as a "humanitarian intervention".

Secretly supplied and trained by Britain's SAS, many of the "rebels" would become ISIS, whose latest video offering shows the beheading of 21 Coptic Christian workers seized in Sirte, the city destroyed on their behalf by Nato bombers.

For Obama, David Cameron and then French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Gaddafi's true crime was Libya's economic independence and his declared intention to stop selling Africa's greatest oil reserves in US dollars. The petrodollar is a pillar of American imperial power. Gaddafi audaciously planned to underwrite a common African currency backed by gold, establish an all-Africa bank and promote economic union among poor countries with prized resources. Whether or not this would happen, the very notion was intolerable to the US as it prepared to "enter" Africa and bribe African governments with military "partnerships".

Following Nato's attack under cover of a Security Council resolution, Obama, wrote Garikai Chengu, "confiscated $30 billion from Libya's Central Bank, which Gaddafi had earmarked for the establishment of an African Central Bank and the African gold backed dinar currency".

The "humanitarian war" against Libya drew on a model close to western liberal hearts, especially in the media. In 1999, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair sent Nato to bomb Serbia, because, they lied, the Serbs were committing "genocide" against ethnic Albanians in the secessionist province of Kosovo. David Scheffer, US ambassador-at-large for war crimes [sic], claimed that as many as "225,000 ethnic Albanian men aged between 14 and 59" might have been murdered. Both Clinton and Blair evoked the Holocaust and "the spirit of the Second World War". The West's heroic allies were the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), whose criminal record was set aside. The British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, told them to call him any time on his mobile phone.

With the Nato bombing over, and much of Serbia's infrastructure in ruins, along with schools, hospitals, monasteries and the national TV station, international forensic teams descended upon Kosovo to exhume evidence of the "holocaust". The FBI failed to find a single mass grave and went home. The Spanish forensic team did the same, its leader angrily denouncing "a semantic pirouette by the war propaganda machines". A year later, a United Nations tribunal on Yugoslavia announced the final count of the dead in Kosovo: 2,788. This included combatants on both sides and Serbs and Roma murdered by the KLA. There was no genocide. The "holocaust" was a lie. The Nato attack had been fraudulent.

Behind the lie, there was serious purpose. Yugoslavia was a uniquely independent, multi-ethnic federation that had stood as a political and economic bridge in the Cold War. Most of its utilities and major manufacturing was publicly owned. This was not acceptable to the expanding European Community, especially newly united Germany, which had begun a drive east to capture its "natural market" in the Yugoslav provinces of Croatia and Slovenia. By the time the Europeans met at Maastricht in 1991 to lay their plans for the disastrous eurozone, a secret deal had been struck; Germany would recognise Croatia. Yugoslavia was doomed.

In Washington, the US saw that the struggling Yugoslav economy was denied World Bank loans. Nato, then an almost defunct Cold War relic, was reinvented as imperial enforcer. At a 1999 Kosovo "peace" conference in Rambouillet, in France, the Serbs were subjected to the enforcer's duplicitous tactics. The Rambouillet accord included a secret Annex B, which the US delegation inserted on the last day. This demanded the military occupation of the whole of Yugoslavia - a country with bitter memories of the Nazi occupation - and the implementation of a "free-market economy" and the privatisation of all government assets. No sovereign state could sign this. Punishment followed swiftly; Nato bombs fell on a defenceless country. It was the precursor to the catastrophes in Afghanistan and Iraq, Syria and Libya, and Ukraine.

Since 1945, more than a third of the membership of the United Nations - 69 countries - have suffered some or all of the following at the hands of America's modern fascism. They have been invaded, their governments overthrown, their popular movements suppressed, their elections subverted, their people bombed and their economies stripped of all protection, their societies subjected to a crippling siege known as "sanctions". The British historian Mark Curtis estimates the death toll in the millions. In every case, a big lie was deployed.

"Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over." These were opening words of Obama's 2015 State of the Union address. In fact, some 10,000 troops and 20,000 military contractors (mercenaries) remain in Afghanistan on indefinite assignment. "The longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion," said Obama. In fact, more civilians were killed in Afghanistan in 2014 than in any year since the UN took records. The majority have been killed - civilians and soldiers - during Obama's time as president.

The tragedy of Afghanistan rivals the epic crime in Indochina. In his lauded and much quoted book 'The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives', Zbigniew Brzezinski, the godfather of US policies from Afghanistan to the present day, writes that if America is to control Eurasia and dominate the world, it cannot sustain a popular democracy, because "the pursuit of power is not a goal that commands popular passion... Democracy is inimical to imperial mobilisation." He is right. As WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden have revealed, a surveillance and police state is usurping democracy. In 1976, Brzezinski, then President Carter's National Security Advisor, demonstrated his point by dealing a death blow to Afghanistan's first and only democracy. Who knows this vital history?

In the 1960s, a popular revolution swept Afghanistan, the poorest country on earth, eventually overthrowing the vestiges of the aristocratic regime in 1978. The People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) formed a government and declared a reform programme that included the abolition of feudalism, freedom for all religions, equal rights for women and social justice for the ethnic minorities. More than 13,000 political prisoners were freed and police files publicly burned.

The new government introduced free medical care for the poorest; peonage was abolished, a mass literacy programme was launched. For women, the gains were unheard of. By the late 1980s, half the university students were women, and women made up almost half of Afghanistan's doctors, a third of civil servants and the majority of teachers. "Every girl," recalled Saira Noorani, a female surgeon, "could go to high school and university. We could go where we wanted and wear what we liked. We used to go to cafes and the cinema to see the latest Indian film on a Friday and listen to the latest music. It all started to go wrong when the mujaheddin started winning. They used to kill teachers and burn schools. We were terrified. It was funny and sad to think these were the people the West supported."

The PDPA government was backed by the Soviet Union, even though, as former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance later admitted, "there was no evidence of any Soviet complicity [in the revolution]". Alarmed by the growing confidence of liberation movements throughout the world, Brzezinski decided that if Afghanistan was to succeed under the PDPA, its independence and progress would offer the "threat of a promising example".

On July 3, 1979, the White House secretly authorised support for tribal "fundamentalist" groups known as the mujaheddin, a program that grew to over $500 million a year in U.S. arms and other assistance. The aim was the overthrow of Afghanistan's first secular, reformist government. In August 1979, the US embassy in Kabul reported that "the United States' larger interests... would be served by the demise of [the PDPA government], despite whatever setbacks this might mean for future social and economic reforms in Afghanistan." The italics are mine.

The mujaheddin were the forebears of al-Qaeda and Islamic State. They included Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who received tens of millions of dollars in cash from the CIA. Hekmatyar's specialty was trafficking in opium and throwing acid in the faces of women who refused to wear the veil. Invited to London, he was lauded by Prime Minister Thatcher as a "freedom fighter".

Such fanatics might have remained in their tribal world had Brzezinski not launched an international movement to promote Islamic fundamentalism in Central Asia and so undermine secular political liberation and "destabilise" the Soviet Union, creating, as he wrote in his autobiography, "a few stirred up Muslims". His grand plan coincided with the ambitions of the Pakistani dictator, General Zia ul-Haq, to dominate the region. In 1986, the CIA and Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, began to recruit people from around the world to join the Afghan jihad. The Saudi multi-millionaire Osama bin Laden was one of them. Operatives who would eventually join the Taliban and al-Qaeda, were recruited at an Islamic college in Brooklyn, New York, and given paramilitary training at a CIA camp in Virginia. This was called "Operation Cyclone". Its success was celebrated in 1996 when the last PDPA president of Afghanistan, Mohammed Najibullah - who had gone before the UN General Assembly to plead for help - was hanged from a streetlight by the Taliban.

The "blowback" of Operation Cyclone and its "few stirred up Muslims" was September 11, 2001. Operation Cyclone became the "war on terror", in which countless men, women and children would lose their lives across the Muslim world, from Afghanistan to Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Syria. The enforcer's message was and remains: "You are with us or against us."

The common thread in fascism, past and present, is mass murder. The American invasion of Vietnam had its "free fire zones", "body counts" and "collateral damage". In the province of Quang Ngai, where I reported from, many thousands of civilians ("gooks") were murdered by the US; yet only one massacre, at My Lai, is remembered. In Laos and Cambodia, the greatest aerial bombardment in history produced an epoch of terror marked today by the spectacle of joined-up bomb craters which, from the air, resemble monstrous necklaces. The bombing gave Cambodia its own ISIS, led by Pol Pot.

Today, the world's greatest single campaign of terror entails the execution of entire families, guests at weddings, mourners at funerals. These are Obama's victims. According to the New York Times, Obama makes his selection from a CIA "kill list" presented to him every Tuesday in the White House Situation Room. He then decides, without a shred of legal justification, who will live and who will die. His execution weapon is the Hellfire missile carried by a pilotless aircraft known as a drone; these roast their victims and festoon the area with their remains. Each "hit" is registered on a faraway console screen as a "bugsplat".

"For goose-steppers," wrote the historian Norman Pollock, "substitute the seemingly more innocuous militarisation of the total culture. And for the bombastic leader, we have the reformer manque, blithely at work, planning and executing assassination, smiling all the while."

Uniting fascism old and new is the cult of superiority. "I believe in American exceptionalism with every fibre of my being," said Obama, evoking declarations of national fetishism from the 1930s. As the historian Alfred W. McCoy has pointed out, it was the Hitler devotee, Carl Schmitt, who said, "The sovereign is he who decides the exception." This sums up Americanism, the world's dominant ideology. That it remains unrecognised as a predatory ideology is the achievement of an equally unrecognised brainwashing. Insidious, undeclared, presented wittily as enlightenment on the march, its conceit insinuates western culture. I grew up on a cinematic diet of American glory, almost all of it a distortion. I had no idea that it was the Red Army that had destroyed most of the Nazi war machine, at a cost of as many as 13 million soldiers. By contrast, US losses, including in the Pacific, were 400,000. Hollywood reversed this.

The difference now is that cinema audiences are invited to wring their hands at the "tragedy" of American psychopaths having to kill people in distant places - just as the President himself kills them. The embodiment of Hollywood's violence, the actor and director Clint Eastwood, was nominated for an Oscar this year for his movie, 'American Sniper', which is about a licensed murderer and nutcase. The New York Times described it as a "patriotic, pro-family picture which broke all attendance records in its opening days".

There are no heroic movies about America's embrace of fascism. During the Second World War, America (and Britain) went to war against Greeks who had fought heroically against Nazism and were resisting the rise of Greek fascism. In 1967, the CIA helped bring to power a fascist military junta in Athens - as it did in Brazil and most of Latin America. Germans and east Europeans who had colluded with Nazi aggression and crimes against humanity were given safe haven in the US; many were pampered and their talents rewarded. Wernher von Braun was the "father" of both the Nazi V-2 terror bomb and the US space programme.

In the 1990s, as former Soviet republics, eastern Europe and the Balkans became military outposts of Nato, the heirs to a Nazi movement in Ukraine were given their opportunity. Responsible for the deaths of thousands of Jews, Poles and Russians during the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, Ukrainian fascism was rehabilitated and its "new wave" hailed by the enforcer as "nationalists".

This reached its apogee in 2014 when the Obama administration splashed out $5 billion on a coup against the elected government. The shock troops were neo-Nazis known as the Right Sector and Svoboda. Their leaders include  Oleh Tyahnybok, who has called for a purge of the "Moscow-Jewish mafia" and "other scum", including gays, feminists and those on the political left.

These fascists are now integrated into the Kiev coup government. The first deputy speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, Andriy Parubiy, a leader of the governing party, is co-founder of Svoboda. On February 14, Parubiy announced he was flying to Washington get "the USA to give us highly precise modern weaponry". If he succeeds, it will be seen as an act of war by Russia.

No western leader has spoken up about the revival of fascism in the heart of Europe - with the exception of Vladimir Putin, whose people lost 22 million to a Nazi invasion that came through the borderland of Ukraine. At the recent Munich Security Conference, Obama's Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, ranted abuse about European leaders for opposing the US arming of the Kiev regime. She referred to the German Defence Minister as "the minister for defeatism". It was Nuland who masterminded the coup in Kiev. The wife of Robert D. Kagan, a leading "neo-con" luminary and co-founder of the extreme right wing Project for a New American Century, she was foreign policy advisor to Dick Cheney. 

Nuland's coup did not go to plan. Nato was prevented from seizing Russia's historic, legitimate, warm-water naval base in Crimea. The mostly Russian population of Crimea - illegally annexed to Ukraine by Nikita Krushchev in 1954 - voted overwhelmingly to return to Russia, as they had done in the 1990s. The referendum was voluntary, popular and internationally observed. There was no invasion.

At the same time, the Kiev regime turned on the ethnic Russian population in the east with the ferocity of ethnic cleansing. Deploying neo-Nazi militias in the manner of the Waffen-SS, they bombed and laid to siege cities and towns. They used mass starvation as a weapon, cutting off electricity, freezing bank accounts, stopping social security and pensions. More than a million refugees fled across the border into Russia. In the western media, they became unpeople escaping "the violence" caused by the "Russian invasion". The Nato commander, General Breedlove - whose name and actions might have been inspired by Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove - announced that 40,000 Russian troops were "massing". In the age of forensic satellite evidence, he offered none.

These Russian-speaking and bilingual people of Ukraine - a third of the population - have long sought a federation that reflects the country's ethnic diversity and is both autonomous and independent of Moscow. Most are not "separatists" but citizens who want to live securely in their homeland and oppose the power grab in Kiev. Their revolt and establishment of autonomous "states" are a reaction to Kiev's attacks on them. Little of this has been explained to western audiences.

On May 2, 2014, in Odessa, 41 ethnic Russians were burned alive in the trade union headquarters with police standing by. The Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh hailed the massacre as "another bright day in our national history". In the American and British media, this was reported as a "murky tragedy" resulting from "clashes" between "nationalists" (neo-Nazis) and "separatists" (people collecting signatures for a referendum on a federal Ukraine).

The New York Times buried the story, having dismissed as Russian propaganda warnings about the fascist and anti-Semitic policies of Washington's new clients. The Wall Street Journal damned the victims - "Deadly Ukraine Fire Likely Sparked by Rebels, Government Says". Obama congratulated the junta for its "restraint".

If Putin can be provoked into coming to their aid, his pre-ordained "pariah" role in the West will justify the lie that Russia is invading Ukraine. On January 29, Ukraine's top military commander, General Viktor Muzhemko, almost inadvertently dismissed the very basis for US and EU sanctions on Russia when he told a news conference emphatically: "The Ukrainian army is not fighting with the regular units of the Russian Army".  There were "individual citizens" who were members of "illegal armed groups", but there was no Russian invasion. This was not news. Vadym Prystaiko, Kiev's Deputy Foreign Minister, has called for "full scale war" with nuclear-armed Russia.

On February 21, US Senator James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, introduced a bill that would authorise American arms for the Kiev regime. In his Senate presentation, Inhofe used photographs he claimed were of Russian troops crossing into Ukraine, which have long been exposed as fakes. It was reminiscent of Ronald Reagan's fake pictures of a Soviet installation in Nicaragua, and Colin Powell's fake evidence to the UN of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The intensity of the smear campaign against Russia and the portrayal of its president as a pantomime villain is unlike anything I have known as a reporter. Robert Parry, one of America's most distinguished investigative journalists, who revealed the Iran-Contra scandal, wrote recently, "No European government, since Adolf Hitler's Germany, has seen fit to dispatch Nazi storm troopers to wage war on a domestic population, but the Kiev regime has and has done so knowingly. Yet across the West's media/political spectrum, there has been a studious effort to cover up this reality even to the point of ignoring facts that have been well established... If you wonder how the world could stumble into world war three - much as it did into world war one a century ago - all you need to do is look at the madness over Ukraine that has proved impervious to facts or reason."

In 1946, the Nuremberg Tribunal prosecutor said of the German media: "The use made by Nazi conspirators of psychological warfare is well known. Before each major aggression, with some few exceptions based on expediency, they initiated a press campaign calculated to weaken their victims and to prepare the German people psychologically for the attack... In the propaganda system of the Hitler State it was the daily press and the radio that were the most important weapons." In the Guardian on February 2, Timothy Garton-Ash called, in effect, for a world war. "Putin must be stopped," said the headline. "And sometimes only guns can stop guns." He conceded that the threat of war might "nourish a Russian paranoia of encirclement"; but that was fine. He name-checked the military equipment needed for the job and advised his readers that "America has the best kit".

In 2003, Garton-Ash, an Oxford professor, repeated the propaganda that led to the slaughter in Iraq. Saddam Hussein, he wrote, "has, as [Colin] Powell documented, stockpiled large quantities of horrifying chemical and biological weapons, and is hiding what remains of them. He is still trying to get nuclear ones." He lauded Blair as a "Gladstonian, Christian liberal interventionist". In 2006, he wrote, "Now we face the next big test of the West after Iraq: Iran."

The outbursts - or as Garton-Ash prefers, his "tortured liberal ambivalence" - are not untypical of those in the transatlantic liberal elite who have struck a Faustian deal. The war criminal Blair is their lost leader. The Guardian, in which Garton-Ash's piece appeared, published a full-page advertisement for an American Stealth bomber. On a menacing image of the Lockheed Martin monster were the words: "The F-35. GREAT For Britain". This American "kit" will cost British taxpayers £1.3 billion, its F-model predecessors having slaughtered across the world.  In tune with its advertiser, a Guardian editorial has demanded an increase in military spending.

Once again, there is serious purpose. The rulers of the world want Ukraine not only as a missile base; they want its economy. Kiev's new Finance Minister, Nataliwe Jaresko, is a former senior US State Department official in charge of US overseas "investment". She was hurriedly given Ukrainian citizenship. They want Ukraine for its abundant gas; Vice President Joe Biden's son is on the board of Ukraine's biggest oil, gas and fracking company. The manufacturers of GM seeds, companies such as the infamous Monsanto, want Ukraine's rich farming soil.

Above all, they want Ukraine's mighty neighbour, Russia. They want to Balkanise or dismember Russia and exploit the greatest source of natural gas on earth. As the Arctic ice melts, they want control of the Arctic Ocean and its energy riches, and Russia's long Arctic land border. Their man in Moscow used to be Boris Yeltsin, a drunk, who handed his country's economy to the West. His successor, Putin, has re-established Russia as a sovereign nation; that is his crime.

The responsibility of the rest of us is clear. It is to identify and expose the reckless lies of warmongers and never to collude with them. It is to re-awaken the great popular movements that brought a fragile civilisation to modern imperial states. Most important, it is to prevent the conquest of ourselves: our minds, our humanity, our self respect. If we remain silent, victory over us is assured, and a holocaust beckons.

There will always be someone there to remind him ...

or ...

one day he will [really] "feel the 'hand of history' on his shoulder" ... and ...

['cheeky'] barman tried to put Tony Blair under a citizen's arrest for 'crimes against peace' while the former Prime Minister dined with his family in a trendy east London restaurant

Tony Blair was 'dining with friends and family' at Tramshed, east London

DJ and barman Twiggy Garcia attempted arrest for 'crimes against peace'

Was [reported as saying that he felt himself] inspired to do so after reading site

By Lizzie Edmonds

PUBLISHED: 20:10, 20 January 2014  | UPDATED: 10:16, 21 January 2014

A barman tried to put Tony Blair under a citizen's arrest while the former Prime Minister was out having dinner.

[Mr] Blair was eating at Tramshed in east London when Twiggy Garcia approached him.

The [(multi-tasking) bar-person/waiter, DJ and ...]part-time producer said he put his [Mr Garcia's] hand on his [Mr Blair's] shoulder and said [:] 'Mr Blair, this is a citizen's arrest for a crime against peace, namely your decision to launch an unprovoked war against Iraq.'

Mr Garcia told Vice magazine how Blair then attempted to engage in a debate before one of his sons went to get security. The worker then left the restaurant to avoid any [further] trouble.

Mr Blair's office said today there 'was nothing to report' about the incident.

Mr Garcia was inspired to approach the former Prime Minister after reading [the] website

This site encourages people to try and arrest Blair for 'crimes against peace'.

The arrests are largely symbolic, but a bounty is offered to those who attempt it should it be reported in the media.

The website says the intention of the campaign is to encourage attempts to arrest the former prime minister, to remind the public justice has not yet been done and to 'show the mass murder he committed will not be forgotten'.

It adds [that] campaigners wish to put pressure on the authorities to prosecute [Mr] Blair for [a] crime against peace.

Mr Garcia said he had not planned to approach Blair[,] but decided to take the opportunity when he [Mr Blair] walked into the trendy east London eatery [where Mr Garcia then worked].

Speaking with Vice, he [Mr Garcia] said: 'My heart rate increased when I found out he was in the building; there was a eerie presence, which some of the other staff noticed too.

'I went on the website to see how to perform a citizen’s arrest.

'I went over to him, put my hand on his shoulder and said: “Mr Blair, this is a citizen's arrest for a crime against peace, namely your decision to launch an unprovoked war against Iraq. I am inviting you to accompany me to a police station to answer the charge.

'He said, “No, shouldn’t you be worried about Syria?” and I replied that I can only address things that are within my grasp at any one time.

'Then he asked me, “But don’t you agree that Saddam was a brutal dictator and he needed to be removed?” and I replied “Not by an illegal war.” Then he started talking about how lots of people died in the 1980s.'

A spokeswoman from Blair's office said today: 'There is nothing to report here apart from fact that Mr Blair did offer to discuss the issue that offer was declined and the individual walked off.

'Nothing else happened. Everyone is fine and they had a great time at the restaurant'

Mr Garcia is the fifth person to have tried to bring the former Prime Minister to justice after reading the website.

Mr Garcia is [reportedly] on Twitter at

War On Iraq Claimed Almost Half a Million Lives, Study Finds

Some critics of previously controversial survey methods praise new approach, while others remain skeptical

By Joseph Brownstein

October 16, 2013 "Information Clearing House - "Al-Jazeera" - The number of deaths caused by the Iraq war has been a source of intense controversy, as politics, inexact science and a clamor for public awareness have intersected in a heated debate of conflicting interests. The latest and perhaps most rigorous survey, released Tuesday, puts the figure at close to 500,000.

The study, — a collaboration of researchers in the U.S., Canada and Iraq appearing in the journal PLoS Medicine — included a survey of 2,000 Iraqi households in 100 geographic regions in Iraq. Researchers used two surveys, one involving the household and another asking residents about their siblings, in an attempt to demonstrate the accuracy of the data they were collecting. Using data from these surveys, researchers estimated 405,000 deaths, with another 55,800 projected deaths from the extensive migration in and emigration from Iraq occurring as a result of the war.

The researchers estimated that 60 percent of the deaths were violent, with the remaining 40 percent occurring because of the health-infrastructure issues that arose as a result of the invasion — a point they emphasized in discussing their research, since the figure is higher than those found in previous studies.

“I hope that one of the takeaways from this paper will be that when we invade a country, there are many health consequences that aren’t directly related to violence,” said study author Amy Hagopian, program director of the community-oriented public-health practice at the University of Washington School of Public Health. She said approximately half those deaths were attributed to inadequate treatment for cardiovascular disease.

To conduct the household surveys, researchers worked with volunteer Iraqi scientists and improved on the methods used for similar surveys in the past. Because the survey was conducted in mid-2011, researchers were able to access more areas of the country safely. The households surveyed were chosen by a grid placed on Google Maps, and a home was selected by a quadrant in that grid from randomly generated numbers. Ultimately, the researchers were able to survey twice as many areas as previous studies and had a more random selection of homes, avoiding the past problems of home selection by the survey takers on the ground, who may have been more likely to approach homes along more-traveled streets.

The more thorough investigation may negate some of the criticism levied against past studies on Iraqi mortality after the invasion, which were published in the medical journal The Lancet in 2004 and 2006. The 2006 study in particular was a subject of scrutiny because it estimated a toll of 655,000 excess deaths, mostly violent, at a time when other surveys had five-digit death tolls.

New access, new method
The central criticism of that study focused on the number of areas surveyed, with 50 clusters instead of the 100 in the new study, which may have distorted the numbers but was the result of safety concerns at the time.

“The problem in conflict is you’re putting researchers at risk, interviewers at risk in these areas,” said Dr. Gilbert Burnham, a co-director of the center for refugee and disaster response at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who was an author on both Lancet studies and the new one.

Researchers who were critical of earlier work by Burnham and his colleagues praised the new study for improvements in the methods but said there was still something lacking.

“I can see that over the years in this type of research, they made an attempt to be more rigorous, and that is very good,” said Beth Osborne Daponte of Social Science Consultants, who was involved in tallying mortality in Iraq during the first Gulf War. But, she added, “there’s a tremendous amount of uncertainty here.”

“This one is very much better than the last one because they’ve actually eliminated quite a bit of the methodological shortcomings. The result is the numbers plummet,” said Michael Spagat, head of the department of economics at Royal Holloway University of London. “There’s huge vindication for the critics here — the fact that the numbers have gone down so much.”

For his part, Burnham defended the results of both studies.

“From a statistical standpoint, the numbers are not really different from each other,” he said. “These represent estimates, and that’s what we’ve always said.”

Spagat said that while the numbers have become more accurate, he does not feel the authors have done much to address past criticisms, changing methods without acknowledging the flaws of past work. An analyst for the Iraq Body Count, which tracks violent civilian deaths in Iraq using confirmed violent deaths and therefore should be considered a low-end estimate, echoed those sentiments.

“Hopefully, the widespread reporting of this study can contribute towards a more mature and reflective attitude among those who may have too easily latched onto conveniently massive round numbers as political footballs,” said Hamit Dardagan, an analyst for Iraq Body Count, in an email to Al Jazeera. “It might also help if the authors were a little more forthcoming in acknowledging and perhaps exploring the discrepancies between the earlier work and the new study, whose results are much less of an outlier amongst the various existing estimates for deaths from violence.”

Spagat, who was a vocal critic of the 2006 Lancet paper, said that too much of the discussion in the media criticizing the study focused on funding sources (the 2006 study was funded in part by a group funded by left-leaning billionaire George Soros) and that it was not focused where it should have been: on methods in the study that could have been done better and would have made the numbers more accurate.

“I’m sure Soros’ people there would be … pretty happy if the results would come out with a high estimate, but that doesn’t mean instantly the survey is wrong,” he said.

The new study says support “came from pooled internal resources by the American and Canadian researchers without external funding. No funding bodies had any role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.”

Public misperception
Spagat said the public should be largely aware of the death toll from the Iraq war by now, but it’s not clear that that is the case. While even the most conservative estimates of mortality in Iraq — including the Iraq Body Count — have reached six figures, polling in the U.S. (PDF) and U.K. (PDF) have shown public perception to be that the civilian death toll from the war is in the neighborhood of 10,000.

Although the Lancet studies may have resulted in a high estimate, others in the field who have conducted similar research have defended them.

“(The Lancet study from 2006) was too high, and the others were too low,” said Dr. Paul B. Spiegel, deputy director of the division of program support and management at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who has conducted similar research in refugee populations and examined mortality after the war in Kosovo. “In my view, the other surveys that they did should not be discredited, because the methods they used were accepted at the time.”

“They were countering the other, too-low studies. The public may not have been aware of the magnitude of the deaths going on at that time if not for those studies,” Spiegel added.

While the decision to go to war in Iraq and the exact nature of that decision’s consequences are likely to remain a topic of debate for some time, the new study’s editor said the emphasis should be moved to how to lessen the war’s toll going forward.

“We’ll never know the true number of people who died as a result of the war,” said Edward Mills, Canada research chair in global health at the University of Ottawa. “You just can’t come up with a number that’s going to be the absolute number.”

He said at this point the focus should be on rebuilding Iraq, calling on Canada and European nations not involved in the war to become involved in this effort.

“I think that the period of contention is over, and the focus now should not be on putting the blame on anyone,” he said, “but on how do we figure out rebuilding the health structure in this environment.”


Rewriting History _ Iraq and the BBC Glove Puppets

By Matt Carr

June 10, 2013 "Information Clearing House -  I watched the first part of the BBC's 'History of the Iraq War' series, and I have no intention of watching any more, because it won't do my blood pressure any good.

I don't think I've ever seen such a shallow and essentially reverential piece of telehistory. Within ten minutes I was ready to scream with frustration at the tv set, which is really a very futile activity.

The first problem was the content. Watching Cheney, Hadley, Blair talk about their conspiratorial plotting was a deeply depressing and quite disturbing experience, which confirms my view that these are men without even the semblance of moral conscience.  Not one of them showed the slightest sign of regret or remorse or any sense of having done anything wrong.

They chatted about their part in the Iraq disaster with a kind of pride, as though they were talking about how they laid down guitar tracks on Classic Albums, rather than a war in which hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were killed and maimed, and a country shattered – all thanks to their sleazy and moronic machinations.

Not one of them showed the slightest capacity for insight into or reflection. Listening to their slick blather made it clear that they didn't care then and they don't care now.  Evil would be too strong a word to describe men who are so essentially banal and hollow, and so devoid any moral compass except power.

It was sickening to hear Blair talk about how "we decided we were going to remake the Middle East".  Disgusting to listen to Paul Wolfowitz uttering the cliche about Saddam "using WMD against his own people" – the same Wolfowitz who once declared that he only used WMD to justify the war "for bureaucratic reasons".   

Horrible to hear Blair's ghastly apparatchnik Sally Morgan say that the anti-Iraq war demo was a "difficult day for us" and talk about how angry her boss was when he was raked over the coals on tele shortly before the war by a group of anti-war women – probably the only time in his political life when Blair was ever treated the way he deserves.

But the worst thing about the programme was that the BBC let them say whatever they wanted without challenging them. The journalist never asked a single penetrating question, never offered any real alternatives to what Blair & Co were saying. The programme was about as forensic as a banana, and made the Chilcot Iraq inquiry look positively inquisitorial by comparison.

It wasn't even history from the top down – just the official story told by the "key players" – for the BBC the only people worth hearing – in the way they wanted it told. The journalists who made the programme were clearly so awed by their privileged access that they let them get away with it.

Journalists aren't supposed to do this, but the people who made this programme are not journalists, but scribes of power, gutless sycophants and glove puppets who shame, not just the BBC, but journalism itself.

All in all a pathetic display, which says a great deal about the state we're in.

South Tyneside Stop the War / 'Silence Gives Consent'
« on: May 07, 2013, 01:00:33 PM »
The Truth Is That After Israel’s Air Strikes, We Are Involved

By Robert Fisk

May 06, 2013 "Information Clearing House" -"The Independent" -  Lights in the sky over Damascus. Another Israeli raid – “daring” of course, in the words of Israel’s supporters, and the second in two days – on Bashar al-Assad’s weaponry and military facilities and weapons stores. The story is already familiar: the Israelis wanted to prevent a shipment of Iranian-made Fateh-110 missiles reaching Hezbollah in Lebanon;  they were being sent by the Syrian government. According, at least, to a ‘Western intelligence source’. Anonymous, of course. And it opens the old question: why when the Syrian regime is fighting for its life would it send advanced missiles out of Syria?

But the Syrians themselves have officially confirmed that military installations were hit by the Israelis. And not for the first time during the rebellion. The Fateh-110 – the new version, at least – has a range of perhaps 250km. And it could indeed reach Tel Aviv from southern Lebanon. If the Hezbollah has actually acquired any. But why would the Syrians send them, as US sources were also claiming last night, when the Americans themselves claimed only last December that the Syrians had used the same ground-to-ground missiles against rebel forces in Syria.

In other words, the Syrian regime was prepared to dispense with their rockets to Lebanon when they were already using them in the brutal war in Syria…  Now there are other questions to be asked. If the Syrian air force can use their MiGs so devastatingly – and at such civilian cost – against their enemies inside Syria, why couldn’t they have sent their jets to protect Damascus and attack the Israeli aircraft? Isn’t the Syrian air force supposed to be guarding Syria from Israel?  Or are the MiGs just not technically able to take on Israel’s state-of-the-art (American) hardware? Or would that just be a step too far?

Much more important, however, is the salient fact that Israel has now intervened in the Syrian war.  It may say it was only aiming at weapons destined for the Hezbollah – but these were weapons also being used against rebel forces in Syria.  By diminishing the regime’s supply of these weapons, it is therefore helping the rebels overthrow Bashar al-Assad. And since Israel regards itself as a Western nation – best friend and best US military ally in the Middle East, etc, etc – this means that “we” are now involved in the war, directly and from the air.

Let’s see if the US and the EU condemn Israel’s air attacks. I doubt it. Which would mean, if we are silent, that we approve of them. Silence, to quote Sir Thomas More, gives consent.

So now the Iranians and Hizballah are accused of intervening in Syria – true, though not to quite extent we are led to believe – and Qatar and Saudi Arabia funnel weapons to the rebels – true, but not quite enough weapons, as the Syrian rebels will tell you – and the Israelis have joined in. We are now militarily involved.

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