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The Guantanamo Returnees [Jan. 7th, 2008|09:30 pm]
7 January 2008
If this page does not display properly, please view it here.

"If you want a vision of the future, imagine a  boot
 stamping on a human face - forever
"  - 
George Orwell

The Guantanamo returnees

Last month three more detainees were released from
the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.   This brings the
total British nationals to nine released, four of them
in 2007.

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
Source: BBC

Two of those released - Jamil el-Banna and Omar Deghayes -
face further charges in Spain.   Abdenour Samuer was
arrested upon return, but soon released without charge.

The Spanish have actually had several years to consider
evidence and provide a case for extradition straight from
Guantanamo, but refused to do so stating they had no
case against them.

Guantanamo Bay  This means that Samuer -
 like Moazzam Begg, gave
 the UK security forces no
 reason at all to be concerned.

 Whatever threat he supposedly
 represented that caused him to
 be detained and abused for six
 years has  apparently gone.

Source:  BBC

Here are some of the released prisoners, and their story in brief.

Jamil el-Banna    - faces extradition to Spain, released December 2007.

Ex-Guantanamo Bay detainee, Jamil El Banna, (C) leaves Westminster magistrates' court in central LondonUS claimed he had links to Abu
Qatada (a radical cleric).  Britain
claimed until recently that he did
not have a British passport, even
though his mother is British and
el-Banna (now 45) lived in the
UK from the age of 14.
Source: Guardian (UK)

As can be seen from the picture, he has allowed his beard to grow
for some time.   A US administrative review board at Guantanamo
decided Banna was no threat to the US or its allies.

Omar Deghayes    - faces extradition to Spain, released December 2007.

Bisher al-Rawi  Accused of terrorism against US, 
 lawyers say it's mistaken ID.  He had
 decided to go to Afghanistan to judge
 the Taliban - the first Islamic society 
 of its kind - for himself.  As with others,
 he fled to Pakistan when war broke
 out.   Having put in a stint at the
 notorious Bagram prison camp,
 he was transferred to Guantanamo.
Source: BBC

Deghayes is now blind in one eye as a result of one of
the many assaults by interrogators and guards - during
one session, an interrogator stuck his thumb into
Deghayes' eye socket.   His campaign supporters say
he is now recovering at home with his family.

Omar Deghayes, Jamil el-Banna and Abdenour Samuer
Omar Deghayes, Jamil el-Banna and Abdenour Samuer
Source:  Metro

Abdenour Samuer    - released without charge, December 2007

Confessed to prior knowledge about 9/11, but insists this
was because his leg would otherwise be amputated.  He
had a gunshot wound from his arrest, which US
interrogators refused to treat without a confession first.

Moazzam Begg - released without charge, January 2005

  A charity worker, he left
 Afghanistan when the situation
 became "unbearable".

 Bundled into a car boot in
 Pakistan by authorities, he
 was handed over to the US.

Source: BBC

After spending a year at the US detention camp at
Bagram, Afghanistan, he was flown to Guantanamo
in March 2003.  His name was apparently found on
a money order at an Al-Qa'eda camp, but he and his
family insisted this was a case of mistaken identity.

Arriving back in the UK in January 2005,  he was
questioned and released within hours.  The security
forces found no reason to hold him, and no charges
have ever been brought - not by US nor UK law

Articles on Begg like this describe his story.

Far from being a wild-eyed fanatic, Begg is articulate,
intelligent, and surprisingly calm and polite when
discussing his treatment.  He even speaks positively
of some of the guards he met while at Guantanamo.

In his book brought out in 2006, Begg describes his
time at Begram detention centre,  his trip to Guantanamo
and the time there. He spent most of the time from
January 2003 in solitary confinement.

Begg's story is also shown in the film "Road to Guantanamo".

Martin Mubanga    - released without charge January 2005

Martin Mubanga  Mubanga went on holiday to Zambia,
 was jailed there for months on an
 alleged motoring offence, then
 (contrary to Zambian law) handed
 over to the US by British authorities.

 He is suing the British Government
 for its acquiescence, claiming that
 he was brutally interrogated and
 mistreated at Guantanamo.
Source: BBC

After being interviewed by MI6 (the UK equivalent of the CIA),
he was told his lost passport had turned up in an Afghanistan
cave, together with documents suggesting he was an Al-Qa'eda
operative.   He also claims MI6 and an American official tried
to recruit him as an agent, packing him off to Guantanamo
when he refused.

Feroz Abbasi        - released without charge, January 2005

Feroz Abbasi
Abbasi actually seems to be a
genuine case of a radicalised
Muslim, even though the evidence
linking him to any actual
terrorist activity is non-existent.

Source:  BBC

In a statement his main problem was abuse of the Koran and
deliberate, systematic insulting of Islam, rather than his own
personal mistreatment.

Richard Belmar    - released without charge, January 2005.
Detainee flanked by soldiers at Guantanamo Bay

 US intelligence apparently
 urged MI5 to use Belmar as
 an intelligence source, but
 were turned down. 

 Instead, he was sent to three
 years in Bagram and

Unknown suspect.  Source: BBC

He claims to have suffered beatings, sex abuse and torture.
His skull was later broken by a  rifle butt, and was hung by
the wrists from handcuffs.  He claims to be witness to a
murder at the camp which has been officially
acknowledged by the US.  The US claimed Belmar had
trained at a terrorist camp in 1998, even although Belmar
had never been outside the UK before visiting Pakistan in
2001.  He was picked up by the Pakistani authorities and
handed over to the US.

He was released without charge by British authorities just
over a day after arriving back from Guantanamo.

Binyam Mohammed  - not released.
A prisoner is carried on a stretcher by two US soldiers at Guantanamo Bay
Allegedly had training with Richard
Reid (the uselessly incompetent
shoe bomber).  Also alleged to
have planned to blow up a US
apartment block. 

Not yet released, he claims to have
been brutally tortured at Guantanamo,
and signed confessions after beatings.

Possible sighting of alleged suspect: Source BBC

Captured in Pakistan, Mohammed spent three years in
'black sites', ghost jails answerable to nobody.  His
accusation was chiefly that he plotted with Jose Padilla
to explode a dirty uranium bomb in the US.  The case
against Padilla has since totally collapsed.
Shaker Aamer    - Still under detention without charge.
Shaker Aamer with daughter Johina and son Michel
 Lived in UK since 1996,
 went to Afghanistan in 2001
 for charity work.  Had legal
 entitlement to stay in the UK
 when captured, but wishes
 to return to Saudi.

Source:  BBC

Some other former detainees:

Shafiq Rasul - returned March 2004
Asif Iqbal - returned March 2004
Rahul Ahmen - returned March 2004
Jamal Udeen - returned March 2004
Tarek Dergoul - returned March 2004
Jamal Abdullah - released April 2006

Bagram detention centre

Bagram detention centre is now twice the size
of that at Guantanamo.  The ICRC has noted
that prisoners are being denied access to its
inspectors, as required by International Law,
for weeks or months at a time.

The New York Times reported on 7/Jan/08
that 630 prisoners are there, far more than
the remaining 275 at Guantanamo.  But Bagram
is vastly less well known - mainly because
the occupied country in this case (Afghanistan)
has a compliant government, unlike Cuba.

The NYT article noted above has a short
but worthwhile documentary online, called
"The Bagram File - Afghan prison abuse."

Bagram air base  Bagram is considered a
 hub of a global network
 of US detention centres.

 Several deaths are known
 to have occurred during
 torture, including to men
 now acknowledged as being
 totally innocent.

Source: BBC


We tolerate our governments operating outside International
Law, flouting our own rules of justice and dismissing questions
and demands from international human rights' groups.

We know that prisoner abuse has taken place - starting just
with the simple fact that detention without charge or trial is
contrary to international obligations to which we are signatory.

Maintaining any moral high ground while operating in such
a fashion would be difficult at the best of times, but when
this is the consequence of an illegal invasion and
occupation, it becomes clear that whatever good name
we have in the eyes of the world is over.

Does any leader, however bad, require more than a single
word - "Guantanamo" - to reply to criticism of their own
human rights record?   Can we expect anybody to treat
our own captured people with respect when this is how
we treat anybody, from any country, whatever the evidence?

If the most powerful countries claim they need to behave
like this, weaker, more fragile governments can claim they
have even more need for ruthless practices.

Can we ever become part of the civilised world again?

Until these extra-legal detention centres are closed,
International Law observed, and the proper rights and
inspections granted, the process cannot even start.

And at the time of writing, these detention facilities are
still growing.

Thank you for your time.   Please send any comments,
requests or other feedback to me:   glenn@powersandmorrison.com

     -Glenn Barder.
linkpost comment

Blair's Absolution Drive [Dec. 22nd, 2007|11:54 pm]
23 December 2007

If this page does not display properly, please view it here.


"The ancient sages say, that when the government
makes sheep of the people, then wolves will rule the land."
    -  The Water Margin

Blair seeks absolution

That former Prime Minister Blair has decided to convert
to becoming a Roman Catholic comes as little surprise.
His wife is Catholic, and Blair has been acting as one
for 20 years - attending mass and taking communion,
until Basil Hume (the former Catholic Archbishop of
Westminster) put a stop to it.Source: Times

This is regarded as "a triumph for the Catholic
Church", even though he directly contradicted
the callings of the previous Pope, who urged
Blair not to pursue war in Iraq

The new Pope Benedict has also denounced
Blair over Iraq, abortion, gay adoption and
stem cell research.

Blair may get the absolution he craves in the Catholic
Church, but confessing may be a new experience for him.
Blair has never confessed to anything but acting in the best
possible faith, of doing only what he thought to be right,
and of acting in the best interests of everyone concerned
with the utmost integrity at all times.

Any meaningful confession has to involve a genuine
admission to what he has done wrong, and the true
evil he has undertaken and encouraged.

Concerns that he would be labeled "a nutter"
prevented Blair from talking about his religion,
and his chief henchman and war-monger
Campbell made the point early in Blair's
administration that "We don't do God."

Blair is on the record as saying God will judge him
over Iraq.  Perhaps he considers it prudent to get officially
forgiven ahead of time?

UN Human Rights Council report

The Human Rights Council of the United Nations
issued a report last month into the effect on
human rights and freedoms in the "war on
terror", America's counter terrorism programme.

The objective was to make a fact-finding and
legal assessment of US low and practice, and
assess the standard to which the US adheres
to International Law.

The full report can be seen here:

The UN Special Rapporteur is set up to promote
and protect human rights and freedoms while
countering terrorism.  Professor of Law
Martin Scheinin currently holds the job.

The conclusions are found in the document above,
but in brief they are as follows:

    * The international fight against terrorism is not a
       war in the true sense of the word, and the US is
      reminded that even during armed conflicts,
      international law continues to apply.  This is binding
      on every person under its jurisdiction, even outside
      its own territory.

   *  The term "Unlawful enemy combatants" is used
       for convenience and has no legal validity.
       Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur has "grave
       concerns" over detainees, and their inability to
       have a judicial review on their cases.   This amounts
       to breaking the International Covenant on Civil and
       Political Rights.

   *  The exclusion of habeas corpus rights under the Millitary
    commissions Act of 2006 is particularly noted.

   * The US is urged to close Guantánamo Bay, in acccordance
    with the US administration's stated and expressed wishes.

    * That military commissions are used to prosecute terrorist-
    related suspects are not part of the laws of war, and involve
    a retroactive application of criminal law.

    * Ordinary courts have had jurisdiction to try violations of
    armed conflicts since 1916, under the Uniform Code of
    Military Justice.

    * "Extraordinary rendition" of a person to another state
    for interrogation or detention without charge is not
    permissible under international law.

    * International law requires that a person not be sent
    to a country where there is "real risk" or torture, cruel,
    inhumane or degrading treatment, under ICCPR article 7. 
    The US applies such considerations only where it is
    "more likely than not", and only then under the US's
    own narrow definition of torture.

    * The US is urged not to use countries of origin of a
    person, or race or religion, for the identification of
    persons as terrorists.


Thank you for your time.   Please send any comments,
requests or other feedback to me:   glenn_barder@yahoo.co.uk

     -Glenn Barder.
linkpost comment

Book Review [Dec. 10th, 2007|11:54 pm]
11 December 2007

Note:  If this page is not displayed properly, please
use this link.


P&M have kindly fixed the display of my column, and it's
been a good couple of months since I last wrote. Pushed
for a subject, perhaps I could review a couple of the
books which made a good read over the period.

Title : The London Bombings - an independent inquiry

Author : Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed

Publisher : Duckworth Press

This is the first book I've come across in quite some time
which has large sections blanked out with the words:

    "Section removed for legal reasons"

It would be interesting to know whether US editions -
with the First Amendment in force - have these sections in place.


The author Nafeez Ahmed does not, as one might have
thought, seek to explain the actions of the London
bombers in terms of their becoming radicalised as a
result of UK/US adventurism in the Middle East.

On the contrary, no attempt whatsoever is made to act
as their apologist. The best excuse that can be offered
them according to Ahmed is that they were radicalised
by extremist elements - characters well known to and
co-orporating with the UK security services.

What Ahmed raises are a lot of very serious questions,
so serious that a full public inquiry is an absolute

Abu Hamza  Radical clerics such
 as Abu Hamza had
 preached hatred for
 many years from the
 notorious Mosques
 they operated. 

 Suspected as a
 double-agent for the
 security services,
 his dangerous rhetoric
 was tolerated.

The author contends that Islamic radicals were
allowed to operate by UK secret services under the
understanding that the UK itself was never going to
be a target for their terrorist actions.

The public have so far been allowed only the Official
Account of 7/7 - written by anonymous government
employees (civil servants), based on secret and
unreferenced sources,  censored and/or rewritten
by the government itself before release. This is not
the way in which errors are corrected and lessons

A CCTV image of the bombers at Luton station.A police handout photo of Hasib Hussain at King's Cross station on July 7Hasib Hussain

Building on an extensive source of references,
The London Bombings make it clear that far
from being unknown to the security services,
this cell was part of a monitored,
established al-Qaeda network in the UK

Communications that occurred between the
London bombers and senior al-Qaeda
operatives who (according to British and
US investigators) masterminded the bombings
are beyond dispute. Telephone calls and
contacts, meetings and participation in
AQ front organisations, all solidly link these
London bombers with closely monitored
AQ operatives and double agents.

The four bombers were members of al-Muhajiroun,
a group that US and UK services knew to be
involved with terrorist activity before 7/7. Leaders
of these groups were allowed free travel and were
free from investigation at home, so the notion they
were unknown "clean-skins" that had self-
radicalised is a misleading falsehood.

Scene of bus explosion
 The London Bombings
 of 7/July/05 left  56
 dead (including the
 bombers), and over
 700 injured.



Why did the US and UK give such tacit approval
and support to radical AQ groups in the Balkans
and North Africa in the years up to and after
11/September/2001? Why were radical Islamists
with established and known terrorist connections
inside the UK allowed to operate for more than
a decade?

Why is there considerable dispute about the bombs
used, both by the 7/7 bombers and the failed
bombers a fortnight later? The initial reports spoke
conclusively about weapons-grade plastic explosive
C4 - but this was later downgraded to home-made
TATP.  Forensic experts are apparently still trying
to establish the presence of TATP, however, so
how is the conclusion so solid? pp.26-30

The blasts were inconsistent with the known property
of TATP explosions, and Guardian journalist Mark
 Honigsbaum (who spent all morning interviewing
victims on 7/7/05) found they:

"Believe there was an explosion this morning under
the carriage of the train
"... they described how
"the tiles, the covers, on the floor of the train,
suddenly they flew up, raised up
" and the train was

People caught up in the London terrorist attacks on July 7 used cell-phone cameras to record their experiences in the aftermath. (AP)

These witnesses believed the explosion occurred
underneath the train, causing the floor to blow
upwards. This is entirely inconsistent with the official
theory that a passenger's backpack was the source
of the detonation. One policewoman describes:

"A woman... who was on her back trapped in the
metal, which had twisted up through the middle of
the carriage. The roof was still on, but the lining of
the carriage had been blown off. The sides had
also come off and there was a big hole in the floor."

Some Serious Questions

How could metal from the floor twist upwards if
back-pack bombs had been placed on the floor?

How can forensic investigators still be trying to
identify the type of bomb, two and a half years
after the event?

Why did the UK security services have a tacit
agreement with the Islamic radicals that a blind
eye would be turned their way, as long as the
UK itself was not attacked - and why did this
agreement break down?

Why was the terror alert downgraded before
the beginning of July

In the immortal words of Private Eye...
"perhaps we should be told."


The UK services played down the role of AQ,
drawing attention away from the fact that they
had tolerated extremists for many years,
playing many as double agents and funding
them abroad to meet expediencies - much
as the Mujahideen was a convenient ally
decades earlier.


As with 9/11, the 7/7 London bombings are in
serious need of an independent investigation.
The reason we lack one is clear - too many
awkward questions would have to be answered.

Verdict: A compelling argument for an independent inquiry

Further reading:




Title: The God Delusion

Author: Richard Dawkins

Pubisher : Bantam Press

Professor Richard Dawkins is an Evolutionary
Biologist and author of great accomplishment,
lecturing in the US and the UK, particularly in
Evolutionary Biology at Oxford University.   His
Curriculum Vitae is far too long to quote here (but
is referenced in the link).


A Fellow of The Royal Society, he the author
of "The Selfish Gene", "The Blind Watchmaker"
and many other brilliant works (the latter of
which lays waste to creationism).

Deservedly known as "Darwin's Rottweiler",
Dawkins lays a broadside against religion
in this astonishingly unapologetic work. No
religion needs feel excluded from a
comprehensive denouncement.

Far from allowing the various faiths as a
harmless source of personal strength and
solace, Dawkins demonstrates the role of
religion as central to most of the hatred
in the world.

Dawkins includes quite comical references
to Gospels which did not make it into the
official Bible because of their blatant
absurdity (pp 96). For example, it would have
been rather embarrassing to include the
Gospel of Thomas, which would have told
how Jesus used magic tricks to turn
playmates into goats; creating sparrows
from mud; and helping his carpenter father
out by lengthening pieces of wood.

He points out numerous, glaring timeline
flaws in other Gospels, such as that of Luke
who claimed a census took place at a time
when historical record clearly shows it could
never have been. The prophesy of Micah
had to be fulfilled, however, and facts could
not be allowed to stand in the way.

Serious historians would agree that historical
references by the Gospels, particularly Luke,
are "historically impossible and internally
" (pp 94).

After discussing the hypothesis for the
existence of a God (chapter 2), secularism
and the Founding Fathers of America (pp.38),
he shows little sympathy for fence-sitting

Dawkins takes arguments for religion
head-on. He begins by attacking Thomas
Aquinias' supposed proofs for the existence of
God - such as the notion of an infinite regress
requiring a god at the end of it. The basis for
requiring a terminator (i.e. God) and attributing
to this boot-stapped definition and all the
infinite powers generally associated with
Him, are subjected to the same rigorous
examination as would be expected from any
true scientist.

The notion of God as comforter and a solace
is discussed. Imaginary friends in childhood
are common, and continuing to believe in
one which society generally takes seriously
is not so easy to leave behind.

That people find comfort with religion during
grief, for example, does not in itself prove
there is a God.  People can gain comfort in
knowing a loved one died for a good cause.
Nobody rejoices when a loved one is dead,
despite an apparent faith in their being next
to God now.

Having dealt with the arguments for why
God exists, Dawkins goes on in subsequent
chapters to prove why God does not exist.

Why be hostile towards religion?

His reason for urging atheism on his readers
is because religion teaches people to think
in a non-scientific manner, which is neither
good for themselves, society, or our survival
as a species.

Blind faith, where one considers him or her
self to be absolutely right without the need
to explain, have evidence, or any compelling
logic, should not be allowed to stand as a
respected position. A person's politics,
economics, tastes in art or anything else may
be discussed, but society is brainwashed
into this unquestioning respect for blind faith.

Belief that a martyr's death will bring a
wonderful afterlife should be, he strongly
argues, open to question, as should any
manner of controlling and suppressive
behaviours required. Fanatical end-times
Christians long for a nuclear armageddon,
many fanatical Muslims dream of an end-
times style bloodbath, which cannot be
good for our long term prospects.

On a more personal note, Dawkin's own
area of expertise - evolutionary biology -
is under direct attack by religious
fanatics. Why should he sit back and take it?


In The Blind Watchmaker (1986), Dawkins wrote:

"Of course, any God capable of intelligently
designing something as complex as the DNA
protein replicating machine, must have been
at least as complex and organised as that
machine itself."

This sentence is expanded into a key chapter
of The God Delusion. It takes the weapon of
the creationists and turns it on them, given
creationists invariably argue from improbability
("The eye is too complex to have happened by
sheer chance, therefore it must have required
a Creator

The one thing that cannot explain the existence
of an eye is a God - because the God Himself
would have to be even more improbable - the
very matter of which the creationist was hoping
to clear up.

The only theory which could explain something
as complex as the eye (or bacterium) is
something like Darwinian Natural Selection,
where far more simple blocks are built up over
time into more complex arrangements, in
very slow and gradual degrees.


Abuse of the youngest

Perhaps Dawkin's greatest concern is the
labeling of children into religious denominations
- this child is Muslim, that one a Welsh Baptist,
that one a Seventh Day Adventist. Dawkins
regards this as truly evil - thrusting onto infants
a whole set of baggage that he or she might
not wish to hold as they get older, and capable
of actually doing their own thinking. The
concepts are far from harmless and innocent,
such as fashion or other less serious tastes.

Tensions were high as children were brought to school
A "Catholic child",
 being persecuted
 for her "beliefs".

It would be utterly risible to suggest the parents
of Marxists would have a Marxist child, or a
Monetarist child if he or she had monetarist
parents - the child is well understood to be
incapable to such considerations. Why is the
even more serious imposition of an irrational
religious belief given full state approval, even
to the funding of "faith-based" schools?

Parents and children walk to school amid tight security  For instance, if segregated
 Protestant and Catholics
 state schools were abolished
 in Northern Island, that
 country would surely
 achieve full reconciliation
 within a generation.

Conclusion: Prepare for an uncomfortable facing up to the truth,
 particularly if you had a religious upbringing.


I'll make do with just these two for now. Both highly
recommended, they would make an ideal stocking-filler.

Thank you for your time.

-Glenn Barder.
(glenn_barder@yahoo.co.uk) /
linkpost comment

"The Footprint of Freedom" [Jun. 4th, 2007|03:13 am]

 Location of
 the stolen

Source: BBC

"Welcome Aboard!" is the title of the US Navy's
 web page on Diego Garcia. 

"Congratulations" it continues.

Diego Garcia is part of the Chagos archipelago,
situated almost exactly halfway between Africa
and Asia. The island was inhabited by a gentle
Creole nation, who made a living from
supplying coconut oil (which actually powered
London's street lamps), acting as a coaling
station for ships travelling to Australia.

Source: BBC

A British Colonial Office film from the 1950's
describes the people as "Born and brought up
... in conditions most tranquil and benign".
There were plans for tourism.

Eclipse Point, Diego Garcia
From the wikipedia entry on Diego Garcia

But in the 1960s and '70s, British governments
expelled hese people, and handed the Chagos
islands to the US for military use. This was
done in secrecy, all reference since has
officially referred to the island as if it had
always been uninhabited.

In 1964 the British Government offered
independence to Mauritius, with the condition
that the Chagos archipelago belonged to
Britain. (UN resolution 1514 already
guaranteed all colonial people inalienable
rights to independence.) Parliament was
not informed.

The Washington Post first revealed that,
in 1975, the UK government received a
$14M discount on Polaris nuclear
submarines, in exchange for leasing
the islands to the US military. This had
not been approved by Congress. There
was no mention of any population.

The US Navy website's reference to
Diego Garcia continues:

   "You have been selected to join one of the Navy's
   finest operational commands anywhere in the
   world: Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory
   (B.I.O.T.). If you're looking for a professional
   challenge, a close-knit team, unbelievable
   recreational facilities and exquisite natural
   beauty, then you are coming to the perfect place!"

    opportunities are
    numerous and
we are
   constantly expanding
   facilities to make 
   more comfortable"

   "On behalf of everyone on Diego Garcia,
   I hope you have a safe and pleasant
   journey to the "the Footprint of Freedom."

And indeed, life seems pretty comfortable for
the service personnel whooping it up:


Sadly, no native of this "footprint of freedom"
has been allowed to appreciate "the exquisite natural beauty" of their island since 1965.

 We sometimes
 hear reports of
 UK/US bombing
 raids originating
 from Diego Garcia,
 during the course
 of military action
 against Iraq or

Source:  Bits of news

The islands are invariably described as uninhabited
- which is true, now. Oddly enough, the Navy's web-
site's telling of the history of Diego Garcia entirely
fails to mention the people who lived there, other
than to say "Plantations on Diego Garcia were
closed in 1971, following a decision to establish
the U.S. Navy Supprt Facility based on the 1966
Exchange of Notes between Great Britain and
the United States.

1967 Coconut Factory Workers

So there were simply plantations, subsequently
closed, and that's that?  Not quite. GlobalSecurity.org
goes into much further detail of the island's history:

But curiously enough, they too neglect to mention
what actually happened to the original inhabitants.

"Camp Justice"

Besides being a military base, Diego Garcia also
holds an unknown number of detainees, "terror
suspects", in a CIA facility called Camp Justice.

Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake has described
"very large hangers" (warehouses) visible on
satellite images.

The 30-acre site below is called a "temporary
housing area", but not just for personnel
supporting the Operation Enduring Freedom,
as GlobalSecurity appear to claim.


Very little is known about the involuntary inhabitants.
It is subject to even less scrutiny than the notorious
Guantanamo Bay.

So what happened to the native people?

They were driven out. Not actually heaved
out at gunpoint - instead terrorised out.
Food ships stopped arriving, and with
no dairy products, oil, sugar or salt, they
still managed for a while.

There were rumours that they would be
bombed. Those who did leave - even
(as they thought) temporarily - were
not permitted any transport back.

Adeline Jaffor
 They were sent
 to live in slums
 in the Mauritius,
 in housing
 previously used
 for pigs and goats.

Source:  BBC

Then came the plan to kill all the dogs.
"Operation Stampede" was swinging
into action, to remove the people from
their island. The dogs are very important
to Chagossians - they regard them as
almost part of the community.

British Diplomats worked with US military
In 1971 to poison the dogs, but that was
slow work. So they rounded up hundreds
of dogs into the coconut packing sheds,
backed heavy vehicles up and connected
pipes to the exhaust. Those that did not die
were finished off in a huge pyre, and
survivors tossed back in. About 800-900
dogs were killed in this way.

A troubled last manager of the Diego
Garcia plantation, Marcel Moulinie, talks
about this. He said they had tried to kill
the cats too, but couldn't catch them.

"The children cherished their dogs",
says Lizette to John Pilger a few years
ago. She was a 4 year old in the 1950's
British documentary. "Nothing was the
same after that. We were covered
in sadness."

Those who still refused to leave were
eventually - and illegally - forced out.
Following a cattle-transport standard
shipping, they were dumped on Mauritius
2500 miles away.
Chagos islanders
 They were not even
 fed for 5 days of the
 journey, and had no
 shelter and little
 water. The people
 were bewildered and
 terrified, according to
 Cassam Uteem, the
 former president of

They had lived very close to nature,
and had never seen cars or even used
bicycles. No British official helped them
to integrate.  Some camped on the docks,
waiting to be taken home.

President of Mauritius  The current Mauritius
 president, Sir Anerood
 Jugnauth, has threatened
 to leave the commonwealth
 in protest at the "barbarous"
 treatment of the  people
 of the Chagos Islands.
Source:  BBC
These were a couple of thousand British
citizens.  No less British than the 2000
Falkland Islanders - an equal size of
population to Diego Garcia.  But for the
Falklands, Thatcher considered a war
costing vast amounts of money and
many hundreds of lives to be worthwhile.

 They were far less
 white than the
 Falkland Islanders,

 Instead of spending
 vast sums of money
 and thousands of
 lives in their defence,
 the British
 government gave
 these people up.

Source:  BBC

These British citizens petitioned through
legal channels, and were summarily
turned down. An appeal presented
to the British High Commission in
1975 was rejected,  on the grounds
that it has nothing to do with the
British government - "concerns"
should be addressed to the
Mauritius government.


In 1981, hundreds of Chagossian women
organised a sit-in at the British High
Commission in Fort Lewis, and began a
hunger strike.

Islander Louis Bancoult The High Court proclaimed
 in 2000 that the 1965 ruling
 to expel the islanders was
 illegal, but victory was short

 The Blair government
 immediately issued an
 ordinance that returning to
 Diego Garcia (where most
 of them lived) was prohibited.  

Louis Bancoult celebrates momentary victory

But they could return to some of the
other islands. A foreign office study
of 2002 decided the islands too hostile,
and flooding, storms, seismic activity -
even the notion the islands may be
sinking - made them uninhabitable.

Chagos islanders outside the High Court

Not that this seemed to concern the 4000
US military personnel, the tidal wave of
December 2004 had not touched them.
but it was clearly too dangerous for the
people who had lived there for hundreds
of years.

Latest News

The islanders won another victory in
the high court last week (end of May
2007), but it remains to be seen
whether the British government will
do the right thing even now.

The government allowed 102 original
inhabihants, headed by Olivier Bancoult
(two pictures above) for a visit, but then
foreign secretary Jack Straw (an old
Trotskyist turned neo-con) said, "It
is not practical
" for a permanent return.

The last time the islanders won a high
court case, it was turned down by decree
of the Royal Prerogative.  This pre-dates
the Magna Carter of 1215, and is the
last refuge of a cowardly executive.


Will Brown act as Callahan, Thatcher,
Major and Blair have done, and pretend
these people under his stewardship
do not exist?   So far the signs are not
promising.  He wants to extend
detention without trial, and increase
surveillance on citizens.    Even before
he takes power, on 27/6/07 .

We shall watch, judge, and report on
how well the UK government meets
its rhetoric on protection and upholding
the rights of law abiding citizens, and
how it compromises the same for
its subservience to power and

Thank you for your time.

    -Glenn Barder.

- Besides those indicated in-line above,
I have drawn on John Pilger's work
"Freedom Next Time!", isbn 0-593-05552-7/
978-0-593-05552-6 / Bantam Press.
linkpost comment

Iran and Iraq [May. 9th, 2007|01:46 am]


It's been an eventful month or so,  and
there's quite some catching up to do.


The Action

The case of the Royal Navy Marines
held in Iran for nearly a fortnight has
sort-of been forgotten.   These things
are too inconvenient to remember for
very long.  After all, the Iranian
president Ahmadinejad had played
the incident masterfully, pleasing his
own people (many of whom  originally
wanted to see the 15 put on trial), 
avoided a serious confrontation with
the UK/US,  and appeared reasonable
to the rest of the world.

Despite the fact that they were all
released unharmed as promised, Blair
is unable to take a conciliatory line.
Bush and American media were bitterly
disappointed,  and armchair generals
on both sides of the Atlantic were
wheeled in to denounce supposed
cowardice.  The 15 lightly armed
marines should have made a futile
ultimate sacrifice - hopefully starting a
war in the process.

The freed British service personnel arrive at Heathrow
Source:  Guardian

Note the marines are all still clutching
their gift-bags from Iran, despite being
safely back in the UK.  Odd behaviour
from people apparently terrified of their hosts.

The Spin

Our marines were in a hopeless situation,
and could be expected to say everything
the Iranians wanted while in custody. 
Nevertheless, they seemed to  positively
warm to their role in giving coerced
testimony - seemingly very at ease, even
joking with each other.

Souce: Al-Alam

The handwritten letters from leading
seaman Faye Turney were clearly
dictated by Iran.  

Her statements (and that of the other
marines) that they were definitely in
Iranian waters is false - the waters
have constantly been in dispute between
Iraq and Iran.

(Our God-given right to be in Iraq's water
was - of course - not questioned.)

After all, we know very well that people
will sing like canaries if enough pressure
is applied - why else Guantanamo,
secret prisons and our calculated
techniques of physical and emotional
distress to supposedly extract information?

If they had said just that, and admitted
they'd co-operated under duress, nobody
could sensibly blame them.


Instead, we were treated to a series of
retractions which looked more coerced
than the original statements made under
Iranian supervision.   The Marines denied
making the statements we had all seen
a few days earlier.  They claimed rough
treatment, but none had marks that had
lasted the fortnight.

Members of the crew at the press conference
Source: BBC

The female and males were kept in
separate quarters, we were shocked
to hear.  (Actually, the Iranians probably
thought this was for her protection.)

A sceptical public needed something
else, so the Marines were allowed
to give their stories to the press. 
Fair enough, but here the stories
were in return for large amounts
of cash.   The public was deeply


The denouncements of Iran went
further - our Marines were frightened
at being captured, we were told.  One
confessed to crying himself to sleep
each night, another was most upset
that his iPod had been stolen.

His iPod had been stolen.  Rule Britannia.

As it is, the best that can be scraped
from the situation leaves us (the
UK/US) looking like hypocrites of
the first order, and future detainees
in similar circumstances far less
likely to be treated leniently.  

The Real Story

As first revealed in Private Eye,
HMS Cornwall was being covered
by the BBC,  Sky News and Channel-
5 News as a flagship, showing
Captain Nick Lambert commanding
coalition task for 158 in the northern Gulf.

HMS Cornwall
Source:  Royal Navy

The Lynx helicopter covering the inflatables
sent to inspect the passing freighter Al-Hanin
was called back because the BBC had an
appointment to visit Commander Nick Lambert.

(Side note : Nick Lambert was Captain
of HMS Endurance in 2005.   Nearly 25
years earlier, HMS Endurance was
basically offered as bait to the Argentinian
Junta.   The ship could single-handedly
fend off the Argentinians from the
Falkland Islands, according to Foreign
Secretary Lord Carrington,  defence
minister under Thatcher.  Carrington
actually resigned, and a war ensued.)

It was decided not to employ the
two British minehunters and US
coastal patrol vessels to cover the
inflatables, as the TV show would
look better with the small British
craft doing the job themselves. 
Particularly with a RN woman
piloting one craft.

A full Navy inquiry could not take
place because this would reveal
it had been caused by a publicity
stunt ordered from the top.   In order
to divert attention, the media blitz
on the hostages return was personally
signed off by the First Sea Lord Sir
Jonathon Bland's number two,
Vice-Admiral Adrian Johns.   

(Defence secretary Des Browne -
much pilloried for this decision - only
actually found out about it after
it had already happened.)


The Iranian hostages

Less widely told is the story of Iranians
who have been taken into custody, and
held incommunicado without being charged.  

One incident did have some publicity -
the seizing of five diplomats by US forces
 from an Iranian liaison office in the
Kurdish city of Abril, northern Iraq.  The
Iranian diplomats were there at the
invitation of the Iraqi government . 
Iran has asked to visit them but the
request is still being reviewed.

High level Iraqi officials have publicly
 called for their release, and protests
about the illegality made.   It would be
akin to US diplomats being kidnapped
from Poland by Russian forces.   It is
speculated by the informed that this
raid led directly to the British marines' capture.

No member of the occupying US/UK
forces have been killed in Abril, and
no anti-occupation forces or Shia militia are there.  


One final point about the Iranian
involvement in Iraq.  Supposed Iranian
interference is being alleged with howls
of indignation, as if we had every right
to occupy the country and dictate its
laws and rulers.  

But Iraqis are now portrayed as incapable
of offering resistance without Iranian help.
(Iran had suffered a terrible eight-year
war with Iraq).

Yet in 2003, Iraq was possessed with
mighty capabilities in weapons and
threatened the world with their now
vanished WMD.   How come they now
cannot even make roadside bombs
without the help of their former enemy?

Prince Harry steps up

Interest in Iran fading, our red-top
tabloid gutter-press has been far more
exercised lately with the break-up of
Prince William's relationship, and his
brother Harry's pending deployment to Iraq.

Prince Harry on parade
Source: BBC

The attention to his relationship problems
is great for  those with news burial
interests.  The subject has been covered
at enormous length elsewhere.  The
nightmare for Blair is that a tabloid/public
obsession with royalty is now thrown in
with the desperate hopelessness of our
Iraq adventure.   

Our Iraq involvement - although deeply
unpopular - has drifted from the front
pages in recent months.    Interest is
rising again with the worsening situation,
with 12 soldiers dying in April.  This
makes April 2007 the worst month
for the UK since the invasion

Prince Harry has stated his determination
to follow tradition and serve in this rapidly
deteriorating environment, stating that he
 is not afraid to die.

Keeping anyone safe in Iraq is near
impossible, and other soldiers privately
refer to Prince Harry as the "Bullet magnet",
coupled with concerns about those with
him too.  On the forces' message board
rearparty.co.uk, for friends and family
of serving military, one message says:

    'Why don't they just paint a great, big
    red cross on Prince Harry's waggon.
    Don't these people have the common
    sense to keep this quiet? Why risk
    the lives of prince Harry and the
    people who are in the tank with
    him? If I [were] the wife of one of
    them I would push him down the
    stairs so he doesn't have to go.'

What is Blair to do - admit the situation
in Iraq is totally out of control, or risk
the catastrophic event of the Prince
dying there?

Blair's solution, it appears, is to make
sure he is not in office at that time.
We should have an announcement
in the next day or so that Blair will be
handing over to Gorden Brown sometime
in June or July.

Leadership contests in "New" Labour
appear to have fizzled out, Brown will
have a coronation rather than an election.


More next time, and I'll try not to leave
it six months - sorry about that.

As ever, comments/ criticisms / requests
for items to be included always welcome.

      - Glenn Barder.

linkpost comment

Interview with Brian Haw - part 1 [Mar. 18th, 2007|06:16 pm]


Last weekend I went to see the last protest allowed
outside Parliament, and to interview the last
protester - Brian Haw.   As mentioned in previous
articles, he is allowed there only because the new
law banning protest was not made retroactive.  
Since on-going protests prior to the law were not
covered,  Brian Haw's protest can remain - as long
as it remains continuous.

It has ran continuously for 2115 days so far.

Photo by Marc Vallee, 23/11/06

 Brian Haw on his
 2000'th consecutive
 day and night in
 Parliament Square.

This first part of the interview covers the religious
angle, which Brian feels has been blasphemously
hijacked to justify war.

Having been given the mobile telephone number for
Mr Haw, he agreed to do an interview for P&M.   
Your intrepid reporter tracked down Downing Street
(where the British PM Blair resides), but found no
sign of Brian Haw or his protest.

Picture:  Glenn Barder, P&M

A police officer -
heavily armed -
cheerfully told me
that I'd find him
about 1/2 mile
away, as his protest
had moved to
outside Parliament
itself, and helpfully
provided directions.

Brian Haw was pacing about on the lawn outside and
across the road from Parliament, talking on his mobile.
Various helpers of his enable him to maintain this
continuous vigil, so I spoke with them for a while until
Brian became available.

Picture:  Glenn Barder, P&M

Some helpers were
seasoned protest
veterans of many
including former
human shields.

Brian can only leave
to attend numerous
court cases - leaving
for any other reason
will end this last
protest permanently.


Finishing his telephone conversation about an hour
later,  Brian was in no mood for a interview.  It hadn't
been an uplifting conversation, apparently.   
Doubtless tired of thousands of people wanting to
have a chat, make fun of him, and just having to
go over the same issues he's discussed countless
times, he does not always welcome idle conversations.

Picture by Mark Wallinger
Brian Haw's protest. Photo: Mark Wallinger
Before most of the protest
banners were dismantled
for "security reasons", the
display was much more

Picture by Mark Wallinger
Brian Haw's protest. Photo: Mark Wallinger
Exhibits from the original
protest can currently
be seen in Tate Britain
where an exhibition is
currently taking place.

The exhibition in the gallery itself is very
powerful, impossible to witness without
being emotionally moved.   Please take
the time to see some of the display items
by using this link.

Back for the interview

Picture:  Glenn Barder, P&M

I began by acknowledging he has probably been
through the issues thousands of times,  and he said he's
sick and tired of it.   Brian wanted to know if I had all the
background.  His friends had vouched for me, that I was
aware of the issues, and was not there to waste time.

Brian asked what I wanted to know.

Explaining this was for a US based site, I asked for his
personal experience - what had made him take up this
endeavour, given Americans often identify with
individual stories rather than simple facts and figures
about others.

Was it the sanctions that started this campaign?

Brian Haw
What does "sanctions" mean for goodness sake?
USA?  UK?   God almighty.  God forgive us.  The
United States of Assassins.  Have you checked it
out?  Genocidal Britain.  Check out what we've done
around the nations during the course of history. 
Check out what the United States of Assassins has
done.  It's horrifying.

Sanctions?  It's called Genocide.  That's what we
do.  Bomb, burn, bury your neighbour.  Who do we
think we are? 

Check out DU.  Check out Depleted Uranium
munitions.  Our war material, made from our nuclear
waste.  Check what we do.

GB (P&M): 
We've finally found a way of disposing of it, haven't we?

Brian Haw:
Isn't that neat.   Isn't that sweet.  God forgive...
how can God forgive us?  Have you seen
what we've done to the babies?  And we like
to say what an evil bastard Hitler was.  Oh,
by the way - you know Bush's grandaddy?
He was a great pal of Hitler.

GB (P&M):  
Prescott Bush

Brian Haw:
I just knew he was Bush's grandaddy. 
Prescott Bush, yeah, provided a lot of money for
the war.  You have to finance a war, don't you.
And what's a war about?  Bloody money. 
Making  money, stealing money, looting, pillage.
Nothing changes throughout history.

We dress it up in fancy language these days,
trying to make out we're spreading freedom and
democracy in the world.

Do you know Holman Hunt's famous portrait,
and there's Christ knocking on the door, with
the house overgrown with weeds,  and Christ
with the lamp is politely knocking.

Holman Hunt:  "The light of the world"
  And if you check out Rev
 3:11, it says "And behold,
 I stand at the door and
 knock.  And if any person
 opens the door, I will 
 come in and sup with
and you with me."
 Polite, isn't it?

 And -- by the way -
 Christ will bring supper
 with him, he didn't
 come to scrounge,
he's not going to steal
 - he came to give.

 We're told to give in
 Christ's name, go into
 all the world, we were
 told.   Give the love
 of ... [shakes head in
 disbelief] ... God

Instead of which, we march around the
world, with a Bible in one hand and a
sword in the other.  Crusaders.  Nothing
changes, does it?  Who do we think we are?


Idu - the Greek word meaning "behold" - I
stand at the door and knock.  Look, listen,
have you noticed?  I'm knocking at the
gates of Parliament, just opposite us
there.  We're in Westminster, they call
this Westminster Palace, the British
Parliament.  And here am I, opposite
the Palace gates, knocking at the gates
of Parliament.  Look, listen, have you noticed? 

I came here on the second of June 2001. 
I was sent here by Mum and Dad - Mrs
and Mr God, who love and care.   That's
why I was sent here, because they care.   

John 3:16 - For God so loved the world
that he gave his only Son, what whosoever
believes in him should not perish, but
should have everlasting life.

Check out Jeremiah, chapter 9.  Check it out.

Photo by Moramay Herrera Kuri

GB (P&M):
 "Thou shalt not kill" in the Ten
Commandments - not ambiguous, is it?

Brian Haw:
"Thou shalt not kill", as you said.  But check
out Jeremiah, Chapter 9. 

"He/She  that will glory, glory in this, then
knows me.  And I am the Lord and
Lady who
exercises love and kindness,
justice and
righteousness to the ends of
the Earth.  For
in these things I delight,
says the Lord God Almighty.

How about that?  Love and kindness,
top of the agenda.  Do you think we've
got a poor translation in the Old
Testament?  A wrong idea about it? 
And God is this angry old white man,
with a big white beard, sat up on the
clouds somewhere with a bloody big
stick in his hand, looking down at the
naughty children below, looking for
an excuse to beat us?

Hey  - that ain't the God I know, who
loved and made us.  Your iris, your
fingerprints, your genes - you are
unique, one-off.  And the same goes
for every one of the billions of us
on this planet.

Have you ever held a baby?  Isn't it
a glorious thing.

And Bush and Blair bomb the babies.
It's a wicked, evil business, you know.
I call them - and I call them right here with
a megaphone, or bull-horn / loudspeaker
- "Bush/Blair Christian?  Blasphemers,
liars, repent!  Hear the word
of our Lord and Saviour
Jesus Christ."

It's been said in the past, "An eye for
an eye, a tooth
for a tooth."  But I say
to you now, "Love your enemies."

Check out the parable of the good
Samaritan - when the disciples asked
"Who is my neighbour?" He gave them
the parable of the Good Samaritan. 
The Jews and Samaritans were bitter,
bitter enemies.  And this is the parable.
Your neighbour is your most bitter
enemy, who is dying.  That's the one
you're supposed to save.   Who's left
out?  Your enemy and your neighbour
are one and the same. 

That's the only thing that's going to
change anything.

Picture: Glenn Barder, P&M
  We pause as Big Ben
 sounds the hour at
 deafening volume. 
 This picture is taken
 from the protest site -
 directly opposite
 Parliament  itself.

With the clock and the
traffic, conversation -
let alone sleep - is
not possible at times.

Brian Haw:
A little Jewish girl came to speak to me.
She's a nurse, going up to Scotland
to get a year's extra training in trauma
therapy.  For the battlefield, the places
where there is war.  The  terror of being
bombed - what it does to the children,
to be living in a war zone, the fear and
the terror.   And this little Jewish girl
is going to get extra training to care
for people in that terrible situation. 

Then she's going to go back to this
place called Palestine, and care for
the people and children in Palestine.  

Is this going to change things?  What
do you think?  Is this the only thing
that can change things?  For God's
sake, what did  these people ever do
to us.  When are we going to check it out?

Some bloody fools talk about the
Jewish people killing Jesus,  what a
nonsense!  Do you know what the
message is about Christianity?  I killed
Jesus - He died for my sins!  Yes, the
Romans put him on the cross, at
the behest of the Jewish leaders of
the time, but the message is Jesus
died for me.  And if there were no
other sinner, he would still have died
for me.  That's the message.

Photo by Moramay Herrera Kuri  - After the display was wrecked by police, May/2004


Well, this is turning into a bit of
a sermon, isn't it!  So I hope this
goes down well in the US of A,
because I understand their leaders
are fundamentalist Christians over
there.  And I also understand that
they are full of crap.   Because
they also think it's OK to have
black people as slaves, and treat
them as less than a white person.

Of course, we've all moved on from
there, but  we haven't really have
we?  Does the black person get a
fair shake in this place called America?

What about these people called the
"Injuns"?  The "red Indians" they called
them.  What about the real Americans.
Most of them are dead, aren't they? 
That was a successful genocide. 

We've kind of wandered about a bit,
hope you're keeping track of all this!

Let's go back to the Good Book and
check it out.  Christ says, "Love your
enemies", he didn't say say bomb and
burn all the babies, and bugger
their mums, dads, brothers and sisters!


This interview will be continued in the next
update - which should be posted within 10 days.

Brian Haw, 2001 - parliament-square.org.uk

Thank you for your time.

     - Glenn Barder.
linkpost comment

Control Orders [Feb. 13th, 2007|01:31 am]


To complement terms such as "Extraordinary Rendition", the practice
of subjecting people to "Control Orders" has now entered the lexicon
of received cynicism.

These "control orders" are a set of seemingly meaningless and
arbitrary restrictions which impose a cruel limitation on the lives
of those selected. The restrictions are based on secret evidence,
closed courts where even the defence lawyer is not allowed to
know the charges, and are laughable unsuitable for stopping a
genuine jihadist bent on destruction in any case.

Nearly a year ago, Amnesty International released a heavily
critical report on the UK's compliance with its human rights
obligations. Obligations as signed up to under International
Law, not just some wish-list.


The Control Order programme is still in full operation. The
idea is to punish undesirables out of the country, to trip them
up by falling foul of arbitrary and punitive restrictions. In many
cases the families of such individuals are punished along with
them, and they feel no choice but to return to a repressive
regime, from whose torture they fled in the first place.

AI's Secretary General emphasised:

    There is now a dangerous imbalance between draconian
    actions the UK is taking in the name of security and its
    obligation to protect human rights. These measures tarnish
    the UK’s image and its ability to promote human rights abroad."

The UK government's practices of holding people on the
basis of evidence the accused cannot know or challenge
is described as "Kafkaesque", the government is accused
of by-passing courts. No case is ever tried. The evidence
is too sensitive.

But the AI criticism goes much further, from an organisation
which specifically avoid political judgements, and retains
international respectibility only through its impartiality:

    "Most worrying of all has been the effort of the UK
    government to weaken the absolute ban on torture"


Not so long ago, absolutely devestating evidence
had UK's airports locked down, and still today we
have absurd restrictions in travel - arbitrary,
rediculous and ineffective in any case.

The Home Office admitted there has been no
specific terror threat.  No evidence of anything
was found.
Source:  BBC

Nothing has happened as a result of these arrests, and no
evidence of any substance whatsoever has been produced.

In Notting Hill, a family (Muslim, as it happens) was arrested
by 250 police, and their house pretty much dismantled - all
on the grounds of "Intelligence". Nothing was found, all were
released with apologies.
Jean Charles de Menezes
Brazilian electrician Menezes was shot dead - 7
times at point-blank range in the head - because
"intelligence" had it that he was a suspect. He
was entirely innocent.
Jean Charles de Menezes
- shot dead 22/7/2005
Source:  ThisIsLondon

But why should we look further for the reliability
of "intelligence", when the fearsome WMD of Iraq
were absolutely known about, and therefore
justified the basis for war?


ASBOs and Control Orders

A previous article mentioned ASBOs - Anti-Social Behaviour
Orders. These share a theme with our new Control Orders.
You may not have committed a crime which is brought before
the courts. You may have broken no law. But you can be
subjected to an ASBO or CO.

Once this ASBO or CO has been levied upon you, you must
abide with its conditions. Failure to do so is a crime, and
you can be thrown in jail or - even more seriously for asylum
seekers - sent back to the country that tortured you and made
you flee.

And the more onorous the conditions imposed, the more
likely we are able to dispose of you, and have you in jail
or back to wherever you came from, without all that bother
about legal trivialities such as due process, International Law,
and bothersome courts asking if there is indeed any case
to answer.

Extending detention without charge

The French would be pretty horrified if a person were held
by their authorities for more than 7 days. After all, they had
held a revolution to prevent unaccountable
executives (the royalty) deciding who had what rights on
their own whim.

The French Resistance knew quite well, that the maximum
time a person could hold out against interrogation was 4 days.
After that time, a person would be broken, and tell anything
which they thought wanted to be heard.

When desperate gangs of Jihadists are arrested with
no resistance, police find "nothing of significance"
despite hysterical headlines about yet another
"terrorism swoop"

Police were allowed to hold suspects for up to seven days,
but this clearly was not enough. The government wanted
90 days of detention without bringing a charge. And as
soon as you walked free after 90 days, of course, they could
arrest you again.

The Blair administration lost that vote - the 60 day
"compromise" was rejected by the House of Lords
and eventually 28 days was settled upon.  The
current limit is given in this link.

Home Secretary John Reid is
again working on extending
this time limit.

Britain's Guantanamo Bay

Belmarsh Prison, the notorious maximum security jail in
south London, is typically where those held without
charge reside. Human rights organisations such as
Amnesty International have no direct access, making it
hard to verify Home Office assurances that prisoners
are treated well.

AI write: "The men are held in small
cells for 22 hours a day, how is that
proper treatment?" Solicitors describe
their clients as having been
"entombed in concrete".

Reports from AI indicate inadequate
health care - particularly mental health,
no access to the outside world,
restrictions on practicing religion.

The human rights group Liberty point out:

    "While the government has been seen publicly to lobby the US over the
    treatment of Guantanamo Britons, it is treating terror suspects the
    same way in its own country."

"Over here it says such action is 'necessary' but no other country in
Europe feels the need to go down this path."

Living under Control Orders

The control orders themselves subject "suspect terrorists"
to 24 hour monitoring by security services. They wear a
leg bracelet tag, have to call into the local police station
and telephone a monitoring line several times a day, and
are restricted from leaving their room outside specified

Failure to call - typically every 6 hours, including at 3AM -
results in immediate dispatch of a police unit to their house.

As a recent Channel-4 "Dispatches" documentary
reported, they are free to move around in an arbitrarily drawn
up perimeter around their house. Move outside it, and the
electronic leg-tag will alert the services. Nevertheless,
this perimeter includes the routes of several bus and
tube (underground transport) public transport. If these
are indeed dangerous terrorists bent on mass destruction,
they could easily plant bombs.

They are not considered as being a threat along these lines.
There is no evidence against them, at least, nothing which
they are told about.


About 40 "terror suspects" are currently restricted by
Control Orders, 9 of whom were born in the UK.
Dispatches looked at a few cases:

Detainee 'AA'

Mouloud Sihali is known as detainee 'AA'. He was arrested
in Wood Green over a suspected ricin poisoning plot. The
charge was dropped because of no evidence, but he was re-
arrested after the 7/7 bombings and held for 4 months.

Following his release, the Control Orders were imposed.
He was sent to live in one room of a house, and has to
exist like this indefinitely. The conditions are:

  • 15.5 hours/day house arrest
  • Electronic bracelet tagging
  • No mobile telephone
  • No Internet access
  • Daily visits to local police station
  • Travel restricted to 1 mile
  • Home Office clearance required for any visitor

He claims to have no idea what he is suspected of, given
he was completely cleared of the supposed ricin plot.

Sihali fled military service from Algera, at the height of
civil war in 1996.

A secret court decided the conditions, but three train
stations are - as he points out - within the one mile
perimeter in which he can travel, together with a
shopping centre and 16 bus routes. A good thing for
us he has no actual interest in terrorism.


When the ricin case came to trial, he was found not
guilty. Two jurors have - after months of paperwork -
visited Sihali in his home, and have befriended him. They
were convinced of the government case, but were shocked
when the case against him was made. The evidence was
so flimsy, and there was no ricin, and there was no plot.

A policeman had been killed by a deluded man arrested
in a dawn raid, the others were simply his aquaintances.

Detainee 'AR'

Mahmoud Abu Rideh was arrested and held for three years
without trial. He must call a monitoring company three
times a day. His conditions are:

  • Call the monitoring centre between 3-4am every day
  • 12 hours a day house arrest
  • No mobile telephones or Internet
  • No visitors without Home Office approval
  • No pre-arranged meetings at all

But if someone waited outside his house for long
enough, they could stop him for an interview.

"If I am a terrorist, why do they not charge me in court?"
he asks.

He is Palestinian by origin, and is allowed to travel
anywhere as long as he is back by 7pm. Curiously enough,
this allows him to visit pretty much anywhere.

His accent is strong, and the voice recognition software
does not understand him at the monitoring service. This
has led to numerous visits by the police for failing to
contact them properly. He tries not to wake his 5
children during these nightly events.

Doctors say he suffers from PTSD.

Detainee 'A'

This Algerian immigrant wants to remain anonymous to protect
his family, but has also spent three years detained without
charge. Having been in Britain 17 years, he was rounded
up with Abu Rideh after "9/11" and thrown in jail.

  • 22 hours a day house arrest
  • Electronic tagging
  • No mobile telephones or Internet
  • No visitors without Home Office approval
  • Travel restriction - 1 mile

If he steps outside the house, he breaks the control order
and can be thrown back in jail or deported. The latter
is apparently the government's favoured option, and sends
him a waver to sign, saying he gives up any residency claim.

He will probably die badly, but eventually chooses that
option for the sake of his family.


The strain on the mental health of the detainees is
clear, and they are showing signs of great distress and
paranoia. Limited to a just a couple of square meters
in which to spend most of their day, and with their
family also feeling the strain, they are left with
a choice of returning to a regime which will probably
torture and/or kill them.

Gareth Peirce, solicitor (lawyer) to
Abu Rideh and Detainee 'A', says
that the absolute right to arbitrary
detention without charge was
jettisoned after 11/9/2001.

Around a dozen men were given
special treatment, locked up with
no release date and no charge.

David Blunket, Home Secretary at the time, stated in
the Houses of Parliament (19/Nov/2001):

    "If the evidence that would normally be produced...
    and a normal court were available... we would have
    used it.  We are talking here about those who are
    adjudged to have committed, supported, organised
    and helped those who have involved in terrorism
    worldwide in the circumstances of 11/September".

The government replaced indefinite detention with
Control Orders in 2005 "Prevention of terrorism Act",
after they lost cases in the courts with some of the


Abu Rideh slashed his wrists in the local police station,
after asking them to arrest him if they thought him a
threat. His daughters cannot have friends visit,
cannot use the Internet, and have increasing problems
making contact with others. They too become ever more

The police frequently search right through his house,
including the possessions of is wife and daughters. On
their way to pray or go anywhere, they are sometimes
turned back by the police and told they must be searched
again instead. Visitors are, of course, come under
suspicion themselves.

Feeling they are the cause of the family suffering, they
are pressured to return to almost certain death at the
hands of governments who have never heard of human rights.


Three detainees are on the run. This is not terribly
suprising, perhaps. If you cannot stand the Control
Orders, your choices are "voluntary" return to a country
which will torture you, suicide, or try to run away.

Ian MacDonal QA (Queen's Councellor) - Special Advocate
for Secret Courts, 1997-2004 says that "Intelligence
assessments" are impossible to determine. They are
often no more than guesswork. All kinds of different
sources make the material - often 3rd, 4th and 5th hand
- which is impossible to assess.

Paid informants - like torture victims - have a tendancy
to say what the inquisitor wants to hear, particularly
when prompted, and most particularly when there is
something to gain from providing the information.


Mohammed Samraoui, an Algerian Intelligence agent
(DRS) from 1974-1996, finds the idea that Algeria would
provide objective evidence laughable. After the 1996
coup, they gave the names of 1800 "suspected terrorists"
to the west:

"It is pathetic to think that accurate information would
be given... they are opponents of the military regime...
All the names handed over by the Algerian services
to the intelligence authorities in the west turned
out to be false information. We saw that with the
Ricin trial in Britain."


With Control Order subjects slowly going mad, some
dissapearing and thus breaking the law, or "volunteering"
to opt for a very dubious future for the sake of their
families, the British government is seen to be Doing

While not breaking every letter of our signed obligations
on due process and asylum, our government has surely
broken its spirit. Minimum standards of human rights
obligations would be embraced by any government
which truly understood that its citizens had elected it
to look after its rights. 

Looking after our rights does not mean circumventing
the spirit of laws founded to protect citizens.  It should
never mean crushing the human spirit, so that they
chose probably death and torture to the treatment
of a State which claims  to be honourable.

Thank you for your time.

     -Glenn Barder.
link1 comment|post comment

"New" Labour's winds of change [Jan. 27th, 2007|01:46 am]



Blair has a remarkable talent for becoming best friends with
rich and powerful people.   He also has a well tuned sense
of the way the wind is blowing, so to anticipate which side of
his face best be shown.

Clinton was Blair's natural friend at the start of his premiership.
Both were artful spin-masters,  relatively youthful  (Blair was the
youngest PM for 200 years, Clinton since Roosevelt),  and both
unbound by any particularly strong principles.  

Both had strong career wives, a background in law,  and came to
power on the back of a long and finally unpopular Conservative rule.

It has been a puzzle to many why Blair has behaved the way
he has, and if some other commentator writes the same conclusion
before this post is up, my apologies  - Blair governs Britain in the
style of whoever is currently in power in Washington,
and is finally
shifting course now that Washington's leadership is changing.

Nevertheless, he stands by Bush, will sink with him, and be
remembered as the worst Prime Minister this country has ever

The Clinton influence

America has a culture quite different to that of Britain, and
there are various pros and cons for each.  One significant
difference is that it is a less socially progressive country,
this much is beyond dispute.

Whether Britain should abandon - continue to abandon -
a social approach to governance, drift from the European model
and become more right wing is a matter of debate, but the
answer in a democracy should be decided by the people.

The people made their choice, and got the opposite of
that which was advertised.

In 1997, Blair ended 18 long years of Tory rule.  The electorate
had decided it had had enough.  People - despite the urgings
of a right wing press - always did want a better public service
and socially progressive policies.

The rich buy their ink in barrels and have a louder voice, and
their fearful screams about higher taxes and a destroyed economy
made people accept that Thatcherism was necessary as the
alternatives were even worse,  until even business had had
enough of the incompetence and sleaze.

Once the press backed off support for the Tories, Labour swept
in on a wave of popularity.   Anything seemed possible.  Not many
suspected nightmares on an even grander scale were likely to be
delivered from this "New" Labour.


Greeting Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom at the Conference on Progressive Governance for the 21st Century dinner in Florence, Italy, November 20.Britain voted the Tories out because they wanted
a change, but Blair was besotted with Clinton
and his successful presidency.   He confused the
electorate's desire with personal approval, and
changed the basis of British politics to a presidential,
top-down style, with his infallible self at the head.

He set about imposing the benefits of an
American society for the rich - nationalising risks
and cost, while privitising benefits and profit.  
This was carried out  with a greater abandon
than even Thatcher dared.  Little wonder, then,
at Thatcher and Blair's mutual admiration.
Clinton could do this and act as a progressive,
but Britain was coming to this position from
the opposite direction, and so took the country on
a huge lurch to the right.   Again - this needs emphasising -
a shift to the right was not what had just been voted for.

Many of us who actually have a lot of respect for America's institutions,
the freedoms and rights granted by the Bill of Rights and the Constitution,
are angered that Blair's happy-clappy "Third Way" omits these benefits
to citizens, while upholding corporate benefits on a scale unheard of
since the 19th Century. 

What does Blair really mean by "Third Way"?  As Lewis Carroll wrote in
Alice through the looking glass, "When I use a word, it means whatever
I want it to mean, no more, no less."

Swiftly shifting to Bush

As disaster struck in November 2000 and Al Gore (not to mention
the electorate) was denied his presidency,  many in Britain
wondered how on earth Blair would carry on this particularly
Special Relationship with Washington.  Blair was strongly placed
to welcome Gore into their new "special relationship", after all.

Camp David  With breathtaking volte-face,  Blair
 hardly missed a beat in adapting to
 the radically new world view and social
 agenda suddenly offered.

 Everything Bush stood for was
 accommodated by Blair.   Nothing was
 too radical or dangerous.  We saw our
 Prime Minister not only go along with
 the new order - he was positively

Pic source: CNN

The "Special Relationship" was cemented after "9/11", when Blair
rushed to offer help and sympathy following the atrocity.  Britain was
not the only country to do this, but was singled out as if we were
standing by America in the face of the whole world.   Nothing could
be further from the truth.

Source:  Scholars of Islam

Above are images of Iranian, Palestinian, American, Iranian
again and Bangladeshi Muslims morning the victims of 9/11 .  
America was by no means alone. A war on Islam was not necessary.

Shifting away from Blair and Bush

With the US congressional elections scarcely over, "New"
Labour was changing course.  Blair is on his way out, and
despite denying he is finished, he is effectively a lame
duck PM.   Worse, he cannot effectively function as a
leader in time of crises, nobody would believe him even
in the unlikely event he started telling the truth.

Tony Blair  A BBC interview with Blair on
 28/1/07 showed his unflinching
 faith in his own infallibility, a
 conviction of his correctness
 in all things, no matter what
 the results. 

 "I am not finished yet", he

Source:  BBC

Blair's habitual grin looks more rictus-like by the day, particularly when
talking about Iraq.  His few remaining friends must be concerned about
the manic stare from his left eye, and the remarkable pace of his aging.


The police are continuing to build their case against corruption, where
Blair sold honours (honorary titles, such as "Lord", Member of the
British Empire, etc.) for cash.  The official electoral watchdog is
advising police to take action.

Now, senior ministers are finally discovering a backbone, with Peter
Hain referring to difficulties in a working relationship with the most
right wing American administration, if not ever, then in living memory.
When this was put to Blair, he laughed and dismissed the subject.
The transcript records all this.

Peter Hain  Peter Hain - cabinet minister and a
 possible deputy PM when Blair goes
 (equivalent to Vice President), finally
 rediscovers principles from long ago.

 He claims George Bush's foreign
 policy has "failed", in an interview
 with New Statesman magazine.

Picture: BBC

Hain went on :

"The neo-con mission has failed.  It's not only failed to provide
a coherent international policy, it's failed wherever it's been
tried, and it's failed with the American electorate".  
He added
that the neo-con mission had damaged the fight against
terrorism, and distracted the world from solving the Middle East

Fine words - but much, much too late.  He was all for the war
while Blair was riding high, and contemptuously dismissive
of Bush's and Blair's critics.

Gordon Brown in Iraq  Gordon Brown - currently Chancellor
 of the Exchequer but most likely to
 be Prime Minister within months -
 has also been sounding less than
 enthusiastic about our Iraq adventure.

 Visiting Iraq last November, he said
 he hoped to see troop reductions
 "in the next few months."  He has
 made clear that his style of leadership
 will be significantly different to Blair's

Source: BBC

Open disagreements between Washington and Whitehall (UK
equivalent) are breaking out.  The Shaibah base in Basra is due
to be closed within weeks with the centre of operations being
transferred to Basra air station.

Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett has announced that security in
Basra would be handed over to Iraqis "at some point in the spring",
the Independent reports. 

US Iraq Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad
The US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad
has publicly urged Britain to maintain troops at
their current level, and the US is quietly
demanding the Shalibah airbase be kept open.

But already, reductions in troops are taking
place.  Defence secretary Des Brown has
announced they will be "significantly lower
by a matter of thousands" by the end of this

There appears to be a diplomatic playing down of the scale
of British withdrawal.  We certainly are not hearing of a great
homecoming victory - talk is of withdrawal to please the public,
but not too loudly.  We wouldn't want to embarrass the
Americans, after all.

That many of these same troops are being redeployed to
Afghanistan is another story.

Brian Haw defeats Blair again, protest still legal

Earlier this week, legendary protester Brian Haw won the right to
continue his protest.  Or rather, Blair lost the battle to deny him
his right.  

Brian Haw at Marylebone Magistrates' Court after a previous hearing  Brian Haw has been protesting
 since 2/June/2001.  Blair has
 even changed British Law to get
 rid of him.   As a result of this law,
 no new protest can take place -
 Haw is the last legal protester.

 Any new protester will automatically
 become a "terrorist" and charged
 under extraordinary powers.  The new
 law was not retroactive, so  Haw stays.

Source: BBC

The area in which Haw can protest has been limited, with police seizing
about 90% of his original placards.   The police were desperate enough
to claim that terrorists might hide bombs under his remaining placards
in the latest court appearance, but the District Judge dismissed this
risible nonsense and threw out the case.

Your correspondent has been in touch with this incredibly resilient
protester, and hopes to bring you an interview of the last protester
in the UK Parliament area, at least until a less authoritarian
administration returns, restoring to us some of the liberties the
British had once taken for granted.


Thank you for your time.

       -Glenn Barder.

linkpost comment

Debt to the US, real war sacrifice, and the death sentence [Jan. 9th, 2007|07:17 pm]

It's fair to say that most of Europe was pretty appalled by the
treatment and execution of Saddam Hussein.   The fact that
a state execution takes place at all is bad enough, but this
was effectively a lynching.

Besides outraging the very small minority of Saddam loyalists,
Sunni Muslims are obviously going to feel the US installed
and run government has no interest in them.  Not just the
Sunnis in Iraq, but those in Saudi, Egypt and Syria - the very
place were all the "foreign fighters" are supposed to be
coming from.   Calm down the situation, use diplomacy and
intelligence - real intelligence?  Never.

Saddam Hussein had gained such a long and fearsome
reputation in his 25 year dictatorship, some who did not
support Sunni or Saddam himself could believe that one
day he might be back.  After all, the Americans have been
known to change their minds on these things.  The fact of
Saddam's existence was a deterrent to taking action.  If they
rose up on the wrong side, what would be their fate if
Saddam returned?   Now, with his sons gone too, they
have nothing to fear by rising up.

Turning a brutal dictator like Saddam Hussein into a martyr
seemed an impossible job.   Yet the Bush administration
managed it.

The British debt to America

Blair and Bush like to talk about colossal battles, the great trial of
our times, a desperate and noble mission to defeat the evil about
to engulf us.  It's just that we don't get it, and Blair is saddened by
our lack of commitment, Bush is outraged at the lack of patriotism.

Perhaps we don't understand this to be a titanic struggle between
good and evil, because we recognise the Middle East adventure
as an unequal smashing of an unarmed, depleted country by the
world's super-power, followed by a ham-fisted and unpopular

British people understand the cost of genuine war, they need no
lectures from Blair or Bush on this.

Britain owed a great deal to America after the Second World War.
So much, in fact, that the final payment was only made at the
start of 2007.    The last installment was only $83M,  but the loan
started with nearly $4.3Billion .

There was a lot to spend it on.
Many cities in Britain were absolutely
bombed flat during the war.  If not
quite as sudden, a "9/11" type
devastation across vast swathes of
every major city remained, in which
we celebrated an end to the war.   All
this required building - and with money
and resources in short supply, this was
not always done particularly well.
Source: eyewitnesstohistory.com

The Bltiz , bombing from the air, was over six years, and killed
about 43,000 people while destroying over a million homes. 
Casualties were greatly reduced, because people were used
to running for bomb shelters as soon as sirens sounded.  
This was usually at night, and lasted for many hours. 
Emerging from shelter after a raid
Source: worldwar2exraf.co.uk

Americans have not suffered a widespread attack since the
country was formed, in living or spoken memory,  but their
perspective might have been broadened as to the real costs
of war with the benefit of such experience.   The very notion
of Blair & Bush's  "Churchillian victory" over Iraq is deeply
insulting to ancestors and older relatives from the war, who
understand what genuine sacrifice from a nation means.


Industry had been turned entirely to war production, and
major re-tooling was required for a return to civilian purposes.
A lot of men returned from war to unemployment, and the
wounded and war widows needed looking after.

The rate was pretty favourable at 2%, but there was some
annoyance that Britain had been given a loan, while other
countries - particularly those who had started the war - were
given free aid under the Marshall Plan and saw their
economies boom.  

Some of us have speculated for the last few years whether,
following this final payment, we can have our own leader
instead of a stand-in for US Republicans.

The Death Sentence

The last death sentences in the UK were carried out in August
1964, just around the same time the US Congress passed the
Civil Rights Act, outlawing discrimination on the basis of race,
religion, gender or national origin.

Labour returned to power in 1964 with a priority of abolishing
capital punishment,  and on 28th  October 1965, a bill by MP Bill
Silverman received Royal Assent (the final stage in passing law),
to suspend the death penalty.

On 16th December 1969, the House of Commons passed law
that capital punishment be permanently abolished.

The last people condemned by a rejected law:

Peter Allen and Gwynne Evans,
simultaneously executed in
different prisons at 8am, on
13th August 1964.

They were convicted of
murdering a man in the
course of robbing him.

About half of all convicted murderers had their sentences commuted to
"life",  which meant 10-12 years.   This was considered particularly
unfair by condemned prisoners, because the basis for either death
or 10 years was pretty arbitrary.

The rate of about 11 hangings a year was fairly consistent.

The European Union is opposed to the death sentence in all cases.
So it was with some considerable revulsion that we witness Saddam
Hussein's lynching,  purportedly at the result of a democratically
elected government's application of due process.

That war criminals should be tried in the Hague is both recognised
by International Law, and understood worldwide as the only means
to properly achieve a fair hearing and justice.   It is the only way the
world can have any confidence that even a semblance of justice has
been delivered.

Saddam Hussein was fully expecting
 a drum- head court, such as he had for
 many of his own victims.   He knew full
 well a true investigation into his crimes
 would never be  allowed, less still himself
 a chance to implicate his more serious
 fellow criminals.

Lawyers assassinated, judges removed, and Saddam was finally
convicted of killing over 148 people who had risen up - some of
whom may well still be alive.  In Fallujah,  We killed unknown
hundreds if not thousands because they were not readily
submitting to occupation and had apparently risen up, but
Saddam can only do such things while on the side of angels, as
we are at all times.  When we looked at his crimes retrospectively,
when he had become an Official Enemy instead of Official Friend,
the outcome was obvious from the start.


Meanwhile, the USA enjoys the dubious company of Iran, China and
Saudi Arabia plus others generally regarded as poor on human rights,
particularly by the US..   This can interfere with legal process, since
European countries cannot - under article 11 of the European
Convention on Extraditions - allow a country to have a prisoner who
may be subject to the death penalty.

As Robert Fisk put it in The Independent recently, either you are for
the death penalty, including gruesome lynchings for possibly innocent
people, or you against it  - even for the likes of Saddam Hussein.  It's
as simple as that.


Happy 2007 everyone!

    -Glenn Barder.
linkpost comment

The Treachery of Blair [Dec. 14th, 2006|09:07 pm]


There are worse things than losing an election.   Having an election stolen
counts, but losing your party to the opposition is that much worse.  When you
lose your party to a bunch of fanatics in a foreign country,  whose views are
diametrically opposed to the founding principles of your party, the problem
becomes a disaster.

During the run of normal takeovers a brutal dictator is brought in, the opposition
silenced or killed, and dissent rooted from the press.   Politicians have long been
bribed, threatened or blackmailed away from opposing the ruling elite too much.

But rarely has a popular opposition been stolen before our eyes, and the values
of the incumbent entirely accepted by the opposition before taking over.  And this
against popular sentiment.  It is unprecedented in British politics - and America
needs to be very, very careful the same does not happen there.

The origins of the Labour party

In order to fully understand the depth of Blair's betrayal, it's necessary to
understand what Labour was, prior to becoming "New" Labour.

Labour was founded in Farrington Street, London, in 1900.    It was formed to
represent the working class, and give a true political arm to the unions that
had long fought for the interests of the vast majority of the country.

James Keir Hardie, one of Labour's first MPs  James "Kier" Hardy was one of two MPs as the
 first representatives of the British working class.
 Or another way, he was the first representative of
 a party which was not given entirely over to
 providing for the gentrified classes.

In his younger days, he had organised unions in various collieries
(mines) in Lancashire, and became Britain's first ever socialist MP
in the general election of 1892.   Merthyr Tydfil, in south Wales, was
once the source of vast amounts of profit.  Coal mines and iron
smelting, fueled by the destruction of most of the Forest of Dean,
provided vast fortunes while the workers lived on subsistence wages.

It is said that more wealth was extracted from the Rhondda Valley (South
Wales, again) than was taken from India during time of the British Empire.

With wages mostly only redeemable in "truck shops" owned by the Iron
Masters and pit owners, the 10,000 population of Merthyr Tydfil had a single
tap for water between them in the mid nineteenth century.  Meanwhile, the
Iron Masters and Coal Masters lived in absolute splendor,  lives as distant
from their workers as today's Saudi Kings are to the average westerner.

The roots of the Labour party were from the unions that represented the
underclass, the working people that generated the country's wealth. 

Labour was the party representing those not born into wealth.  The idea it
might sell out to corporate interests even while an unpopular Conservative
party was about to be kicked out was unthinkable.   Yet Blair managed it.

Stealing the Opposition

Blair came to power as the prodigy of John Smith, who led the
Labour party out of the dark days into the inevitable successor
of a deeply unpopular Conservative rule.

John Smith  John Smith, even more tragically for humanity as
 history plays out,  died in 1995.  Considerably more
 popular than incumbent PM John Major, he would
 have become Prime Minister at the next election. 
 John Smith was renowned for his honesty and
 adherence to core principles.

Source:  BBC

The charismatic Blair took over, despite severe misgivings about his true
loyalties.   The popular press (The Mail, Sun, Express, Times, Telegraph
et al, all owned by heavily biased business interests) started to coddle Blair
and assurances were granted.  They stopped providing institutional support
for the Tories - their mismanagement of the economy was enough for the
ruling classes to Think The Unthinkable, and stump for their interests
despite the association of a Labour movement.

Tony Blair at work on a train October 2005. Copyright: Guardian Newspapers  "New Labour" was born, and - to the horror
 of everyone expecting a progressive government
 after 18 years of Thatcherism - the new government
 only offered more of the same.

  What nobody expected, even the earlier advisers
 to Blair, was that he became to be nothing less
 than a US Republican plant.

Source:  UK Government

Having mastered the art of political spin with his henchman Alistair Cambell,
Peter Mandelson set about promoting Blair into an unstoppable force.  This was
necessary to stop the Tories, and "Things Can Only Get Better" was their
campaign song.   Everyone believed it.  We were all wrong.

Peter MandelsonPeter Mandelson - another very dubious character - was a
founder of "New" Labour, and achieved the distinction of being
sacked twice from the Cabinet.   He advised on the "Cool
Britannia" initiative.  An open, all inclusive, happy-clappy
"Third Way" was to replace any existing dispute. 

Source: BBC

Despite this third way unfailing being for the benefit of his sponsors, Blair
somehow thinks this magic will serve him in his last few months, and that
he will actually be trusted as a honest broker in the Middle East.

Blair has a long and ignoble history of selling out to large-scale interests. 
Rich people have always beguiled him, and his holidays are invariably taken
in the comfortable surroundings of some extremely rich benefactor.

 Whether it be corrupt foreign leaders like Berlusconi
 or rich pop stars, Blair never tired of their company.

Source: Telegraph

 If toadying to the rich and famous was deemed by his apologists tolerable in
order to gain a necessary credibility with press barons,  Blair certainly has
gone the extra mile.

Blair's Achievements

Given Blair's premiership is in its last few months, it is appropriate to review
some of his more notable contributions to British society:

A diminished UK reputation worldwide
The Iraq war in particular, subservience to a fanatical US president, an
increasingly authoritarian governance at home and indifference to military
adventurism of America's friends have ruined the reputation of Britain.
Many millions of people now hate the British for what they see as an unprovoked
attack on an unarmed Muslim country, not to mention continuing a holiday with
a laissez faire attitude to the bombing of Lebanon.  The rather generously high
esteem in which the British were held is destroyed, with no gain to show for it.

Damaged credentials of the PM office
The British have always had quite some respect for the Prime Minister's
office.  Not so much as an article of faith, but a trust in the integrity of civil servants
to be competent, and not to lie on matters of grave seriousness.   This is
shattered.  The result is that nobody can believe the PM about anything, which
puts Blair in an untenable position.  If we cannot trust the Prime Ministers
judgement, his word, nor any supporting evidence he purports to came from
independent analysts, his probity or motives, then the country cannot follow his
lead - even if  he happens to be honestly warning us on some genuine pending
   Such a discredited figure is not only unfit for office, but a serious danger
to the security of the country.

Attack on working class movements
Union membership has continued its decline,  with non-union jobs, contracting
out vital services to agency staff, "New" Labour has steadily distanced its
relationships with union organisations while becoming ever closer to big
business. Unions and core Labour principles are treated as an embarrassing
relatives, best avoided or humoured at best.   The influence of Unions has long
since vanished from the horizon.   Blair feels they can only gain salvation by
being lectured to on the old fashioned foolishness of their ways, and is often
rather hurt at their lack of gratitude after having the wonders of the free market explained to them.

Destruction of Parliament as a place for debate
A record number of women became MPs (Members of Parliament) at the 1997
general election.  These were referred to, in the unabashed sexist attitude of
most of our British press, as "Blair's Babes".  They soon earned the title, rubber-
stamping every last initiative from the executive, and falling over themselves to
appear in the media heaping praise on "Tony".    Decisions are made by Blair's
sofa-style government, and the facts made around the policy.  Focus groups
and newspaper editorials have superseded Parliament in determining policy.

Creeping privitisation
Thatcher's "selling off the family silver", as Harold MacMillan put it (Tory
PM 1957-1963) gained privitisation a bad name.  Higher bills and reduced
service was the general experience, so "New" Labour had to take a different
approach to achieve the same goals.  PPP's - Public-Private Partnerships
and PFI's - Private Finance Initiatives were mechanisms for transferring money
to the private sector, ensuring public risk and private profit.   Many public
services suddenly found themselves under private management, with reduced
conditions for workers rehired (on rolling contracts) for their previous posts. 
Entire hospitals have been built under PPP's, with the State paying private
companies at least 10% of their initial costs annually, more for numerous
staff contracts, and the entire hospital is owned by the private company after
25 years.  Railway carriages are leased at a third of their purchase cost on an
annual basis for decades.  Returns are staggering for private "investors", and
examples endless.  Favourable loans are of course available for such low risk ventures.

Corruption of the honours system
There are many titles which society - to a lessor degree now - holds in
esteem.  An OBE or MBE (Order/Member of the British Empire) is
traditionally granted for a notable contribution to society.   Knighthoods
(becoming a Sir, or Lord) are supposed to be conferred to one of great
achievement, who is then entitled to sit in the Upper Chamber, the
unelected counterpart to Parliament, The House of Lords.   This has
considerable power.   Imparting these honours for political favours has
long been a low-level scandal, but Blair has yet again gone much further.
He is the only British sitting MP to be officially questioned by the police,
the evidence he sold honours for cash in political donations is undeniable. 

Eliminating free public education
The beginning of the end for the working class was the elimination of free
access to education.   The Tories started it of course, with Thatcher grinding
down grants paid to students.  Eventually grants were eliminated, but Blair
went further.  For the first time, students now pay tuition fees - despite a
clear pledge in "New" Labour's manifesto, which not only promised not to
introduce charges, but to legislate to prevent them.   This was not a
popular decision at all,  Blair pushed it through for his own reasons.


Space does not allow for a full airing of Blair's treachery, but Thatcher
herself considers Blair and "New" Labour to be her ultimate achievement.
That alone says all you need to know about Blair, and his betrayal of the
party.  The party itself has betrayed not only the working class who brought
it into existence, but Britain as a whole, in robbing us of any true choice in direction.

The natural party of business interests used to be the Tories.  A slicker, more
competent version has overtaken them, from an unimagined source.

This is not simply a matter of governing badly.   Such can be tolerated. 
Thatcher governed incompetently because of corruption, but at least in the
direction she clearly stated.  Thatcher hated unions, the working class and
loved money and corporate interests, everybody understood her motives.  
Thatcher might be a criminal, but not a traitor in the sense of Blair.

Blair has not only sold the country to corporate interests, far further than
Thatcher ever dared to dream, and introduced a level of authoritarianism
unmatched in British history, but has out-righted the right.  The Conservative
party regularly attacks the government from the left, simply because they cannot
keep pace with the rightward progression of "New Labour". 

Thank you for your time.

May everyone have the merriest Christmas, and best wishes for the new year.

- Glenn Barder

Previous articles:
One Cheer for Democracy

Off to War
Faith in the State
Health Concerns
immigration, racism and more terrorist fears

Terror, and fear of debate in a stifling atmosphere
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