Sunday, June 20, 2010

And the war drags on . . .

The head of the United Nations' refugee agency has urged the international community to stop forceable returns of Iraqis to Baghdad, warning that the crisis facing Iraq and its people is far from over.
In hard-edged remarks made yesterday, Antonio Guterres, the UNHCR's high commissioner, said conditions in Iraq could not yet sustain a return of refugees. Citing a lack of security, failures to achieve political reconciliation and a shortage of basic services, he said a "lot of work" needed to be done before exiles could be expected to go home.

The above is from Phil Sands' "UN: stop forcing Iraqis home" (UAE's National Newspaper). Today is World Refugee Day and it's 'celebrated' in England, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands by forcing Iraqi refugees back to Iraq. Consider the four countries to be ABC, NBC, CBS and NPR. They're done with Iraq and just don't want to be bothered anymore. Shoo! Go home! Your presence is a reminder of the illegal war participated in and sold. Your presence is a reminded of War Crimes and guilt. Vanish and banish the refugees and no one has to acknowledge the crimes. IRIN notes, "Refugee officials and rights groups have urged a number of European countries not to forcibly repatriate Iraqi asylum seekers, particularly members of minority communities, because of prevailing insecurity in the country." At Anderson Cooper 360 (CNN), Charity Tooze highlights World Refugee Day and explains:

In 2009, I interviewed roughly 50 Iraqi refugee families living in Syria and Jordan. One families' story of being declined for resettlement stands out. A mother and her four daughters fled to Jordan after her 17-year old son was murdered in front of the family. She said the militia group murdered him because she was a member of the Baath party. When she registered as a refugee in Jordan and applied for resettlement to the U.S. she said she was turned away for belonging to the party. "But many people belong to the party, you need to in order to go to school or get a job," she said. This woman's oldest daughters have now dropped out of school. She said recently they were working at a handbag factory and the owner stopped paying them. They had no legal way of reporting the problem because Iraqis are not legally allowed to work in Jordan. Another alarming trend post-9/11 is the increase in detention of asylum seekers in the name of promoting security.

It's amazing and true that liars and criminals always give themselves away. Give them enough time and they will do so. For example, governments started an illegal war with claims of spreading democracy and making things better for the Iraqis living under Saddam Hussein. And yet today they take in very few Iraqi refugees and countries are beginning to forcibly deport the refugees. So much for a war based on 'humanitarian reasons.'

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4405. Tonight? 4407. At the start of this month, the Institute for Public Accuracy offered a dollar amount for the financial costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars: $1 trillion dollars. BBC notes that the costs for the UK government in fighting the two wars has surpassed the 20 billion pound mark -- which would be approximately 29.7 billion US dollars. They go on to note, "Critics questioned why the UK was spending so much on conflict when public finances were in a dire state." The US has spent much, much more than that but ask yourself when you ever heard the anchor of the ABC, CBS or NBC news note that anyone might wonder why, when the US' economy is "in a dire state," the government was spending so much money on war?

Yesterday, Turkish war planes again bombed northern Iraq and among their dead is a teenage Kurdish girl, said to be "the first reported civilian death," according to Selcan Hacoglu (AP) who notes her three-year-old brother was injured in the assualt as was the children's mother. Sify puts the girl's age at 11. AFP states the girl was 15 and reports, "By Sunday morning, the [Turksih ground] troops had advanced 10km into Iraqi territory in the Qandil mountains where the rebels maintain a network of rear bases in their 26-year-old armed campaign for self-rule in south-eastern Turkey, the Iraqi Kurdish security official said." Turkey lost 11 soldiers on Saturday and apparently killing a young girl makes up for that in someone's f**ked up sense of 'rationality.' This is the second time Turkey has sent ground troops into Iraq in the last eight days. Hoshyar Zebar, Iraq's Foreign Minister states, "No country should resort to unilateral action."

As noted before, the mass bombings in Iraq are not over. Today demonstrated that yet again. Liz Sly and Usama Redha (Los Angeles Times) report a Baghdad "double suicide bombing" outside -- guess where. What was last Sunday's target? A bank. Right. THis was outside a government bank. They count 27 dead and fifty-seven injured. Khalid D. Ali and Timothy Williams (New York Times) add, "The twin blasts near Nisour Square, which was crowded with people at the start of the workweek here, were powerful enough to toss several cars onto nearby rooftops, witnesses said, and turned the area into a scene reminiscent of the worst days of the war, with white sheets covering the dead, body parts littering the ground and people with shrapnel wounds wandering dazed, asking for water." Al Jazeera notes:

Al Jazeera's Omar al-Saleh, reporting from Baghdad, said the location of the attack would be viewed as another sign that the Iraqi army and police are struggling to provide basic security.
"If you walk 150 metres, you will have an Iraqi army checkpoint there," he said. "So it's kind of a blow to the security forces."

Kim Gamel (AP) reports
, "Hours later, a man wearing an explosives vest blew himself up as police and onlookers responded to a roadside bomb apparently set as a trap in the northern city of Tikrit. At least five people were killed and 12 wounded in the late night attack, according to police and hospital officials." Michael Jansen (Irish Times) adds, " On Saturday one man was shot dead by police at a demonstration protesting the lack of electricity, clean water and services in the southern city of Basra, where most of Iraq's oil is exported. During the funeral of the victim, Haidar Salman, a 26-year-old father of three, protesters demanded the resignation of prime minister Nuri al-Maliki and his caretaker administration." And she notes World Refugee Day and how this violence is the backdrop against which the forcible deportations are taking place against. Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul roadside bombing wounded Lt Col Nathim Hussein and three other police officers. Reuters notes 1 corpses was discovered in Kirkuk (inside a car), an Iraqi soldier, and that, yesterday, the corpses of 6 Iraqi women and 2 Iraqi men were discovered "in a suspected brothel in eastern Baghdad".

Meanwhile Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reports Ayad Allawi, whose political slate Iraqiya won 91 seats in the Parliament, is stating that persons in the current Iraqi government are devising a plan to assassinate him:

Allawi first spoke publically of the alleged assassination plot at a public gathering Saturday after the pan-Arab newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat published a report about the threat, citing unnamed security sources. He said a sniper planned to shoot him on the road to the Baghdad airport or inside the compound.
Allawi said Sunday that he was warned that the plot would be preceded by a government order barring all politicians from flying into and out of the Muthanna airfield, a restricted military base in Baghdad from which Allawi had traveled exclusively since 2004. The order came down last week.

Parker also notes that the US military put in writing (last April -- and Parker saw it and the military confirmed it) that they had heard reports that there would be an attempt on Allawi's life.

And this is what refugees are being forced back to. This is 'safe' and 'free' and 'democratic' Iraq and 'progress' because once upon a time Iraqis only had to appease one despot and now thousands have sprouted up.

We'll note this tomorrow. New content at Third:

Isaiah gets the night off. Or off from here (he has three comics in today's El Spirito). That's because Kat did an album review this morning -- Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' Mojo -- and she has another that goes up after this so Isaiah gets a rare (and needed) day off. Pru notes "The left and the Labour Party leadership" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

After the failure of John McDonnell’s campaign to get on the ballot paper for leader, Socialist Worker looks at why the Labour left is so weak

It is a disgrace that left wing MP John McDonnell was kept off the ballot paper for the election of Labour Party leader.

The situation was encapsulated at the GMB union congress last week. This was the one hustings that had McDonnnell on the platform and he received rapturous support from union delegates.

Arguing for left policies put him head and shoulders above the others in the debate. He clearly had the backing of most delegates—but not one GMB- sponsored MP nominated him.

McDonnell, who Socialist Worker fully supported for Labour leader, was not kept out of the election because his views are unpopular among ordinary Labour members and trade unionists.

He was kept off because his ideas are too popular, something that worried Labour’s right wing establishment.

The state of the left in the Labour Party is such that even Diane Abbott, who has a weaker record as a left campaigner than McDonnell, could only get on the ballot paper after carefully constructed manoeuvres at the top of the party. They wanted to give the illusion of debate and diversity.

Over the years Tony Blair and Gordon Brown stacked the odds against the left in Labour’s internal structures.

For instance, it used to be the case that the left would fight hard to get policies and motions through the Labour conference, which the leadership would then ignore.

The situation now is that there aren’t any policy motions allowed at the Labour Party conference at all.


There is a more basic problem—the Labour left is incredibly weak.

The Campaign Group of left wing MPs now has less than a dozen members. Only 16 Labour MPs out of 258 backed John McDonnell as leader.

Some 250,000 people have left the Labour Party since 1997 because of New Labour’s attacks and betrayals.

Often after the defeat of a Labour government there is a move to the left by significant sections of the party.

The high point for this was after the Labour government of the late 1970s presided over the biggest fall in workers’ living standards for a century.

This betrayal, and the return of the Tories under Margaret Thatcher, led to a huge debate inside Labour.

In 1981 left winger Tony Benn stood for the deputy leadership.

Sections of the union leaderships were prepared to back the left to pay back the party leaders for their attacks on workers between 1974-9.

Benn lost by a tiny number of votes: he received 49.57 percent of the vote, against 50.43 percent for right winger Denis Healey.

But this marked the end of the left’s rise. In 1982 a gathering of senior trade union leaders and Labour Party figures agreed what became known as “the peace of Bishop’s Stortford”.

The agreement attacked the left as “divisive”.

Within months, the party’s executive was preparing for what became a major witch-hunt against the left. The “soft left” enthusiastically backed the purges.

With the left on the run, the terrible defeat in the 1983 general election saw party leaders begin a long process of swinging the party rightwards towards “Thatcherism with a human face”.

Any policy that carried a whiff of socialism was ditched.

The left of Labour upsurge in the early 1980s was in contrast to the defeats that the workers’ movement was suffering.

The battles inside the Labour Party became an alternative to the class struggle outside for many.

The Labour left, like the right inside Labour, accept the idea that getting Labour elected to government is the key to changing society.

With the defeats of the 1980s the left increasingly lost confidence that socialist ideas were popular. They accepted the argument that Labour had to move to the right to get elected.

A second factor further eroded the left’s confidence.

Most of the left inside Labour looked to the state as the vehicle to introduce socialism—once a Labour government with a socialist programme was at the helm, of course.

But the return of economic crisis to advanced capitalism in the 1970s saw the failure of Keynesian-style state intervention and a shift towards more free market, neoliberal economics.

Even more devastatingly, many of the Labour left had illusions that the state capitalist regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were somehow socialist.

The collapse of Stalinism after 1989 further undermined the left’s belief that they could offer a coherent alternative to the right.

Many of those who set out to transform the Labour Party into a

genuine socialist party ended up either dropping out in demoralisation or being changed themselves, abandoning left wing ideas.

Tony Blair’s New Labour cabinet was full of people who were once firmly on the left of the party.

The root of the problem is the contradictions of a party that is supposed to represent workers within a system that is hostile to their interests.

The reality is that the politics of working within the system don’t just wear down principles—they transform them altogether.

Even when Labour has shifted left the key struggle has always been outside the structures of the Labour Party.

Key battles

In the 1930s, Labour swung left after former Labour leader Ramsay MacDonald joined the Tories in a coalition government that cut unemployment benefit.

But the fight against fascism and unemployment took place in the streets and workplace, with the much smaller Communist Party playing a key role.

In the 1980s steel workers, printers, hospital workers and above all the miners in their year long strike of 1984-5 fought the key battles.

There is a big group of Labour Party supporters that is clearly far to the left of the leadership, and many will stay inside the party.

But the agenda within Labour is far too limited to meet the urgent tasks of building a real alternative capable of fighting the Tories.

Socialists should work with all those who want to resist whether they are inside or outside the Labour Party.

We should back those who still want to move the party to the left.

But the key arena for resistance is outside Labour.

And the decisive struggle is not the doomed attempt to claim or reclaim Labour but to build a genuine revolutionary socialist alternative.

The following should be read alongside this article:
» John McDonnell: 'Labour is disconnected'

© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.

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