Monday, February 11, 2013

Activists in England reflect and strategize against war

All this blood, and for what? In 2005, Ayad Allawi – a former CIA agent originally installed as Iraqi Prime Minister – argued that “people are doing the same as [in] Saddam’s time and worse”. Human Rights Watch warns that “the Iraq people today have a government that is slipping further into authoritarianism”, listing “draconian measures against opposition politicians, detainees, demonstrators, and journalists, effectively squeezing the space for independent civil society and political freedoms in Iraq”. Iraq is now 150th out of 179 countries in the World Press Freedom Index, worse than Russia or Zimbabwe; and the US government-funded Freedom House rates Iraq 6 for civil liberties and 6 for political rights, with 7 being the worst. No wonder Tony Dodge, an Iraq expert at the LSE, warns that “Maliki is heading towards an incredibly destructive dictatorship”.
Easy for me to berate, you might think: I didn’t live through the horror of Saddam. Listen to the Iraqi people, then. A detailed poll by Zogby at the end of 2011 revealed that just 30 per cent of Iraqis felt the invasion left them better off; 23 per cent felt things were just the same, and 42 per cent said they were worse. Among the Shia, 70 per cent felt things were worse or just as bad as under Saddam; it was 79 per cent among Sunnis. Winning hearts and minds indeed.

That's from Owen Jones' "What a tragedy that we couldn't stop the war in Iraq despite marching in our thousands" (Independent). For a number in England, the weekend continued the reflection on the Iraq War.  It was the tenth anniversary of Colin Powell's lie-filled presentation to the United Nations last week, yes, but, more importantly for England, February 15th was the 10th anniversary of the largest protest London has ever seen as two million people turned out to say no to war on Iraq.

Saturday, Owen Jones was participating in an event entitled Ten Years On at London's Friends House.  Announced speakers included Tariq Ali, Phyllis Bennis, Tony Benn, MP Jeremy Corbyn, Lindsey German,  Jemima Khan, Sami Ramadani, Salma Yaqoob, Victoria Brittain, Chris Cole, Manuel Hassassian, the General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Kate Hudson, Seumas Milne, Robert Montgomery, Mitra Qayoom, Rafeef Ziadha and Derrick O'Keefe.

It wasn't nostalgia, Paddy McGuffin (Morning Star) explains, but a period of reflection and discussion to determine the future course:

But Labour MP and Stop the War Coalition (StWC) chairman Jeremy Corbyn set the tone, saying this was not a memorial event but "a way to mobilise forces" to ensure that Britain becomes a force for moral good and peace not war and violence.
He said that while the 2003 mass demonstrations had obviously not stopped the war all those who participated had been changed by it.
Commenting on the continuing slaughter in Afghanistan he said it was "the First World waging war on the people of one of the poorest nations on earth."
Author and activist Tariq Ali said that unfortunately StWC had been vindicated over all its warnings regarding the 2003 invasion and its repercussions.

Real News Network offers a video report with transcript.  Excerpt:

Tariq Ali, Writer / Filmmaker:  It pains me when good people, especially in the United States, who were hostile to wars when Bush was waging them, become passive when Obama wages them.

Hassan Ghani:  Today, in a more complex world, and with a so called war on terror that has spread to many more fronts, Britain’s anti-war movement is taking stock.

Tariq Ali, Writer / Filmmaker:  Effectively what we noticed in the United States today is imperial continuity. More drone attacks on Pakistan and Afghanistan and Yemen and Somalia under Obama than there were under Bush. The President of the United States has now the power, legal power, to order the execution of any American citizen, leave alone citizens from the rest of the world. That is the world we live in.

Hassan Ghani:   So despite boasting the support of millions, has the anti-war movement essentially failed in its objectives of stopping war, or even affecting change in foreign policy.

Jeremy Corbyn:  I think we did mobilize a lot of people who became very well educated as a result of it. I think we did probably do a lot to stop any direct attack taking place on Iran at that time, or indeed since that time. Of course we didn’t succeed in stopping the wars, but that’s not a reason to go away, it’s every reason to redouble our efforts and say to people 'there is a different alternative way of doing things'. We don’t have to arm ourselves to the teeth, we don’t have to have global military reach, we don’t have to steal other people’s raw materials and resources, we don’t have to run round the world on behalf of corporate entities. We can instead be a force for moral good in the world by respecting international law and seeking to relate to people rather than the way we’ve increasingly got involved in wars largely on behalf of the United States.I can’t promise success, but I can say: doing nothing is not an option.”

Last week, Huffington Post UK kicked things off by hosting a debate at Goldsmith College.  Tom Moseley (Huffington Post) reports on it here.

Bonnie reminds that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Flatter Than A Ken Doll" went up last night. On this week's Law and Disorder Radio,  an hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) who speak with the ACLU's Michelle Richardson about the extension of warrantless wiretapping for another five years without oversight and Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel's Omar Barghouti discusses the Boycott Divestment Sanction movement.

As noted above, Jemima Khan participated in the events over the weekend.  This is from "Jemima Khan on Julian Assange: how the Wikileaks found alienated his allies" (The New Statesman):

The timing of the rape allegations and the issuing of the Interpol arrest warrant for Assange in November 2010 initially seemed suspicious to many, including me. They came just two days after the release of the first batch of embarrassing state department cables. Conspiracy theories about the timing were given credibility by Mark Stephens, who attributed the allegations to “dark forces”, saying: “The honey-trap has been sprung.” In an interview with ABC News, Assange said that Swedish prosecutors were withholding evidence which suggested that he had been “set up”. There were claims by his legal team that Interpol red notices of the type issued in his case were reserved for “terrorists and dictators”. In fact, red notices have been issued for drink-driving and making voyeur videos of college students. The two women at the centre of the rape allegations against Assange were subsequently named and defamed on the internet, threatened with rape and pictured with bullseyes on their faces.
It may well be that the serious allegations of sexual assault and rape are not substantiated in court, but I have come to the conclusion that these are all matters for Swedish due process and that Assange is undermining both himself and his own transparency agenda – as well as doing the US department of justice a favour – by making his refusal to answer questions in Sweden into a human rights issue. There have been three rounds 
in the UK courts and the UK courts have upheld the European Arrest Warrant in his name three times. The women in question have human rights, too, and need resolution. Assange’s noble cause and his wish to avoid a US court does not trump their right to be heard in a Swedish court.
I don’t regret putting up bail money for Assange but I did it so that he would be released while awaiting trial, not so that he could avoid answering to the allegations.

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