Republicans, democrats and the British Constitution By Michael Faulkner

Dandelion Salad

By Michael Faulkner
February 08, 2009

Its masthead proclaims that TPJ Magazine is dedicated to the promotion and preservation of constitutional democracy. Not surprisingly given its provenance, most TPJ columnists concern themselves primarily with the defence of constitutional democracy in the United States where, during recent years, the Bush/Cheney inspired accretion of executive power has been most egregious. In Britain it is widely assumed that the prevalent parliamentary system of government, despite occasional irregularities and abuses, works pretty well and does not need to be changed radically.

This is a view I have never accepted. Recent exposure of some rather shabby practices by four obscure Labour members of the House of Lords (the second chamber of the British parliament) has prompted me to reflect on some of the constitutional questions involved. The shabby practices concerned are merely the latest episode in the seemingly unending series of exposures of venality in government. The facts of the case – as far as they are known – may be stated simply. The Labour peers (Lords Taylor, Truscott, Moonie and Scape) were entrapped by reporters from the Sunday Times, posing as lobbyists for a fictitious Hong Kong based businessman. They discussed the possibility of using their legislative powers to amend actual legislation – a business rate supplement bill – in order to favour a projected business enterprise.  Payments for such services, ranging from £24.000 to £120.000 were mentioned by the peers. Of course, no payment was actually made but it seems clear from what transpired that such corrupt practices are common in the House of Lords. They are, however explicitly prohibited by the chamber’s code of conduct, according to which peers ‘must never accept any financial inducement as an incentive.’ However, those who choose to feather their nests in this way cannot be stripped of their peerages. As Lord Moonie commented, there is ‘nothing they can do with you unless you break the law.’

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The Corfu Set: Honour among Billionaires, Banksters, Oligarchs – and the New Labour and new Tory new rich

Dandelion Salad

by Michael Faulkner
November 02, 2008

In the midst of a global financial crisis the likes of which we have never seen before, a story concerning the proposal to donate £50.000 to a British political party seems of too little  importance or interest to warrant any comment. With banks collapsing or taken into public ownership, and £billions of taxpayers money thrown into an emergency relief operation to shore up the financial system, £50.000 seems no more than a penny or dime thrown to a beggar or dropped in the street. Nevertheless, the story has dominated the headlines during the past few days and it has exposed something of the close connections and secretive social networking of those who wield power and influence in U.K. party politics and international high finance.

The controversy about the proposed donation is only part of a bigger story involving the close association between leading U.K. politicians of both main parties, a Russian tycoon and a Rothschild heir. The revelations about their association have the potential to seriously damage the Tory party, one of whose leaders is at the centre of the donations controversy. But they also involve a leading New Labour politician, only recently restored to high office in Britain. The events concerned took place a few months ago on the Greek island of Corfu. These are the dramatis personae:

George Osborne. Leading Tory politician, he is the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer – the office to which he will be appointed if the Tories win the next election. Like the leader of his party and close friend, David Cameron, he is a graduate of Oxford University, where, as a student he belonged to the notorious, right wing Bullingdon Club, membership of which is generally restricted to students from aristocratic backgrounds and the super rich. David Cameron was also a club member. Osborne’s father is Sir Peter Osborne, 17th Baronet.

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Global Panic: Forward to the Past, 2008 – 1929 by Michael Faulkner

Dandelion Salad

by Michael Faulkner
October 19, 2008

Working my way through the acreage of coverage of the banking crisis last week, I came across this gem in The Guardian of October 4th.

Boston Saturday

Senator ……………of Virginia has addressed a letter to …….the governor of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, advocating legislation “making it mandatory on the administrators of banking laws to prevent, by penalisation, such disasters in stock-gambling operations as recently have disgraced our country.”

The dateline for this was November 11th 1929. The item was included in a facsimile double-spread of the paper’s coverage of the crash of that year. The senator was Carter Glass, founder of the U.S. Federal Reserve system and co-sponsor with Henry Bascombe Steagall, of the legislation that led in 1933 to the Glass-Steagall Act enforcing the separation of investment and commercial banking activities.

As my familiarity with this legislation was limited to the knowledge that the Act had been abrogated by Clinton in 1999, I needed more information. I turned to Investopedia where a certain Reem Heakal dispenses sound advice to investors. His brief entry on the Glass-Steagall Act leaves no doubt about his attitude to its repeal:

“To the delight of many in the banking industry…in November 1999 Congress repealed the Glass-Steagall Act with the establishment of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which eliminated the GSA restriction against affiliation between commercial and investment banks. Furthermore, the GLB Act allows banking institutions to provide a broader range of services, including underwriting and other dealing activities.”

This was apparently written recently – but probably not within the last week or so. How about the following, from the same source, for an informed assessment of social responsibility in the financial markets:

“Furthermore, big banks of the post-Enron market are likely to be more transparent, lessening the possibility of assuming too much risk, or making unsound investment decisions. As such, reputation has come to mean everything in today’s market, and that could be enough to motivate banks to regulate themselves.”

It is difficult to read this sort of thing now without bursting into fits of laughter – or, more likely, outbursts of anger. But it should not be forgotten that only weeks ago this was the received wisdom about the way the banking system operated.

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On the U.S. Financial Crisis by Michael Faulkner

Dandelion Salad

by Michael Faulkner
October 05, 2008

Like the great majority of my fellow human beings, I am not, nor have I ever been an investment banker, a mortgage broker or a hedge fund manager. And, I suspect like them also, I find the arcane world to which the masters of the financial universe belong, bewildering in the extreme. In attempting to understand what has happened during recent months, we come up against an unfamiliar jargon. For example, with deregulation the market took over from banks which had acted as intermediaries between savers and borrowers, in a process known as disintermediation. When investment banks took on excessive amounts of debt far beyond their capital base, they were said to become highly leveraged. When banks issue loans and then sell these assets into secondary loan markets, this process is known as securitization. The obfuscating jargon served to persuade the uninformed that the system worked rationally and in everyone’s best interests. If one protested that it was driven by greed, then we were told that private greed translated into public good. But now this myth is no longer widely believed. J K Galbraith once remarked that “as the speculative waters subside, all manner of crimes are revealed to an astonished public view.”

Criminal enquiries have been launched in the U.S. but do not expect many prosecutions. Such enquiries will leave completely untouched such noble champions of the public good as Alan Fishman, chief executive of Washington Mutual. WaMu, which has just been bought by JP Morgan for $1.9bn, had a stockpile of dubious mortgages which led to the bank’s seizure by the authorities. When Fishman joined WaMu three weeks ago he got a signing on bonus of $7.5m. Just three weeks later he is likely to receive a severance payment of $11.6m. Not bad for a three week stint.

The accelerating pace at which the sub-prime mortgage crisis developed into the credit crunch and progressed from a few bank failures into a full-scale financial melt-down, has been a roller-coaster so breathtaking as to make Harold Wilson’s famous much quoted dictum that “a week is a long time in politics” seem like an understatement.

On both sides of the Atlantic the politicians have been forced to confront a crisis that just a few weeks ago would have been unimaginable to them. Indeed, less than a week ago, John McCain was still saying that the U.S. economy was “fundamentally sound”. Gordon Brown has spent the best part of his eleven years in office, first as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and more recently as prime minister, telling us that the British economy was strong and stable and that under his stewardship the country would never return to “boom and bust.” He now claims that his government bears no responsibility for the crisis engulfing the financial system. He “feels the pain”, he says, of those who are unable to meet the astronomic rise in the cost of fuel and those who cannot meet their mortgage repayments and face the prospect of re-possession of their homes. He is deeply concerned about rising food prices and rising inflation. But, despite widespread popular revulsion at the unprecedented profits made by the privatised energy companies who have made a killing from the huge rise in oil prices, he has refused popular demands to impose a windfall tax on them. At the time of writing (28.09.08) he is in Washington to assure George Bush that “whatever the details” in U.S. treasury secretary Paulson’s planned $700bn bail-out of the financial markets, he will support it.

As champions of the neo-liberal “free market”, the U.S. and British governments have promoted de-regulation in all spheres of economic life, including the financial system. Both governments have refused to acknowledge that Chicago school unconstrained free-market capitalism has played any part in creating the present crisis. In the haggling that has been going on between congressional leaders, perhaps most amusing is the split in Republican ranks between those, including Bush (who, with his customary elegance told the group that unless the deal is accepted “this sucker could go down”), and those like John Boehmer, who appear to regard any intervention by the federal government as tantamount to socialism or communism. Such, during the past 35 years, has been the ideological backlash against Keyensian interventionism in the operation of the free market, that even when faced with the imminent breakdown of the whole financial system and the long-term consequences that would follow from this, governments have been most reluctant to intervene. Only when major mortgage and investment banks such as Northern Rock in Britain and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and AIG in the U.S. faced imminent collapse was the last resort of nationalization contemplated, and then every effort was made to avoid using the term because of its socialistic connotations.

No-one appears to have any idea of the scale of the operation that may be necessary to prevent the present crisis sliding into a full-blown slump. In the U.S. no-one seems to know exactly how much “bad debt” the banks have accumulated through years of more or less unregulated operations, so one can only guess at the final figure that may be needed to bail them out. It could be anything from $700bn to $1 trillion. This would have to be added to the federal government’s existing debt of $5.4 trillion. Working people in the U.S. and in Britain have reason to be concerned about the impact on their lives of the cost of salvaging a financial system that is responsible for creating the crisis. Public spending to bail out the banks will appear to most people like theft of their money to pay for the greed of those who have become billionaires at their expense. The argument that this is necessary in order to prevent an apocalyptic collapse of the financial system and a return to the mass unemployment and impoverishment of the 1930s will be treated with the contempt and cynicism it deserves. Expect drastic cut-backs in welfare spending, public health care and environmental programmes. Expect very hard times. And also, those responsible for creating this crisis should not be surprised if the harsh times that surely lie ahead bring widespread anger and resistance by those who will be expected to pay the price for the salvage operation.

Likely Political Consequences in the U.S. and Britain

In the United States it seems that there is widespread and growing public anger that those hardest hit by this crisis will be the ones who will be made to pay for it. Whoever becomes president in November will face some very hard choices. There are signs that support for Obama is increasing, though things could easily go the other way. Those who have been mobilised in the Democratic campaign, particularly the younger generation and large numbers of African Americans who have been inspired by Obama, expect change. They have pinned all their hopes on him as the antithesis of everything that the Bush administration represents. Should he be elected he will need to fulfil the promises he has made and meet the expectations his rhetoric has inspired. He will be operating in the most difficult of circumstances and the demands on him will be great. It is no exaggeration to say that there are clear similarities with the Crash of 1929. In 1929 Republican president Hoover, another champion of the unrestrained free market, had only been elected one year earlier at the height of the boom. It took another three years before F.D. Roosevelt came on the scene, and, under considerable pressure from a militant labour movement, brought in the New Deal. Obama, should he be elected, will need all the skills and determination of FDR and more. He will need to take immediate action to end the disastrous wars into which Bush took the U.S. If Europeans had a vote in the presidential election, Obama would win by a landslide. It is not only Americans whose expectations of Obama are high.

In Britain the crisis has not yet struck home with the intensity it has in the U.S. But it will. Only this morning (29.09.08) it was announced that the government is to nationalise the stricken mortgage bank, Bradford and Bingley, to save it from a panic run to withdraw savings. This follows the earlier nationalization of Northern Rock and, just few weeks ago the, the forced buy-out of HBOS by Lloyd’s TSB., creating a mega Bank.

Since15.September $550bn have been injected into the money markets. The housing market is in free fall and unemployment is rising. In terms of solutions to the problems faced by the hard-hit people of Britain, the mainstream political parties have nothing worthwhile to say. They are as bankrupt as the financial system. It is likely that there will be an autumn and winter of bitter discontent and I hope and expect it will take the form of increased militancy and resistance by those hardest hit by the crisis.


European, Asian Markets Plunge as Recession Fears Spread Worldwide

The Iraq war hits Wall Street + The financial crisis at the local level

The Fed Now Owns The World’s Largest Insurance Company – But Who Owns The Fed? by Dr. Ellen Brown

“To the Bunkers!”: Central banks slash rates in emergency “midnight” meeting By Mike Whitney

Economic Globlization and Speculation Coming Home to Roost By Rowan Wolf

Reality Report: Chris Martenson on the current financial crisis

The Economy Sucks and or Collapse

Marching Through Georgia? (Part 1) by Michael Faulkner

Dandelion Salad

by Michael Faulkner
Aug 25, 2008

Following the media coverage of the bloodletting in the Caucasus, I found myself recalling the words of the old triumphalist Union marching song of 1865:

“We’ll raise the Union banner from Atlanta to the sea
When Sherman goes marching through Georgia.”

The Union had been saved; the secessionist states had been defeated. The USA would never again allow itself to be torn apart.

Was not the right to secede also an issue in this other Georgian question? I suppose that, to some of those with a smattering of history, it might appear that George W. Bush was simply being true to the principles of Lincoln’s GOP in his support for Georgia’s “territorial integrity” when he solemnly warned the Russians that it was “unacceptable in the 21st century to invade the territory of a sovereign state.”  What is truly astonishing is that such a statement from the man who led the invasion of Iraq was not met with universal howls of laughter. Before attempting to disentangle fact from fiction, lies from truth, in the Caucasian imbroglio, it may be instructive to turn to another recent example of a federal state torn apart by secessionist forces: Yugoslavia.

Whatever may have been its shortcomings, the Yugoslavia of Tito managed successfully, for more than forty years, to maintain peace in the Balkans between the different ethnic and linguistic groups that comprised its six federative republics. The break-up of Yugoslavia was not inevitable. The federation was dismantled as part of the U.S./ E.U. plan to ensure that the post-communist states of Eastern Europe were weakened and drawn into the orbit of the “free market”  that they were determined to expand eastwards as quickly as possible. The newly re-united Germany initiated the dismantling of Yugoslavia, by encouraging the breakaway of Croatia. The Yugoslav system held together states that were very uneven in their economic development. With the disintegration, after Tito’s death in 1980, of the ideological cement that held the whole together, and faced with mounting economic crisis, the dominant political forces in the smaller republics and autonomous provinces resorted to national chauvinism to further their own ends, demanding secession from the federation. In this they had the support of the U.S., the E.U. and NATO. Serbia, the largest and most powerful of the republics, was determined to resist the secessionist onslaught and certainly acted with brutal determination to prevent the dismantling of Yugoslavia.  But nationalism and xenophobia were not the monopoly of the Serbs.

The version of events sold to Western Europeans during the 1990s as Yugoslavia was broken apart, cast Serbia as the sole villain. The only accounts of ethnic cleansing seriously reported in the Western media were those purportedly perpetrated by Serbs against Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Kosovo Albanians. There is no doubt that atrocities were committed by Serb forces in their determination to hold together the Yugoslav Federation. The tough, but fair system presided over by Tito, which played down national rivalries and ethnic and religious differences, was blown away. The E.U. and the U.S. were directly implicated in this. The problem, however, is that once you release the genie of ethnic and national separatism, it is impossible to control it. The newly formed Croatian state, presided over by the extreme nationalist, Franjo Tudjman, adopted the same flag as that used by the Ustasa fascist regime installed in an “independent Croatia” by the Nazis following the German invasion of 1941. The Serbs had very good reason to remember the atrocities committed by the Croatian Ustasa during the Second World War as they were the most numerous of its countless victims.

The Western powers encouraged the secession of the republics of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Serbian province of Kosovo. But they refused to accept the right of self-determination or secession for Serb minorities in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the case of Kosovo, the Western powers encouraged a motley crew of bandits and ultra-nationalist Albanians, armed and trained by private military corporations, calling itself the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) which, in the words of British Defence Secretary, George Robertson in 1999, “were responsible for more deaths in Kosovo than the Yugoslav authorities had been.” The Bosnian Muslim forces were aided and abetted by an influx of 4000 Mujahedin, armed and supported by the U.S. The two most egregious examples of ethnic cleansing to occur during the break-up of Yugoslavia were the expulsion in 1995 of 250,000 ethnic Serbs from the Croatian-Serb province of Krajina, and, in 1999, the expulsion from Kosovo of 200,000 Serbs and Roma, driven out of by the KLA. But these have been conveniently ignored in the slanted accounts designed to demonise only the Serbs.

The U.S.-led NATO attack on Serbia (March – June 1999) was launched supposedly to save the Kosovo Albanians from genocide at the hands of the Serbs. After the bombing war it was claimed that the Serbs had killed hundreds of thousands of male Albanians – the highest figure mentioned was 500,000. But, following one of the most thorough forensic investigations ever undertaken, the final body count amounted to about 4,000. This piece of evidence is also  inconvenient for the NATO powers as it undermines their case for launching the war against Serbia. Therefore, it is ignored.

From Kosovo to the Caucasus

Since August 7th we have been treated to another example of the same kind of distorted reporting that presented the break-up of Yugoslavia as a struggle between good and evil.

This time the Russians (once again) are the villains, and, in place of the persecuted Kosovo Albanians, we have “plucky little Georgia.”  Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili, proclaiming his country the victim of an unprovoked invasion by Russia, has dominated the international media while hosting a stream of Western political visitors falling over themselves to assure him of their staunch support in his country’s hour of need. Dire warnings have been issued to the Russians. The violation of Georgia’s territorial integrity will not be tolerated! U.S. Vice President Cheney has told Medvedev and Putin that this act of aggression against an innocent neighbour will not go unanswered. Exactly how it will be answered is not clear. Let’s consider what actually happened.

On August 7th Saakashvili launced an all-out attack on South Ossetia. South Ossetia and Abkhasia, nominally part of Georgia, had been autonomous regions of the Geogian republic during the Soviet era. Both have large non-Georgian majorities, large numbers of whom hold Russian passports. Both regions are strongly pro-Russian. In 1992, a now independent Georgia, backed by the Western powers, attempted to reassert control over them by military force. The attempt failed, but the consequences were disastrous. South Ossetia and Abkhasia suffered terrible depredations at the hands of Georgian troops. Thousands of Georgian refugees fled the regions into Georgia proper. Saakashvili has been determined to reclaim the breakaway regions, hence his assault on South Ossetia. According to very reliable reports which have received far too little attention in the Western media, the August 7th attack unleashed terrible atrocities on the inhabitants of South Ossetia, leading to a mass flight across the border to North Ossetia, part of the Russian Federation. The Russian response should not have come as a surprise. Indeed it would have been surprising if the Russians had done nothing. As it is they quickly disposed of the Georgian forces in a massive counter-blow that did not stop at the South Ossetian border. Only now, two weeks later, are the Russian forces withdrawing. The question that has rarely been addressed is why did Saakashvili imagine he could succeed in a military operation of this kind?

Saakashvili is a U.S. puppet. An ardent admirer of George W. Bush, he seems to imagine that he can run his country as a member state of the USA in the Caucasus, with a fully privatised economy, armed to the teeth by the US and Israel and an aspirant to membership of NATO. He seems to think that he can do all this – and use military force against his separatist subjects – without bothering to heed the likely Russian response. And he has been encouraged in his delusions by the U.S. government. He has come badly unstuck.

The response of the U.S., the U.K., most E.U. countries and NATO has been one of the most breathtaking hypocrisy. Hardly a word about the unprovoked Georgian attack on South Ossetia; unqualified support for Saakashvili; warning of dire consequences to Russia. Let’s compare it with Kosovo.

In February of this year, Kosovo, a province of Serbia, declared its independence. It received full backing from the U.S. the E.U. and NATO. The Russians had for long warned the Western powers against recognising an independent Kosovo – to no avail. However mixed may have been Russia’s motives for intervening in Georgia, the Western powers do not have a leg to stand on over South Ossetia. Why should the territorial integrity of Serbia count for less than the territorial integrity of Georgia? Why should Croatians, Bosnian Muslims and Kossovo Albanians have the right to self-determination, but not Serb minorities in Croatia or South Ossetians and Abkhasians in Georgia?  It would be interesting to hear G.W. Bush’s, Dick Cheney’s and David Miliband’s answer to this. But no-one ever asks them.

What of the Russians? Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the reach of the former great power was drastically reduced. In particular, the Baltic States, the Ukraine, the former Caucasian republics became independent. In most of these territories there remain very sizeable ethnic Russian populations – the basis of possibly explosive confrontations in future. The Yeltsin years were an almost unmitigated disaster for Russia. The assets of the Soviet state were pillaged by a gang of kleptocrats, in the greatest robbery of a country’s assets known to history. All this was done under the auspices of representatives of the Chicago school of Friedmanite economists, determined to extend the “freedom” of market capitalism wherever disastrous political and social collapse gave them an opening. It was assumed that the collapse of the Soviet system heralded the “end of history.” The “Free World” as understood by Milton Friedman, had triumphed. Russia could be humiliated.

It appeared at first that there would be no future role for NATO. After all, NATO had existed since 1949 supposedly to counter the “Soviet threat” to the “Free World”. As the world was now completely free (with the exceptions of one or two minor irritants like Cuba) and the Soviet Alliance, the Warsaw Pact, had ceased to exist, what possible raison d’etre could there be for NATO?  But no, too much had been invested in it to allow it to disappear. New threats had to be found to justify the alliance’s continued existence and expansion. The U.S. – always the driving force in NATO – found its raison d’etre in the war against Serbia. Now, since under the leadership of Putin, Russia has emerged as an oil and gas rich power to be reckoned with, NATO has to be extended as far eastwards as possible, embracing all those states who have chosen to identify themselves with the U.S. It is hardly surprising that the Russians feel themselves to be threatened by encirclement. The claim by the Bush administration that the anti-ballistic missile shield to be placed in Eastern Europe, is directed against Iran has not fooled the Russians for a moment.

I shall return to this theme in my next column, but I want to make two final points, one factual, the other imaginative.

My source for the first is Misha Glenny who revealed the story in an article in the New Statesman on August 18th. Apparently Saakashvili was convinced by neo-conservatives in Washington and representatives of a private weapons manufacturing company in Israel called Defensive Shield , that Georgia’s armed forces could beat the Russian army and take back South Ossetia. The Georgian minister for “the reintegration of South Ossetia and Abkhasia”, Termur Yakobashvili, believing that the Israeli trained Georgian troops were beating the Russians, thanked the Israelis for their assistance, telling them that the Georgian soldiers had wiped out a whole Russian division. “The Russians”, he said, “have lost more than 50 tanks.”

But Russian intelligence had already told them all about Defensive Shield and they knew that Georgia had purchased tens of millions of dollars worth of military equipment. Just before the conflict broke, Putin called Shimon Peres and told him bluntly: “Pull out your trainers and weapons or we will escalate our co-operation with Syria and Iran.”  Misha Glenny comments: “Peres does not suffer the same illusions as Georgian ministers and the Israeli set-up left Tiblisi within two days.”

Imagine this. The Russians announce that they have just struck a deal with Cuba which involves placing an anti-ballistic missile system on the island and supplying millions of dollars worth of military equipment and special training for the Cuban armed forces. But the U.S. has no need to worry as it is not directed against them. Does it ring any bells?

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Reinventing the Evil Empire by Stephen Lendman

Honest Obama To Continue Surrounding Russia by Bruce Gagnon

We’ve Always Been At War With Russia by Cindy Sheehan

Nuclear Chicken in Poland – Putin Can’t Afford to Back Down By Mike Whitney

The Saakashvili Experiment By Ramzy Baroud


On Being “Anti-American” by Michael Faulkner

Dandelion Salad

by Michael Faulkner
Aug 10, 2008

On August 6th The Guardian published what I thought was an excellent article by John Pilger entitled “The Lies of Hiroshima live On”, in which he argued that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a war crime. His case on the use of the atomic bomb against Japan followed the line of argument developed by US historian Gar Alperovitz more than forty years ago. In his classic revisionist study Atomic Diplomacy, Alperovitz showed convincingly that US leaders knew three months before the bombs were dropped that Japan was seeking surrender, and that the terms were acceptable. The main reason for using the atomic bombs against Japanese civilians was to cut the Soviets out of the Far East peace settlement. As such, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, may be considered the first act of the Cold War.

In his article, Pilger raises a perfectly legitimate question concerning the selective nature of decisions about what constitutes a war crime and who should be considered a war criminal; why some are punished and others not. According to the criteria adopted at the Nuremberg Tribunal in 1945, the planning and waging of an aggressive war constitutes a war crime, as also do acts of mass murder and attempted genocide (crimes against humanity) carried out during wars. The tribunal’s failure to include the aerial bombardment of European cities and mass killing of civilians in the indictment of the Nazis as war criminals, was due solely to the fact that such acts were committed by both sides, culminating in the horror of Hiroshima, which preceded the opening of the Nuremberg trials by several months. However, by any reasonable  standard, the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima ranks as a war crime.

No-one seriously questions the Nuremberg judgement concerning the illegality in international law of waging aggressive war. Those who wage such wars are rightly regarded as war criminals. The invasion of Iraq falls into this category. It was an unprovoked war of aggression waged by duplicitous politicians on the basis of a deliberately falsified prospectus. Bush and Blair are war criminals who should face prosecution. Yet very few professional journalists are prepared to say so. Indeed, when surveying the past five years of journalistic commentary in the British press one is struck by the pusillanimity of so many supposedly liberal commentators when it comes to confronting unpleasant facts. A good example is the Guardian columnist, Martin Kettle, supposedly an opponent of the Iraq war, who nevertheless claimed that there was no alternative to Blair’s policy and welcomed the Hutton report’s blatant whitewash of the government. It is not uncommon for such people, when dealing with serious critics of US foreign policy and the Iraq war, to resort to the hoary old canard of “anti-Americanism”.

The accusation was thrown at John Pilger by a reader who accused him of indulging in an “anti-American rant”. This cheap trick is part of the armoury of those who prefer insult and slander to serious thought and debate. It is a favourite with Tony Blair, who a few years ago went so far as to accuse the BBC of anti-Americanism for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans. It is almost always used to imply that anyone who seriously criticises the US power elite and the exercise of US power in the world, must be motivated by a deep, subjective hatred of anything and everything American. This has nothing to do with rational argument. It is a shameful substitute for real criticism and it has a shabby pedigree which bears some examination.

To accuse a serious critic of US policy of being “anti-American” is to close discussion with an insult. It is similar in its intent to the accusation levelled against thousands of US citizens in the wave of hysteria that swept the United States in the early years of the Cold War, reaching fever –pitch during the Korean War. Communists, liberals, trade unionists, progressive academics and others who opposed US foreign policy were labelled “Un-American” by the HUAC. Many thousands were black-listed and hounded out of their jobs. The “Un-American” smear was intended to criminalise those so charged, to associate them with a supposed “world communist conspiracy” and relegate them to a pariah status, outside the “All-American” national entity. The label often carried racist, anti-foreign overtones. Who were the Un-Americans? They were Americans who were deemed by a dominant reactionary clique to be un-patriotic, disloyal to their notion of what it was to be a real American. Where did this mindless, reactionary-racist notion come from?

Less than twenty years earlier in Germany the Nazis were denouncing as “Un-German” (yes, this is precisely the term they used) those Germans perceived by them to be insufficiently patriotic, or, in terms of their fervid racist ideology, “non-Aryan”. Communists, socialists, liberals, trade-unionists – and of course, Jews, were hounded from their jobs and their homes into prisons, concentration camps and exile. They were denounced as exponents of the “un-German spirit”; “Un-German” books were burned, music banned, paintings destroyed in an attempt to eradicate “Jewish Cultural Bolshevism” – part of the World Jewish Conspiracy to undermine the purity of “Aryan” German nationhood. Quite apart from the terrible consequences for its countless victims, the effect of this nationalist hysteria was to brainwash the majority of Germans into becoming compliant tools of German imperialism in its drive to dominate Europe and the world. The imperialist ideology corrupted a generation and made possible the perpetration of crimes of mass murder, ethnic cleansing and genocide on a scale never before seen.

Imperial powers have always perpetrated myths of national superiority. Armed forces dispatched abroad to wage war against weaker nations and “backward” peoples, are always imbued to one degree or another with attitudes of racist arrogance towards the countries and peoples they are sent to invade. This is evident in the derogatory epithets used to demonise the “enemy”. “Gooks”, “wogs”, “rag-heads” have been the common currency of US and British forces in their various wars during the 20th and 21st centuries. It is interesting to note, that during the Second World War, in their repressive “actions” against the partisans and resistance fighters in the occupied territories, the Nazis claimed to be waging a heroic struggle against terrorism. The young heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto, who fought to the bitter end, in the rubble of their destroyed homes against overwhelming odds, were described by the Nazis as terrorists.

In Britain there is also a history of chauvinistic nationalism which has manifested itself in blind support for imperialist wars and contempt for “lesser breeds”. I recall, as a teenager, the sheer racist hysteria that was engendered by sections of the press in this country against Egypt’s President Nasser in the weeks preceding the invasion of Suez in 1956. Those of us who opposed the invasion were often accused of being anti-British. As a conscripted member of the Royal Air Force at the time it was extremely difficult to defend Nasser’s right to nationalise the Suez Canal without running the risk of being assaulted. This was the last gasp of British imperialism, but to hear some people talk one would have thought that it was still the high tide of empire. Curiously enough, at that time much of the British press was very critical of the US. The Eisenhower administration did not support Eden’s Suez adventure. This was because the US government sought to fill the vacuum which would be left by the decline of British power and influence in the Middle East and didn’t want to push the Arab world into the arms of the USSR. Since that time, successive British governments have sought to retain something of the prestige of Britain’s imperial past by cultivating the “special relationship” with the US.

Just as opposition to British imperialism and the wars and conquests associated with it, does not make one anti-British, so opposition to the US war against Vietnam and invasion of Iraq does not make one anti-American. Those who oppose such wars and interventions, and the mass movements associated with such opposition, express more profoundly the real interests of their respective countries. The millions who marched against the Iraq war and continue to demand the withdrawal of the invaders’ armies from the countries they occupy act and speak in the national interest of the US and Britain.

Two hundred and thirty four years ago that great Englishman and internationalist, Thomas Paine, arrived in Philadelphia from England. A few years later his explosive pamphlet, Common Sense helped to launch the American Revolution against the British Crown. He was later denounced by Britain’s aristocratic rulers as a traitor to King and Country. In 1776 he sketched the first outline of a Constitution for the “United States”. He was the first to use the term. When asked where the King of America would feature in this constitution, he said: “The Law is King”. Paine was a republican and a democrat; an Englishman who fought for American freedom and supported the French revolution. The kind of people who regarded him as anti-British then would regard him as anti-American now. The world he fought for has still to be created.

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Gordon Brown: The Mortal Blow From Glasgow

Dandelion Salad

by Michael Faulkner
July 27, 2008

Any doubts that may still have been entertained about the seriousness of the New Labour government’s plight, were finally dashed by the Glasgow East by-election last Thursday (24th July).*  The constituency has been a Labour stronghold for sixty years. It is one of those seats about which it used to be said that if the Labour Party stood a donkey as candidate, the donkey would get elected with a huge majority. On Thursday, a Labour majority of 13.500 was wiped out with a 22% swing to the Scottish National Party. The SNP won the seat with a majority of 365. The results were: SNP 11,277; Labour 10,912; Tories 1,639; Liberal Democrats 915. No-one accused SNP leader Alex Salmond of exaggerated hyperbole when he declared “The earth has moved in no uncertain terms. The earthquake has arrived”.

For the benefit of U.S. readers who may be unfamiliar with the peculiarities of the British electoral system and regional patterns of voting, a few words of explanation are necessary. Scotland and Wales both have their own parliaments with limited powers to legislate. This devolved government was introduced by New Labour after coming into office in 1997. The SNP is committed to full independence for Scotland, an objective which, if achieved, would break up the United Kingdom. Last year, the SNP, by a majority of one seat, won control of the Scottish Parliament, which sits in Edinburgh. The Tories were wiped out in Scotland in the 1990s and there is very little chance that they will be able to make a come-back there. But for the Labour Party, Scotland has always been a rock-solid base. Until now, that is.

It must be understood that the SNP is a radical party in the old social democratic tradition which has been abandoned by New Labour.  Alex Salmond, is a former Labour Party left-winger. Since his party’s victory last year, he has been Scotland’s First Minister. His popularity has increased, largely because he has positioned the SNP to the left of Labour and introduced policies which have benefited some of Scotland’s most disadvantaged people. For example, National Health Service prescription charges have been abolished as have fees for university students in Scotland. As the SNP’s popularity has grown, Labour’s has plummeted. One of the SNP’s main demands is that Scotland should reap the benefits of North Sea Oil. An independent Scotland, it is claimed, would be transformed by its oil wealth.

In British national elections, the Scottish constituencies return MPs to Parliament at Westminster. Gordon Brown holds his parliamentary seat for a Scottish constituency. It is now clear that the Labour Party is in just as serious trouble in Scotland, where its support used to be rock solid, as it is in the rest of the U.K. Until recently it was assumed that Scotland would not in any foreseeable future, vote for full independence from the U.K. That can no longer be taken for granted. A year ago, as Gordon Brown took over from Tony Blair, no-one would have imagined that his government would have so quickly sunk to its present level of unprecedented unpopularity. Scottish independence may be on the agenda sooner than many think. Should Scottish opinion swing decisively in favour of independence, it will not be easy for a U.K. government, either Labour or Tory, to stand against it. British governments have, since the early 1990s, championed the separatist movements in the Balkans and elsewhere, that accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union. If it’s good for Kosovo, it might be argued, why not for Scotland?

But the electorate of Glasgow East did not vote for the SNP because of its nationalism – at least, that was not their main reason for turning against New Labour. The constituency is one of the most impoverished in Britain. Male life expectancy is below 70 years. Alcohol and nicotine related mortality rates are amongst the worst in the country – and in Europe. Improvements in terms of nursery provision and education over the past decade have been insufficient to alleviate the effects of post-industrial decline going back to the 1970s. Against this background of long-term decline there has also been the more immediate impact of rising food and fuel prices and the abolition of the 10 pence basic tax rate – all of which have hit the poorest hardest. Also, disenchantment with New Labour did not begin with Brown. However popular Blair may have been in the USA, he was always deeply unpopular in Scotland. The erosion of New Labour’s support north of the border started a long time ago.

So where does all this leave Gordon Brown and his government? Briefly, in a desperate situation. Let’s look at the details. The term “safe seat” refers to the size of the majority over the closest contender by which a member of parliament wins the election in a parliamentary constituency for his/her party. The larger the majority, the safer the seat. On this reckoning, Glasgow East was the 25th “safest” seat in Britain for Labour. It was the 3rd safest seat in Scotland. This was a by-election (see footnote), and it is usually assumed that by-elections are not fair indicators of what may happen in a general election, where voters’ minds are supposedly concentrated more acutely on the national outcome of their choices – that is, what kind of government they  want to run the country for the next five years. But this received wisdom may not always hold. If the result of the Glasgow East by-election were to be replicated in a general election, the Labour Party’s representation in the Westminster parliament would be reduced to 24! Of those 24, only 2 MPs would represent Scottish constituencies. The Labour Party would be wiped out. It would be far worse than what happened in 1931 following Ramsay MacDonald’s treachery, when Labour representation was reduced to about 35 seats, because then, the majority of Labour MPs defected to the “National Government”. If things continue as they have been, such an outcome in a year or so from now cannot be ruled out.

Should there be such a result, the Tories would be the main beneficiaries in England. Even if the Liberal Democrats were to make substantial gains, there would be a Tory government with the largest majority in British parliamentary history, running into several hundreds. This would be a real “elective dictatorship.”  But that would only be part of it. Even though the Tories might make some gains in Scotland, the real victors there would be the nationalists. Labour’s collapse would make the SNP’s case for independence irresistible. An independent Scotland could also re-activate the demand for independence in Wales.

In one of my recent columns I wrote that New Labour had no hope of being re-elected to office unless Gordon Brown was replaced as leader. Now, this is more evidently true than ever. His replacement is being openly discussed and I think it is likely to happen sooner rather than later. But will replacing Brown make any difference?  Probably a little, but not enough to prevent Labour’s defeat in the next election, which now seems all but certain. Only one of the possible contenders for his office might stand a chance of clawing back substantial support, and that is the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband. But his chances would be very slim.

The fault is not simply with Brown, as much of the media coverage would have us believe. As I have argued consistently in these columns, the fault is with the New Labour project itself. The Labour Party has been destroyed as a party of social democracy. Its destruction was intentional, but the intention of the New Labourites was to wipe out the old Labour Party and replace it with a completely new type of political machine, controlled and manipulated by a clique of neo-liberal “modernisers” determined to complete the destruction of the “mixed economy”, weaken the power of organized labour and complete the privatisation of public services begun during the premiership of Margaret Thatcher. Those who hijacked the Labour Party, notably, but not solely, Tony Blair, were happy to subordinate Britain’s foreign policy to the overriding interests of the Bush administration. This has been a shameful enterprise. Although Blair himself cannot be accused of betraying the Labour Party, because he never had any affinity with it in the first place, this cannot be said of many of his accomplices. Far too many of them were prepared to go along with him. There were numerous occasions where they could have challenged him and, had they stood against him, could have stopped the betrayal in its tracks. But most of them didn’t. Only a minority were consistent in their opposition. The majority of Labour MPs have been complicit in the betrayal of their principles. They deserve little sympathy now as they sleepwalk towards electoral disaster.

As I see it there is only one possibility of stopping the rot. A new leader should be elected, committed to a radical change of course. He would have to be committed to at least the following:

A windfall tax on the huge profits of the privatised public utilities; re-nationalisation of the disastrously inefficient and expensive public transport system; a progressive taxation system targeting the wealthiest; substantially increasing the statutory minimum wage; cancelling of the Trident project, thereby saving £25bn; withdrawal of British forces from Iraq.

A new leader, democratically elected by the membership, might be able to turn things round. But it is unlikely to happen, because none of the obvious candidates is committed to such a course.

End Note.  Barak Obama is in London, having just arrived from his triumphant progress through Europe and the Middle East. In Berlin he was rapturously welcomed by a crowd of 250,000 mostly young Germans, who have extremely high hopes of him. In London, his reception was rather more low key. Nevertheless, he was cheered enthusiastically by those who got a glimpse of him in Whitehall. He was asked by a reporter outside Downing Street, where he faced the TV cameras alone, whether he had any advice for Gordon Brown. For once, Senator Obama seemed at a loss for words. What he said, finally, was that all political leaders are more popular before they are elected than they are afterwards. I was reminded of a fateful evening in 1992, when Neil Kinnock, then leader of the Labour Party, greeted euphoric crowds of supporters on the night of a general election everyone thought he had won. When the results came in the next morning, Labour had lost and the Tories were in power for another five years.

Note. * By-elections. Between general elections, if a member of parliament dies or resigns, a by-election has to take place in his/her constituency. In such by-elections it is quite common for voters to express their feeling for the government in office, by voting against the governing party’s candidate. This rarely happens with such a vengeance as witness in the Glasgow East by-election. Gordon Brown’s government has suffered badly in three by-elections in recent weeks.

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Zimbabwe, Iran, And The ‘International Community’ by Michael Faulkner

Dandelion Salad

by Michael Faulkner
July 17, 2008

Two weeks ago in my regular in TPJ column I dealt with the international response to the situation in Zimbabwe. Due to an error on my part, only the first few paragraphs of my article (Mugabe and Mandela) were posted. I hope that TPJ readers will have the opportunity to read the article in full this week. I concluded that column with the following comments:

‘When, in a few days from now, Robert Mugabe declares himself the victor after an election in which the opposition was bludgeoned into silence, his claim will lack credibility and the result will lack legitimacy. But, equally lacking in credibility will be the protests of those who claim to be champions of freedom and democracy: George W. Bush, appointed President of the United States in 2000 by the Supreme Court, who in 2003 launched an illegal war against a defenceless country, and his staunchest allies in this criminal venture, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.’

Mugabe won the election with 98% of the vote – hardly surprising since the opposition MDC candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai had withdrawn from the contest in the face of a campaign of terror against his supporters, many of whom were murdered and others forced into hiding. The outcome has been widely condemned. Mugabe is now fully exposed as a thug presiding over a country reduced to bankruptcy and impoverishment. He has no defenders. South Africa’s outgoing president, Thabo Mbeki, who has doggedly refused to criticise him publicly, has lost credibility in the African Union. But how credible are those Western politicians who have been vociferous in their denunciations of Mugabe? On July 11th the U.K. and U.S. governments failed in their attempt to win UN security council approval for a resolution to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe. The resolution would have imposed an arms embargo and financial and travel restrictions on the regime and its leaders. It was vetoed by China and Russia, both of whom export weapons to Zimbabwe. Their motives were hardly noble, but also, hardly unprecedented in the use of the veto in the security council. The break-down in the vote seemed to echo the old days of the Cold War. Russia and China were supported by Libya and Vietnam. France, Belgium, Italy, Croatia, Costa Rica and Panama voted with the U.S. and U.K. It was very much ‘business as usual.’

Adopting, as usual, a tone of moral indignation, Britain’s foreign secretary, David Miliband, said it would be ‘incomprehensible’ to the people of Zimbabwe. Following the farcical second election in that country, British Prime Minister Brown, Condoleezza Rice and others confidently asserted that ‘the international community’ would not allow Mugabe to get away with this blatant assault on his own people and on democracy itself. Last week’s G.8 summit in Japan found time to call for action against him in the name of ‘the international community.’

We have heard a lot recently about ‘the international community.’ It is one of those terms with which we are all familiar and its meaning is assumed to be self evident. To question its meaning is regarded as a sign of political illiteracy. But, as with so many other ‘communities’, once we begin to examine the term more carefully it becomes clear that it serves to obfuscate rather than clarify. This may be dismissed as a mere exercise in semantics, but it is more important than that. Those who use the term most frequently and speak as though they are the prime representatives of the ‘community’ tend to be the leaders of the U.S., the U.K. and certain states in the E.U. Recently, they have invoked the ‘international community’ in relation to Iran: the international community, it is said, will not permit Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. Should Iran ignore this warning, the consequences will be dire.

Let us assume what to many may seem obvious – by ‘the international community’ is meant the United Nations. That seems reasonable. Further, it may be argued, the will of the international community is expressed in the resolutions of the U.N. security council. But, according to the self-appointed champions of the international community, this cannot be so, because if the security council vetoes something they regard as self evidently right and proper, then they say that the security council has ‘failed’ the international community. This is the stance taken by the U.S. and U.K governments prior to the Iraq war. They realised that the security council would veto a second resolution sanctioning an invasion, so they abandoned the security council in favour of an ‘alliance of the willing’ – that is, those willing to act without a U.N. mandate, effectively against their own vaunted ‘international community.’ Of course, when the veto is used, as has been the case most frequently since its foundation, by the U.S. and the U.K., they claim to use it in the real interests of the international community. So, if there can be no consensus about the security council expressing the will of the international community, perhaps it may be found in the General Assembly. A resolution passed by all members of the United Nations must come closest to expressing the will of the elusive ‘international community.’ Surely this is democracy in action on an international scale. However, from the standpoint of the U.S. government, this is far from so. One example will suffice to make the point.

Every year the Cuban government brings to the General Assembly a motion calling for the lifting of the 46 year old U.S. blockade of their country. Every year the motion is carried with overwhelming majorities. The only countries who vote regularly with the U.S. against the motion are Israel and the Marshall Islands. Thus, according to this reading, the international community regularly calls for the lifting of the blockade, and its resolutions are regularly ignored by the United States. There are other examples, too numerous to mention, but familiar I am sure to TPJ readers, where U.N. resolutions perceived to be hostile to the interests of the U.S. and its allies, are ignored.

If the neither the U.N. security council nor the general assembly provide a satisfactory explanation of what the U.S. and U.K. governments mean when they refer to the ‘international community’, then clarification must be sought elsewhere. One thing is clear: there are certain (many) countries who are not considered to be part of the community; those countries that have been variously described by the Bush administration and its allies as Rogue States and those belonging to an Axis of Evil. In addition to these, there are others that do not qualify. Here are a few countries that are obviously not regarded as members of ‘the international community.’: Afghanistan, Bolivia, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Serbia, Syria, Venezuela. The criterion for membership has little or nothing to do with a country’s democratic credentials, though promoting democracy is supposedly one of the main aims of Bush’s foreign policy. One could name many, but a few will do. The systematic violation of human rights in Saudi Arabia, seat of one of the world’s most benighted medieval despotisms, has not led for calls from the U.S. and the U.K. for sanctions against the Saudi regime; indeed it is one of ‘our closest allies.’ Pakistan, through its long years of military dictatorship was supported and armed to the teeth by the U.S. Such states are firm bastions of ‘the international community.’

The only conclusion one can draw from this is that the international community is composed of those states whose governments are deemed acceptable, or sufficiently submissive, by the U.S. and its allies. Membership may change from time to time according to the stance taken by particular governments towards U.S. foreign policy. Now, to Iran.

The Bush administration, supported by the British government, seems to be moving towards a dangerous confrontation with Iran. Both the U.S. and the U.K. have an unfortunate historic involvement with that country and the role they have played since the second world war in stifling democracy there has not been forgotten by Iranians. Indeed, the long years of support for the despotic Shah largely accounts for the triumph of the Islamic revolution in 1978. The U.S. and U.K. charges against Iran are that the regime is interfering in Iraq and enriching uranium in order to make a nuclear weapon. Neither of these charges is proven. The first, even if true, is laughable coming from those who invaded Iraq and maintain occupation forces there against the will of the Iraqis. The second, according to the findings of the U.S. Intelligence services investigation last year, is unfounded, but those findings have been ignored by the Bush administration. The Iranians claim that they are enhancing and enriching uranium in order to meet their energy needs. This may, or may not be true, but countries like Britain and the U.S. who themselves are in breach of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, have no moral right to criticise Iran. Neither, for that matter, does Israel.

The consensus amongst those who are supposed to know, seems to be that the U.S. and/or Israel, is unlikely to launch an attack on Iran to destroy its nuclear plants. They may be right, but I wouldn’t bet on it. I’ll conclude with an alternative ‘nightmare’ suggestion, which, needless to say, I hope does not materialise.

Bush and Cheney are determined to go out with a ‘bang.’ They calculate that if they don’t attack Iran’s bases, Israel may well act alone. They also calculate that they can destroy the nuclear plants without too much difficulty. This would lead to political turmoil in Iran and Ahmadinejad and the ‘hard-liners’ would be overthrown. The Revolutionary Guard would be dismantled and the ‘threat’ to Iraq removed. Israel would be satisfied without launching any attack itself. Also, a successful strike against Iran would be very popular and hand the initiative to McCain in the presidential election campaign, thus pretty much guaranteeing a Republican victory.

There are a few flaws in this scenario. Should it be undertaken, the outcome is likely to be an escalating catastrophe. New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh has just published a long article detailing covert CIA operations inside Iran intended to destabilise the regime. So much for Bush’s charges that Iran is interfering in Iraq. Hersh also makes clear that top military officers are totally opposed to an attack on Iran, regarding it as insane. In the past few days, the Iranians have warned of the consequences that would follow from such an attack. They point out that Tel Aviv is within reach of their rockets. They also say that they would respond by attacking the U.S. fleet in the Persian Gulf. They could close the Straits of Hermuz, cutting of f the West’s oil supplies. In addition, such an attack would ignite Shia and Sunni terrorism throughout the Middle East and beyond.

In the face of such a finale to 2008, the outcome of the presidential election may seem somewhat academic.

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Mandela and Mugabe by Michael Faulkner

Robert Mugabe, yet another man the West loves to hate by William Bowles

Mandela and Mugabe by Michael Faulkner

Dandelion Salad

by Michael Faulkner
June 29, 2008

Nelson Mandela and Robert Mugabe: the names of the two Africans conjure two sharply contrasting images in the minds of many; Mandela the saint, Mugabe the devil. They are both legendary figures, heroes of the African liberation struggle, revered and adored by their supporters and, in the case of Mandela, an icon, inspiring almost universal adulation. They are both now old men, Mugabe in his eighties, Mandela just turned ninety.

They are in the news for very different reasons. Mandela was in London yesterday to celebrate his birthday. An estimated 46,000 gathered in London’s Hyde Park to greet him at a concert attended by some of the most famous names in popular music. The prime minister was also there. He praised Mandela’s courage and said he was ‘an inspiration.’ For his part, Mandela spoke in support of his charity, 46664, which raises funds to fight HIV/Aids.

Mugabe, by contrast, has become one of the most despised leaders in the world. Zimbabwe, under his rule, has descended into a state of nearly total economic collapse. Hyper-inflation, on a scale not seen anywhere since the 1923 crisis in Weimar Germany, which almost led to the collapse of civil society, is now accompanied by widespread and growing violence. Hundreds of thousands, facing starvation, have fled across the border into South Africa, where they have been met with xenophobic violence by a population who themselves face poverty and insecurity. The economic crisis has not occurred suddenly; it has been brewing for a year or so. It has become a first rate political crisis only during the past few months, since the disputed March election. There were actually no grounds for disputing the election results: ZANU-PF, Mugabe’s party, was defeated. It lost its parliamentary majority to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Mugabe was defeated in the presidential election by Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the MDC. The weeks long delay in publishing the results, which had been posted at every polling station immediately following the vote, could only mean that Mugabe was not prepared to accept defeat. Yesterday’s (27.06.08) re-run of the presidential election was a farce.

A reign of terror was unleashed in Zimbabwe in the weeks leading up to this second election. The MDC and its supporters have been subjected to brutal beatings, firebombing of homes, torture, rape and murder at the hands of ZANU-PF militia in order to ‘dissuade’ them from voting against Mugabe. Just in case anyone should have any doubts on the matter, Mugabe has declared that ‘only God’ can remove him from power, which may have led some to resort to prayer rather than the more dangerous option of the ballot box. Morgan Tsangirai, after being detained several times by the police, decided, understandably though perhaps rather unwisely, to withdraw from the contest. He has sought sanctuary in the Dutch embassy from where he has advised his supporters to vote for Mugabe rather than expose themselves to beatings and perhaps worse. Such is the state to which the electoral process in Zimbabwe has been reduced.

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Robert Mugabe, yet another man the West loves to hate by William Bowles

Step By Step Into The Swamp by Michael Faulkner

Dandelion Salad

by Michael Faulkner
June 20, 2008

Following last month’s disastrous by-election result, the dwindling band of New Labour supporters must have ardently wished that the summer would bring some relief from their troubles. But just as the weather, in the south of England at least, has remained dismal for the time of year, so there has been no let-up in the slings and arrows of misfortune that have rained upon the government. When George W. Bush pays his final official visit to this country tomorrow, the most unpopular president in US history will be greeted by the most unpopular prime minister of modern times. They should have much to commiserate with each other about.

The events of the past three days (11th – 14th June) have remorselessly exposed the government’s plight. On Wednesday Gordon Brown won a pyrrhic victory over the opposition in a parliamentary vote to allow the police to hold terrorist suspects for 42 days without charge. The outcome was extraordinary. The government won the vote by a majority of 9. This was achieved only because the Democratic Unionist Party (the Ulster Protestants – the most reactionary party in parliament), one maverick Tory and one member of the Xenophobic UK Independence Party, voted with the government. All other parties voted against. Until just before the division (in which members of parliament file into the “yes” or “no” lobbies), the outcome was uncertain. Had the DUP voted against, the government would have been defeated and Brown would possibly have been forced to resign. The enticements and arm-twisting that went into achieving this pitiful outcome were shabby even by the standards of this shop-worn administration. The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, described the behind-the-scenes manoeuvring as “a victory for pork barrel politics and nothing to do with principle.” Diane Abbott, one of the 36 Labour MPs who voted against the government, depriving it of its natural majority, accused the prime minister of “trading ancient civil liberties in a grubby bazaar.” She said that Gordon Brown, in an attempt to win her vote, had spoken to her for the first time in twenty years. The DUP’s vote was apparently bought by the promise of an extra £1.2bn for Northern Ireland.

An obvious question is, why was it considered necessary to introduce such legislation anyway. The police in Britain can already hold suspects for 28 days without charging them. This is far longer than the law allows in any other country claiming to be a democracy. Some comparisons are instructive. In Australia the limit is 12 days; Turkey: 7.5.days; Ireland: 7 days; France: 6 days; Spain: 5 days; Germany: 2 days; USA: 2 days.

All informed opinion is opposed to such draconian powers, which are rightly seen as further eroding Britain’s already battered civil liberties. In accordance with parliamentary procedure, the legislation will have to be debated by the second chamber (the House of Lords), where it is certain to be rejected, leading to a prolonged battle between the government and the Lords. There can be only one explanation for Brown’s stubborn determination to push for the 42 days. He desperately needed something to help him recover some credibility with the electorate. According to some polls, up to 69% of the public supports detention of terrorist suspects without charge for 42 days. Needless to say, opinions are very different if the question is posed in terms of depriving people of their civil liberties. Brown could claim that he had the public on his side on this issue. He hoped thereby to wrong-foot the Tories, and claw back some much needed support: in other words, a cynical, opportunistic ploy which says a great deal about his much vaunted high moral principles.

The majority of Labour MPs who voted for the 42 day detention emerge from this without honour. Most of them, one may be sure, did so against their consciences. This makes their action all the more reprehensible. They have forfeited any right ever again to be taken seriously on any issue of importance. One of the more bizarre ironies in the bartering that preceded the vote, concerned the EU sanctions against Cuba. The government apparently agreed to help lift the sanctions, which, until now it has supported. How many Labour MPs opposed to the sanctions were induced to vote for the 42 days, is not clear.

In another bizarre spin-off from the 42 day detention vote, David Davis, Tory “shadow”* home secretary, resigned his seat in the House of Commons on Friday. His decision has been greeted with amazement, not least in his own party. He has announced his intention to fight a by-election on the question of erosion of civil liberties in Britain. At the time of writing it is still not clear whether there may be other less obvious motives behind his decision. But whatever the case may be, his action is unprecedented. His colleagues in the Tory Party, especially his leader, David Cameron, are less than enamoured. He intends to stand for election again in his own constituency in the expectation that the Labour Party will be obliged to stand against him with a candidate supportive of the 42 day detention period.

Initially, Brown’s reaction to Davis’s eccentric decision was one of barely disguised glee at what was perceived to be a colossal blunder that would back-fire on the Tories. It was announced that Labour would not field a candidate against Davis. Obviously, the intention was to reduce the whole enterprise to a farce. This assessment seemed to be confirmed when Kelvin Mackenzie, former editor of Rupert Murdoch’s the Sun (most scurrilous and reactionary of the tabloid newspapers) announced, after being persuaded by Murdoch, that he would stand against Davis in support of government policy. He said that Sun readers were happy with locking people up for 42 days – and would probably support 442 days, or more. Whatever may be the sentiments of Sun readers, it seems that Davis has a great deal of public support. He may have succeeded in bringing the question of civil liberties to public attention in a way that has not so far been done.

Labour may have to reconsider their decision not to field candidate against him, but, should they do so, it may be difficult to find anyone from their ranks prepared to defend government policy. Indeed, one rebel Labour MP, Bob Marshall-Andrews has just announced his intention to campaign for Davis in the by-election. Should others join him it would face Gordon Brown with a serious dilemma. Members of the Labour Party who campaign for opponents of Labour, face expulsion from the party. But, if Labour is not fielding a candidate, Marshall-Andrews could claim that he is campaigning in defence of civil liberties. If, in such circumstances, he (and possibly others) challenges Brown to expel him, it is likely to precipitate an even greater crisis in Labour ranks. In my view, this is a prospect to be relished.

The Lisbon Treaty

To add to Brown’s woes during the past three days, Ireland has rejected the Lisbon Treaty, which was intended to usher in new constitutional arrangements for the European Union. This is a severe blow to the aspirations of EU governments for greater integration and centralisation. Twenty six of the twenty seven members have already endorsed the Treaty, which, in all but name is a revamped constitution. The Irish rejection, in a referendum held last Friday, has thrown the whole European enterprise into disarray. The margin of defeat was substantial  – No:53.6. Yes:46.4. Quite apart from the wider European implications of this referendum, which are extremely serious, it has a direct bearing on British politics. Ireland is the only member of the EU whose constitution required the treaty to be put to a referendum. There is no such constitutional requirement in the UK, but, prior to the 2005 election; the Labour Party promised in its manifesto that any proposed new EU constitution would be put to a referendum here. The government’s failure to hold a referendum last year prior to Brown’s signature of the treaty in Lisbon, was widely criticised. The government’s claim that the Lisbon Treaty was not a constitution convinced no-one. It is widely believed that had there been a referendum in Britain, the treaty would have been decisively rejected. It seems very likely that this would have been the outcome in many other member states.

It has been suggested that the Irish electorate have voted frivolously in rejecting the treaty, because they did not know what they were voting for. But this argument cuts two ways. It is true that the treaty is little understood due to its labyrinthine clauses and complexity. This seems a very good reason for rejecting it. The real problem for EU governments, who had confidently expected to celebrate the adoption of the treaty next week, is that it has to be endorsed unanimously. It cannot now be adopted and they do not know what to do. The treaty is now in the final stages of its ratification process in the House of Lords. Brown is under great pressure from Merkel and Sarkozy to proceed with ratification. Apparently he has reassured them that he will.

Where does this leave the small matter of democracy? There should be no room for doubt on the matter. The Lisbon Treaty should be dead in the water as it has not received the unanimous endorsement of all member states. Furthermore, the Irish referendum has, arguably, exposed the undemocratic nature of the process by which the treaty has been endorsed elsewhere. Now, it can only be adopted by ignoring the rules by which the game was supposed to be played. The fact that this does not seem to trouble many of those who advocate pressing ahead regardless, tells us a lot about their commitment to democratic principles. But perhaps we should not be surprised.


*Shadow Home Secretary. In the British political system, the largest opposition party in parliament establishes a shadow cabinet. Its members constitute a ‘government in waiting.’

‘Shadow’ ministers are appointed by the leader of the opposition. The ‘shadow home secretary’ opposes the government’s home secretary in parliamentary debates.

Bush in London. Bush is in London. He chose to have breakfast with Tony Blair prior to his meeting with Gordon Brown later today. Two lame ducks will confer. A foretaste of the profundity of the President’s thoughts and the eloquence of his words was provided in an interview he gave yesterday to the Observer in Rome where he was conferring with his other good friend, Berlusconi. He was proud, he said, to have freed 50 million from barbarism, and he had no regrets for anything he had done. This is a thought he shares with Blair. On Saddam Hussein he said ‘We didn’t realise, nor did anyone else, that Saddam Hussein felt like he needed to play like he had weapons of mass destruction. It may have been, however, that in his mind all this was just a bluff…that the world wasn’t serious.’

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The Irish People have spoken. Lisbon Is Dead

The Real Face of the EU + End of Nations – EU Takeover & the Lisbon Treaty (videos)

Bush says goodbye to Britain

Bush Says Farewell To Europe, Continent Prepares For The End

Can Gordon Brown Survive? by Michael Faulkner

Dandelion Salad

by Michael Faulkner
May 18, 2008

New Labour is finished. No-one seriously believes that the project begun in the mid 1990s by Blair, Brown and a small group of like-minded “modernisers” in the Labour Party, has any future. What remains to be seen is whether it will be possible during the coming months and the next two years at most, to bring about the kind of changes in government policy necessary to restore sufficient confidence amongst former Labour supporters to secure victory in the next general election. There is little cause to be optimistic.

As I reported two weeks ago in this column, the Labour Party went down to its worst defeat in local government elections for more than forty years. The Tories captured the London mayoralty, enormously boosting confidence in their ability to defeat the government in a general election. A further test will come with next Thursday’s by-election in the parliamentary constituency of Crewe and Nantwich, in the northern county of Cheshire. The constituency was represented by the very popular MP Gwyneth Dunwoody, whose recent death occasioned the by-election. She was a Labour stalwart – a well known parliamentarian with a national reputation – who had a majority of over 7,000, making this a safe Labour seat. The Tories have not taken a seat from Labour in a by-election since 1982. The government is desperate to hold this constituency. They realise that if it falls to the Tories, it will all but seal Brown’s fate. The party has chosen as its candidate, Tamsin Dunwoody, the former MP’s daughter, in the hope that the name will work its magic on dispirited voters. A further sign of desperation is the resort to cheap trickery in the election campaign.

There is widespread anger amongst Labour’s core supporters over the abolition of the 10p tax rate. Apparently unable to assuage this on the doorstep, despite a hastily arranged mini-budget costing £25 billion designed to alleviate the impact of the 10p rate on the lowest income groups, the Labour campaign has sought to depict the Tory candidate (a wealthy businessman) as a “toff”, by dressing a couple of young male Labour supporters in top hats and tails to ridicule their opponent. Worse, they have attempted to play the anti-immigrant card by suggesting that the Tory candidate is opposed to “making foreign nationals carry I.D. cards.” There are many workers from Eastern Europe in Crewe, and, no doubt there is considerable resentment against them, particularly amongst working class voters. That the Labour Party should be exploiting these sentiments is a sign of the party’s desperation. I doubt that it will work in their favour. It is very likely that Crewe and Nantwich will fall to the Tories, and, if it does, it is difficult to see how the government can recover. It will put Gordon Brown in the same position as John Major prior to the 1997 election that saw the Tories swept from power. Should the election result turn out as I expect, one possible consequence could be a move in the party to replace Brown. But there is another aspect of the recent disintegration of New Labour that is worth considering.

In recent weeks several people who were prominent in and around Tony Blair have published – or are about to publish – their “memoirs”. To dignify these efforts with the title “autobiography” would be rather absurd. Here I need to make a confession: although I am an avid reader, particularly in the field of politics (including political biography), history and international relations, I have not read, nor do I intend to read, any of the books I am about to mention. I have read reviews of these books and lengthy extracts from them. That is quite sufficient to tell me all I need to know about them and their authors. Here I shall mention four of them and endeavour to explain why I consider the production of such “memoirs” to be symptomatic of the political malaise that grips New Labour, the government and much of British party politics at present.

A year or so ago Alasdair Campbell, Blair’s director of communications and spin doctor par excellence published his diaries. They were widely reviewed in the serious newspapers and from such reviews it was clear that they portrayed at the top of British politics a world of the most extraordinary shallowness; Campbell and Blair operated in a “laddish” environment characterised by arrogance, self congratulatory narcissism, and an almost brutish disdain for those who saw things differently. The book was supposed to have been a best seller, but it seems to have disappeared into thin air. Campbell made a great deal of money out of it.

More recently, Lord Levy, a former loyal Blairite and fund raiser for New Labour, has also written his memoirs. During Blair’s last few years in office, Levy became embroiled in a long running police investigation into possible illegalities in fundraising for the Labour election campaign – specifically, into whether or not peerages (seats in the second chamber – the House of Lords) had been promised to wealthy donors to party funds. The investigation was eventually dropped, but Levy apparently claims in his memoirs (a) that Gordon Brown as well as Blair, knew all about “cash for coronets”, and (b) when the heat was turned on Levy, Blair abandoned him to his fate. He is apparently a very bitter man and no longer plays tennis with the former prime minister or invites him to dinner.

John Prescott, former deputy prime minister, is also a former trade union leader. On achieving office under Blair, he abandoned all the trappings of his working class past (except his Liverpudlian accent) and became his leader’s staunchest champion. He has also written his memoirs in which he apparently expresses regret for cheating on his wife and confesses to being a sufferer from the over-eating disorder, bulimia. He also claims that Blair and Brown frequently engaged in screaming matches with each other – something already widely known.

Cherie Blair’s memoirs are about to be published. As with the other offerings, lengthy extracts have appeared in those newspapers that consider the “revelations” involved to be matters of serious political interest. Much has been made, for example, of the revelation by Mrs. Blair that she was so embarrassed at the thought of Her Majesty’s staff at Balmoral (where she and her husband were guests) discovering her contraceptive “devices” when they unpacked her bags, that she did not take them with her and as a result became unintentionally pregnant. Mrs Blair is a very successful barrister, with some knowledge of international law, but she prefers (in a recent interview about her memoirs) to avoid giving her opinion about whether the invasion of Iraq (which she fully supported) was illegal. She stood firmly behind her husband over the war, she said. She also claimed that she and her husband were both socialists.

Why, you may wonder, should we bother about such things? I think that the publication of these “memoirs”, with their authors’ and publishers’ claims to be offering serious insights into the workings of the political system, exposes the shallowness and absence of any serious progressive content in the New Labour project. The Labour Party has a long and chequered history going back more than a century. However one assesses its record, in and out of government, it cannot be denied that from its ranks have come some of the most able people in the history of British politics. Many of them made serious contributions to the theory and practice of social democracy in books, many of which have been forgotten, but which nevertheless made a serious impact in their time. The few I shall mention were, in the main well known politicians, mainly members of parliament, whose reputations were made primarily as parliamentarians and only secondarily as political theorists.

From the 1930s to the 1970s Labour politicians such as Clement Atlee, John Strachey, Stafford Cripps, Ellen Wilkinson, Konni Zilliacus, Harold Laski, Aneurin Bevan, Richard Crossman, Anthony Crosland, Tony Benn (now in his 80s) and Michael Foot (still alive, in his mid 90s) were just some of the outstanding figures whose role on the political stage, inside and outside parliament, helped to shape the Labour Party. They were all accomplished writers and, in their different ways, on both the right and left of the party, contributed to the social democratic discourse.

From the other side of the political divide, the dominant Conservative figures of the first half of the 20th Century, contributed in their histories and memoirs to the chronicle of the times. Notable amongst them are of course Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan. However one views their work and that of their Labour counterparts, they stand in stark contrast to the dominant political figures of today. The comparison says all we need to know about the debasement of political life presided over by New Labour.

Blair, before his departure from office, on being asked how he thought he might be remembered, replied “as a failed celebrity.” He, and so many of his cronies and acolytes, were fascinated by celebrity. The Labour Party’s social democratic heritage was deliberately obliterated. For Blair, the party became no more than a vehicle for his ambition. His ambition was not without political content. He and his supporters, including Brown, abandoned social democracy and the Keynesian tradition that underpinned it, for the neo-liberalism of the so-called free market. Dizzy with success after the 1997 election victory, the majority of the newly elected MPs were prepared to give Blair the benefit of the doubt and failed to see that he cared not a jot for the Labour Party. Most of them acquiesced in his humiliating embrace of George W. Bush and followed him into the illegal Iraq war.

Now, with the economic downturn upon us, life for millions is getting hard. The bubble of house price inflation has burst; fuel and food prices are rising fast. The middle classes are deserting New Labour in droves and turning to the Tories who offer them little different but now appear fresh and energetic where New Labour appears old and stale. But, most important, Labour’s core voters seem to be abandoning them too. The latest opinion polls put Labour on 23% – below the Liberal Democrats. This is their lowest rating since the collapse of the early 1930s – something that would have been unbelievable less than a year ago.

If Labour loses the Crewe and Nantwich by-election, as seems likely, there will be pressure amongst what remains of the rank and file of the party, and from the trade union movement which still funds the party, for a change of course. Brown is in denial about just how serious the crisis is. I think that the only hope for a change of course in a more progressive direction is a change of leadership. This might not be enough, but without it there is no hope.

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London’s Mayoral Election: It’s Johnson And It’s No Joke

London’s Mayoral Election: It’s Johnson And It’s No Joke

Dandelion Salad

by Michael Faulkner
May 4, 2008

The unthinkable has happened. With only a few hours to go before the count is completed, all the indications are that the right wing Tory candidate, Boris Johnson, will be elected Mayor of London. This great cosmopolitan city with its diverse ethnic communities and vibrant cultural life will be represented nationally and on the world stage by a man who is about as unrepresentative of this city as anyone could possibly be. Make no mistake; this result is a disaster for Londoners, for London and for its international reputation.

The defeat of Ken Livingstone, London’s mayor since 2002, follows yesterday’s rout of the Labour Party in the local government elections in England and Wales. The electoral defeat, which has seen previous Labour strongholds in Wales and the north of England go down to the Tories, is the worst suffered by the party for four decades and its share of the vote, at 24%, is the lowest since records began in the 1970s. The party has been pushed into third place by the Liberal Democrats who have taken 25%. This is a disastrous result for the Labour Party. It almost certainly means that the next general election will be won by the Conservatives. Until today it was still possible to hope that Ken Livingstone, who was semi-detached from the party, would be able to buck the trend and defeat the Tory challenger. But such hopes have been dashed. It only remains to be seen by how big a margin Johnson has won. As I wrote in my last column, a few months ago such an outcome would have been unimaginable. How could this have happened?

Livingstone stood as the official Labour candidate. As such, he has shared the fate of the party nationally, but this doesn’t adequately explain why he has been defeated. By whatever margin he loses to Johnson (and the final results will be announced as I write) it will be far narrower than the massive losses suffered by the party up and down the country. Ken Livingstone, during his thirty years of prominence in the political life of the city, has aroused both intense affection and loyalty and deep hatred. At the risk of oversimplifying, he has had strong support from working class and ethnic minority Londoners who live in poorer parts of the inner London boroughs. He has aroused the hostility of wealthier Londoners who are less dependent on public transport and tend to live in the more salubrious outer London suburbs. His vote has apparently held up well in his inner city heartlands, but it is in the wealthier suburbs that the voters have turned strongly against him. His own credentials as a Londoner are impeccable. He lives in a working class area of north London, uses public transport and does not drive a car. Needless to say, this has not endeared him to those opposed to the congestion charge.

The outcome of the mayoral election has been strongly influenced by the scurrilous campaign against Livingstone waged relentlessly by the right wing press in London and nationally over the past months. This has been quite extraordinary. I described this press campaign in my last column, but more can be said about the part played in it by certain journalists, some of whom have built their reputations as left wingers.

The London Evening Standard has run a ceaseless diatribe against Livingstone, penned largely by Andrew Gilligan. Gilligan, a former BBC journalist was fired by the corporation in 2004, following a rebuke by the judge, Lord Hutton, whose inquiry into the intelligence used to justify the Iraq war, produced a report whitewashing the Blair government. Gilligan had accused the government of “sexing up” the intelligence in order to justify the war – an accusation which proved to be correct. For a time unemployed, he later emerged on the staff of the Evening Standard to launch his campaign to unseat Livingstone. It seems that he was determined to live down his reputation for anti-government bias by building a new reputation as a paid hack in the service of Associated Press. He wants to be remembered as the man who brought down Livingstone.

Two other journalists with left wing credentials have been prominent in the anti-Livingstone witch-hunt. Martin Bright, political editor of the left-of-centre weekly New Statesman and the Observer’s Nick Cohen have both written in a similar vein, ludicrously claiming that Livingstone is “unfit to hold office.” These writers are only the latest in a growing band of those who have trodden the weary path from left to right. The most notable is Christopher Hitchens, the role model for Nick Cohen who went rapidly from being scourge of the New Labour establishment to ardent and unapologetic supporter of the Iraq war.

3rd May. 7am. The realization this morning that Boris Johnson is the Mayor of London is like waking to a bad dream. Before adjusting to the reality it is worth reminding ourselves just who this person is. To treat him as a buffoon – which he is – trivialises the matter, in rather the same way that treating Bush as an idiot and a joke can detract from the terrible damage he has done to the US constitution and reputation in the world. Johnson is not an idiot. His own jocularity is a cover for a very right wing political agenda. Let’s consider some of his views.

He is homophobic. The fact that his sentiments are expressed in the style of a stand-up comedian render them no more acceptable. Consider this:

“If gay marriage was OK – and I was uncertain on the issue – then I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men as well as two men; or indeed three men and a dog.”

In 2002, when Blair visited the Congo, he said: “No doubt the AK 47s will fall silent and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will break out in watermelon smiles to see to see the big white chief touchdown in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird.” His description of black babies as “piccaninnies” is well known.

During the election campaign he has been kept on a tight rein by his minders. Lynton Crosby, (the Australian Karl Rove) who masterminded the campaign has succeeded in controlling the gaffe-prone Johnson. The fact that he has no experience at running anything has been lightly brushed aside. The absence of any serious policy proposals has been ignored. Johnson’s elitist disdain for almost everyone who does not share his own class background and prejudices has been kept hidden. Six of the nine leading national newspapers, claiming between them most of the national readership, have been unremittingly hostile to Livingstone and uncritical of Johnson. This morning the victor claimed “I will govern as new Boris – or whatever the phrase is.” We shall see.

What does this result – and the wider Labour debacle – signify for the future? The scale of the damage done to Brown’s government is clear this morning. Throughout England and Wales (there were no local elections in Scotland) Labour has lost 331 local council seats; the Tories have gained 256. If this result were repeated in a general election the Tories would have a parliamentary majority of over 100 seats. Brown’s government is in more or less the same position as John Major’s Tory government was in 1995 – two years prior to Blair’s stunning victory. All the pundits are opining that a Tory victory is more or less inevitable. They are probably right.

When one takes into account some of the factors operating against the Labour Party, namely the deepening crisis in the financial markets, falling house prices, increasing food and fuel prices, and, particularly the abolition of the 10% income tax rate which has hit some of the poorest people, it is hardly surprising that many of its core supporters have deserted the party

But this is only part of the story. The tide had turned against New Labour before Blair resigned last year. It is all but certain that the result would have been much the same had he still been in office. The deeper reason for the collapse in support is the widespread disillusionment with the New Labour project. The government, under Blair and Brown, has followed a neo-liberal, right wing agenda in domestic policy and been completely identified with the Bush administration in its foreign policy. New Labour has abandoned social democracy and become in most respects indistinguishable from the Conservatives. Until last year the decline in support for New Labour was not matched by any significant increase in support for the Tories. After a very brief honeymoon Brown was seen to be little different from Blair, and, given the economic downturn that started late last year, support collapsed.

Is there any hope of a change in Labour’s fortunes? It is probably too late this side of an election. A new leader, even in the unlikely event that his colleagues should decide to jettison Brown, would be unlikely to turn things around. Anyway, there is no obvious alternative to Brown. If there is to be a change it will have to come from a rebellion of the rank-and-file membership, and this will only make itself felt after a general election defeat. Who might, in such a situation, emerge as a leader of the Left, capable of restoring the party to its social democratic roots and challenging the neo-liberal consensus amongst the political elite?

It is not too fanciful to assume that such a person might be Ken Livingstone. He could seek to return to Parliament as a Labour MP. As a nationally and internationally known figure with a strong and successful record of public service behind him it is not inconceivable that he could be elected leader of the Labour Party in a few years time. A pipe dream? Maybe, but who knows.

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The Woes Of Gordon Brown: Can Labour Win The Next Election?

Dandelion Salad

by Michael Faulkner
April 20, 2008

It is difficult to believe that less than ten months ago Gordon Brown, then newly arrived in Downing Street, enjoyed a ten point lead over the Tories in the polls and was widely praised for his decisiveness and firm grip on the reins of government. As I wrote in these columns at the time, the popularity he enjoyed had a lot to do with the fact that he was not Blair. But his management of the two dramatic events that broke during the early days of his premiership – widespread flooding and two attempted terrorist attacks – contributed to the impression of a man who kept a cool head and quietly got on with the job in hand. That has all changed.

One of the most recent opinion polls records the biggest drop in a prime minister’s ratings since 1940, when, in May of that year, after the fall of Norway to the Nazis, the country and parliament turned decisively against Neville Chamberlain. He was compelled to resign, and as everyone knows, was replaced as prime minister by Churchill. While the historical parallel is rather flimsy, I am nevertheless reminded of the famous limerick that did the rounds in Whitehall during that grim spring of 1940:

An elderly statesman with gout,
When asked what the war was about,
In a Written Reply
Said, ‘My colleagues and I
Are doing our best to find out’.

Britain today is not in the dire straits it was in 1940, but with the threat of full-blown recession looming, the government’s reputation for competent management of the economy lies in tatters. Brown’s popularity has nosedived. An atmosphere of resignation and despair pervades the Labour back benches and there are no signs of the gloom lifting. During the final years of the last Tory government led by John Major in the 1990s, the Labour opposition consistently polled above 40 per cent, which, in Britain’s electoral system is what is needed to win an overall majority in a general election. Now the Tories are polling above 40 per cent. Labour is on its lowest poll ratings since the early 1980s, when, following its defeat in the 1983 election, the party was widely written off as unelectable. It is too early to say what may happen in a general election which could still be two years away, but the signs are not hopeful. In the local government elections due next month the Labour Party is certain to do very badly. What is less certain is how Brown’s unpopularity is likely to affect the election for London’s mayor, which will take place on May 1st. More on this later.

As I have argued consistently in these columns, the New Labour project, launched by Blair and Brown in the mid nineties, was intended to dismantle the Labour Party as a party of social democracy. In this they have succeeded. Under Blair’s leadership the onslaught on the public sector of the economy, involving the extension of privatization beyond anything attempted by the Tories, was presented as ‘modernisation’ and ‘reform’. This neo-liberal agenda was accompanied by propaganda against its critics on the left, damning them as ‘conservatives’ and ‘antediluvians’. Many hoped that Brown would make a clean break with his predecessor, work to restore the Labour Party as a party of social democratic reform and breathe new life into a government that had so badly disappointed those who had voted for it. To those less familiar with the peculiarities of British party politics, it needs to be stressed that the majority of New Labour’s critics in recent years are not particularly left wing. Many of the critics might be described as Fabians – believers in gradual reform, healthy municipal government and a more equitable distribution of wealth through a progressive taxation system. It is such people, inside and outside the Labour Party, who have been so dismayed and angered by Gordon Brown’s failure to take even the smallest step on this road.

One of the most principled and articulate of the social democratic critics is Polly Toynbee. She has an unequalled record as a champion of women’s rights and as a campaigner on behalf of the low paid. In a recent article (The Guardian. April 18.), she writes that ‘If a Martian taxman landed now, he’d never guess Labour was in power.’ The government recently abolished the 10p starting rate for income tax, leaving the poorest sections of society worse off. This has outraged not only those directly affected but many Labour MPs, 70 of whom have signed House of Commons motions protesting the abolition. At a recent meeting with the parliamentary party, Brown was apparently torn apart by outraged back benchers. Toynbee also pinpoints the moment last year when Brown surrendered the last of Labour’s progressive taxation principles to the Tories. When the Tories announced their intention of raising the threshold for inheritance tax on domestic properties to £1m, Brown panicked and promised to raise the threshold to £700,000. Toynbee comments pointedly: ’The pieties of equal opportunities for all children were forgotten in a moment of panic: birth has become destiny more certainly than ever, and Labour has helped strangle a mechanism that spread wealth more fairly…..The young have never heard any politician explain what progressive tax is for – the word redistribution being unheard in the lexicon of modern politicians.’ This was the point at which the expected election was also cancelled. It marked the end of Brown’s honeymoon with the electorate.

Brown’s reaction when in a hole seems to be to dig deeper. He is apparently determined to face down his Labour critics. In this display of stubbornness he seems to wish to emulate Blair. A parliamentary private secretary at the Treasury, Angela Smith, announced a few days ago her intention to resign over the abolition of the 10p tax rate. Brown apparently called her from the US to warn her off. She immediately withdrew her threatened resignation, commenting: ‘I am assured that my concerns are understood.’ Such episodes were not uncommon during Blair’s premiership. The threat that rebellion will play into the hands of the Tories usually does the trick in persuading those concerned for their jobs to think again.

In case TPJ readers failed to notice it, I should mention that our prime minister has recently been in the United States. In arranging his visit, Downing Street apparently failed to notice that Pope Benedict would be in Washington at the same time. Needless to say, the 21 gun salute on the White House Lawn was not for Gordon Brown. Nevertheless, everyone – Brown, Bush, Clinton, McCain and Obama extolled the value of the ‘special relationship’ – although apparently, when asked recently about its value, Bush failed to mention Gordon Brown, referring only to Churchill and Blair. Perhaps these are the only two British politicians whose names he can recall without prompting. Whatever may be the present or future nature of the ‘special relationship’ Brown’s visit to Washington, New York and Boston will do nothing to help his standing with the electorate here. A fairly reliable indicator of the likely outcome of the next general election will be seen in the forthcoming local government and London mayoral elections due in May.

The London Mayoral Campaign Re-visited.

Brown recently endorsed the incumbent, Ken Livingstone, as Labour’s official candidate in the mayoral election. In my last column I expressed the view that there had been a malicious campaign, amounting to a witch hunt, orchestrated by sections of the right wing press, against Livingstone in support of the right wing Tory candidate, Boris Johnson. This has intensified in the past two weeks. I was mistaken in assuming that there would be no interest in the United States in this election. Last week a well informed article appeared in the New Yorker, which mentioned an aspect of the campaign I had intended to touch on in my column.

Behind Johnson’s campaign is a shadowy Australian, Lynton Crosby. Crosby masterminded three consecutive election victories for John Howard’s Conservatives. He has been called Australia’s Karl Rove. His strategy seems to involve keeping the gaffe-prone Johnson away from any potentially embarrassing situations, such as debates with Livingstone and other candidates, and concentrating instead on arranged set pieces in front of hand-picked sympathetic audiences. It has been suggested that Crosby virtually holds a gun to Johnson’s head to prevent him from making a fool of himself – something he is prone to do. The latest in the line of dirty tricks against Livingstone is a press claim that his election campaign team is run by an Islamist who may be soft on terror. This gives a flavour of what to expect in the lead up to May 1st. In my last column I wrote that, in my view Livingstone made a mistake in 2004 when he re-joined the Labour Party. He would, I thought, have won by a bigger margin if he had stood again as an independent. Now, as Labour’s official candidate, he has been photographed with Gordon Brown. Interestingly though, his campaign publicity studiously avoids the term ‘Labour’. Brown knows that if Johnson wins the London mayoralty for the Tories, it will give them a springboard for the general election. I would only add that it could also be the green light for Cameron to abandon any pretence of ‘compassionate Conservatism’. Johnson is an unreconstructed right-winger and a racist to boot. Such an outcome would be little short of catastrophic for a great, cosmopolitan metropolis like London.

TPJ is not subject to copyright. Anyone is welcome to freely quote and use material from TPJ. In reproducing or using material from the TPJ proper attribution is appreciated.

‘Shock & Awe’ Five Years On by Michael Faulkner

Dandelion Salad

by Michael Faulkner
March 23, 2008

On March 20th five years ago the ‘shocking and awful’ invasion of Iraq began. The anniversary, last Thursday, provided much food for thought and reflection about that unhappy event, the consequences of which are not only still with us but seem likely to darken the horizon for years to come.

I decided in the days before the 20th March that I could not let this anniversary pass without comment. The problem though, in commenting on the war and its terrible aftermath, is to avoid simply echoing what has been said in those sections of the British media that have attempted a serious treatment of the subject. In March 2003, as the drum beats for war were growing ever louder in their attempt to drown out the voices of opposition, I decided to commit to print my thoughts on the impending conflict. By the 16th March it was clear that war was inevitable. I have just re-read the five thousand words I wrote between the 16th and 19th March 2003 under the title Thoughts on the Eve of War. Much of what I wrote was a fairly detailed commentary on what was happening in the UK parliament and at the UN during those critical days. I have decided to devote this week’s column to selected quotes from my 2003 notes, as I feel that there is merit in recalling those events and, I hope modestly, reminding readers that there was in Britain a mass movement of unprecedented size and unity in opposition to the invasion of Iraq.

Thoughts on the Eve of War: Sunday, 16th March 2003. 

Today the armed forces of the United States, backed by those of the United Kingdom, stand poised to unleash blitzkrieg against Iraq. The US and British governments assume, plausibly, that it will be all over very quickly and that within a few weeks at most, Iraq will be occupied and ‘liberated’ from the Ba’athist tyrant. Whatever the outcome may be, this will not be a war in any serious sense of the term. It will not involve two sides, both capable of inflicting serious damage on each other. It will be a turkey shoot. The most powerful military machine in the world is about to crush a weak, fifth rate state that poses no threat to the US or Britain and, despite claims to the contrary, does not possess adequate means to defend itself….

The propaganda barrage 

For several months, in the build up to this attack on Iraq, we have been subjected to what can only be described as a sustained propaganda barrage to justify the coming war. When it is over, those who have promoted it  – primarily the US and British governments, backed by much of the media – will hope that the anticipated ‘victory’ will drown, in a chorus of self congratulation, all the misinformation, lying and hypocrisy that have preceded the resort to force. Bush, Blair and their supporters must be hoping that memories are short and that the millions who have demonstrated globally against this war will disperse in embarrassment and disarray. Blair, in particular, now facing the most serious predicament of his premiership, will be hoping that ‘victory’ will cast into oblivion his defiance of the U.N. Security Council and dispel any current concerns about the war’s legality.

However it may turn out – and it would be rash to discount the dangers of serious political and social unrest in various countries once the war starts, to say nothing of the stimulus it may give to further acts of terrorism against states backing the war – it is important to challenge the propagandists and to expose their campaign of misinformation, hypocrisy and lying.


The US government initiated the war drive against Iraq. The determination to invade Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein pre-dates September 11th. The Republican cabal that helped get Bush into office included this as one of their objectives as long ago as 1996. Their larger objective was to establish the unchallengeable political and military hegemony of the US on a global scale…..

Bush, on the basis of the evidence I have seen, is not competent to hold high office in any country, let alone to hold the office, which, we are told, makes him the most powerful man in the world. The Bush junta (Cheney, Perle, Rice, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz et al) collectively constitute about the most rightwing group of politicians at the centre of any government in American history…..

To make September 11th the casus belli for whatever action the Bush administration decides to take in the name of ‘war on terrorism’ is neither justified nor supportable. September 11th is clearly being exploited in support of the war against Iraq. Neither the British nor the US governments have produced any convincing evidence to link Iraq with Al Qaeda…….

What is the aim of the war against Iraq? 

The main aim of the Bush junta is ‘regime change.’ There are also other aims. Gaining US control of Iraq’s oil resources is not the only objective, but it is a pretty obvious one. To install a government in Baghdad that facilitates US access to the second largest oil reserves in the world, certainly plays a part in the Bush junta’s calculations. Their intention to oust Saddam Hussein has never been denied. No-one is in any doubt about the brutal nature and murderous record of the Iraqi regime – least of all those of us who have not forgotten that Saddam was armed and supported by the US when he used poison gas against the Iranians twenty years ago, or that the US sold him anthrax agents and the British government built his chemical and munitions factories. Saddam Hussein was just as bloodthirsty a dictator then as he is now. The brutal nature of the Iraqi regime is not the reason for the US determination to overthrow it. If ‘regime change’ by full scale invasion is so urgent now, why not then?

….When the demand was made by Britain and the US that Iraq must agree to the re-admission of the UN weapons inspectors, it was confidently assumed that Saddam Hussein would not agree to this. His anticipated refusal would then be sufficient to secure a simple Security Council resolution to trigger war. When he did agree it was then assumed that very soon he would place obstacles in the way of the inspectors, making their work impossible, thereby triggering war.

At this point it is important to look very carefully at the course of events since the passage of Resolution 1441. At the time of writing (16th March 2003), Blair, Aznar and Bush are ensconced in the Azores in a council of war. They are going to say that a second resolution at the UN is not necessary as 1441 warns Iraq of ‘serious consequences’ that will follow from his refusal to disarm. They will then abandon the UN and launch the invasion of Iraq within days.

But Resolution 1441 was worded very carefully to avoid specifically committing the Security Council to sanction the precipitate use of force. The majority of members, including permanent members France, Russia and China, would not have voted for a motion linked to a specific date and containing an ultimatum…….

For several weeks, on Blair’s prompting, it has been assumed that a second resolution declaring Iraq in breach of 1441 and sanctioning the use of force would be necessary and forthcoming. Let’s consider carefully why it is, after so much emphasis on the importance of a second resolution, that Blair, Bush and Aznar are now saying that they do not need it and intend to attack Iraq without breaching the UN charter. Essentially, they have been forced into a position they never expected to be in. It has to do with the stand taken by Russia, China and, particularly France. It has also to do with the position taken by the weapons inspectors. Jacques Chirac and Hans Blix have thrown the war plans awry.


The second report in early March made clear that progress was being made and crucially argued for more time to complete the process of disarmament. Some months were needed. The whole thrust of Blix’s report was that the inspections should continue. This clearly dismayed Powell and Straw but strengthened the French and Russian position, which supported the continuation of the inspections.

The French Case

Whatever its motivation, the French case has been clear, consistent and rational. Chirac has argued that: a) the inspections are producing results and that the objective of disarming Saddam Hussein can be achieved without resort to war; b) that resolution 1441 does not sanction the resort to war and was not intended to do so; c) in view of (a) and (b) any attempt to introduce a second resolution containing an ultimatum and therefore triggering war before the inspections had taken their course, was completely unacceptable and would be opposed by France.

This is a completely logical position that in no way undermines the UN…..

The vilification of France in the US and in much of the British press at present is nauseating. The Daily Express, for example, on the 14th March carried a front page advertisement offering a £5 trip to France with the message ‘Let’s invade France! They’re lousy at war but the booze is good!’

The Sun, on the same day, on its front page, juxtaposed pictures of Saddam Hussein and Jacques Chirac with the caption ’Spot the Difference’ – with the clear implication that there was none. The utterances of the foreign secretary on the same subject are only slightly less scurrilous. In the US it is even worse. Such is the level to which public treatment of these issues has sunk that, apparently ‘French Fries’ have been renamed ‘Freedom Fries.’

Monday, 17th March 2003 

Vilification of France

It is a measure of the bankruptcy of the Bush/Blair case that they have to stoop to the puerile level that characterises their utterances against the French. In Britain, France has been singled out for especially vituperative treatment. A few weeks ago pundits such as the BBC’s normally sensible and well-informed John Simpson, were confidently asserting that the French would ‘definitely’ come round to support Britain and the US. When it came to it, the pundits said, France would not use the veto. It was all a matter of an exaggerated Gallic amour proper. This attitude betrayed a certain disdain for France, which is quite deep-rooted in English political culture.

Then, a week or so ago, when it started to look as though Chirac might mean what he said, the smug, contemptuous smiles began to disappear from their faces. Horror of horrors! The French actually meant what they said! Then began the talk about the ‘unreasonable’ exercise of the veto. If France were to veto a resolution in the Security Council sanctioning war, then, it was claimed, France would be willfully destroying the authority of the UN. Let’s look at this argument.

What is an ‘unreasonable’ veto? 

Since the foundation of the UN Britain has used the veto 32 times – far more often than France. But the US has used the veto much more often. To give two examples amongst many, in June 1982 the US alone vetoed a Security Council resolution calling for the simultaneous withdrawal of Israeli and Palestinian armed forces from Beirut, on the grounds that this plan ‘was a transparent attempt to preserve the PLO as a viable political force.’ Was that veto not unreasonable? In 1975 the US blocked UN action to stop Indonesians from committing aggression against East Timor. Was that reasonable? Reasonable or not, the founders of the UN agreed in 1945 to give permanent members of the Security Council the power of veto. There is no provision for member states to decide which vetoes are ‘reasonable’ and which are ‘unreasonable’ and on this basis to ignore the veto. Fairly evidently, those states against whom the veto is used will regard its use as unreasonable. If, on the basis of such calculation it is deemed permissible to ignore the Security Council and act unilaterally, it is such action and not the use of the veto that flouts the procedures of the UN.

US bullying in the Security Council 

As has been evident for months now, the US and British governments are determined to attack Iraq come what may. Bush has been less concerned about working through the UN than has Blair, whose position in his own party and in the country is less secure than Bush’s in the US. Therefore, he has been very keen to ‘work through the UN.’ What has this amounted to in practice?

The Bush administration has had support in the Security Council from Britain, Spain and Bulgaria. Of the permanent members of the council, France, Russia and China have demanded that the inspections should be allowed to continue and have opposed any second resolution that would trigger war. As it became clear that at least one of these would use its veto, Bush and Blair began to work feverishly to ‘persuade’ six of the apparently undecided non-permanent members to support a second resolution authorising war. If this bore fruit, it could be argued that, as a majority of the members of the council supported the US/British stand, any veto would be ‘unreasonable.’

Although there is nothing surprising in the methods employed by the US in the attempt to bring these states ‘on side’, it is worth considering them briefly, if only because both the US and British governments claim that they occupy the ‘moral high ground’ in defence of their stance. The US has engaged in threats, bribery and bullying to achieve its ends. This is nothing new. At the time of the first Gulf war in 1991, two Security Council members, Cuba and Yemen, voted against the use of force. With regard to Cuba, which for thirty years had suffered from a punitive US blockade, there was nothing that could be done. But, following the ‘no’ vote, the Yemeni representative was told that it was ‘the most expensive vote he would ever cast.’ An economic package was immediately cancelled. Threats of the same kind have been made against those Third World member states over which the US exercises economic leverage. But, astonishingly, this time it does not appear to have worked as well. It seems that the hardening of French determination to use the veto has persuaded the ‘swing’ states to resist US bullying and persuaded them that it is not worth casting their vote for war, which would very likely only exacerbate social and political tensions in their own countries where popular opinion is firmly opposed to war.

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It’s March 19 and Blogswarm Day! Posts on Iraq War by Lo

Letters From the UK: Extraordinary Revelation about ‘Extraordinary Rendition’

Dandelion Salad

by Michael Faulkner
Mar 9, 2008

Official accounts of wars and military operations are replete with euphemistic terminology intended by their perpetrators and apologists to numb our consciousness of the horrors involved. Thus, for example, targets annihilated by bombardment are ‘taken out’; civilians blown to pieces in the process are considered ‘collateral damage’. The practice of kidnapping those suspected of being terrorists, transporting them to destinations outside the jurisdiction of the state responsible for their detention and subjecting them to maltreatment or torture, is known as ‘extraordinary rendition.’ That such practices are illegal and a blatant abuse of human rights goes without saying.

The British government has consistently denied that any suspects ‘rendered’ by the US have been transported to, or held on, any territory belonging to the UK. It has recently come to light that detainees have been flown to the US naval base on the British territory of Diego Garcia, part of the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, midway between Africa and Asia. The US base – one of the biggest in the world – has existed since 1971 and is of vital importance for operations in the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2004 the then Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, admitted when questioned in parliament, that the US operated a detention centre on the island. Despite this admission, the government has always denied that ‘rendered’ detainees have ever been held there. This denial is no longer sustainable. In view of evidence that is now emerging, the only question is whether the government has been lied to by the Bush administration or – more likely – that they have lied about illegal activities they were privy to all along.

A representative of the United Nations responsible for investigating human rights abuses and torture has claimed that suspects were detained on Diego Garcia in 2002 and 2003. According to Manfred Novak the detainees were not treated as inhumanely as those at Guantanamo and were not held for very long, but the revelation that British territory has been used for ‘extraordinary rendition’ exposes the government to the charge of complicity with the US government in human rights abuses. The Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, has admitted, under pressure, that two US planes containing ‘rendered’ suspects landed on the island in 2002. When the truth began to emerge about ‘extraordinary rendition’ the British government initially denied all knowledge of the practice and strongly rejected the accusations that British military air bases had been used in the transmission of ‘rendered’ suspects. When it became clear that CIA planes had refuelled on bases in Britain, the government said that it had happened without their knowledge. It is becoming increasingly clear that the government has lied about this from the start. They are still denying that US prisoners have been held on Diego Garcia. When asked how they can be sure of this they say that they have the assurance of the US government that it has not happened! This, we are expected to believe, constitutes solid proof that no detainees have been held. No doubt, when the evidence possessed by Novak becomes impossible to deny, they will say that it happened without their knowledge. This has been the pattern of deceit since the lead-up to the Iraq war.

Novak bases his claim on depositions from ‘well-placed sources familiar with the situation on the island whose identities he is not able to reveal without their permission. His claims are supported by a former US general, Barry McCaffrey, who also claimed that detainees had been held on Diego Garcia. This source has subsequently retracted his claim. We may speculate about his reasons for so doing. He apparently refuses all requests for interviews.

The human rights group, Reprieve, suspects that the US is also using the seas around the archipelago for rendition. US naval vessels such as the USS Bataan and Stockham operate in this part of the Indian Ocean and it is believed they function as prison ships. Even if they remain outside the three mile zone of British territorial waters (which, to say the least is doubtful) they are almost certainly serviced from British territory, which renders the British government complicit in their activities. There are reports by former prisoners at Guantanamo of suspects being beaten while in detention on US ships ‘even more severely than in Guantanamo.’

Diego Garcia: the story that shames Britain.

When the US naval base on Diego Garcia is mentioned in news reports, the island is frequently referred to as ‘uninhabited.’ The story of how it came to be uninhabited is not widely known, either in Britain or the United States, the two countries involved in its depopulation forty years ago. It is a shameful story.

Until the late 1960s Diego Garcia, a British colonial territory, had a population of some 2000 who worked as subsistence farmers. The Chagos Islands, of which Diego Garcia is one, had passed to Britain following the defeat of France in the Napoleonic wars. Some time in the mid 1960s the US petitioned the Wilson (Labour) government for the lease of an Indian Ocean island for a strategic military base and refuelling facility. A secret arrangement was made without reference to the US Congress or the British Parliament, involving the transfer of Diego Garcia to the US. The island would continue to be British owned but would be run by the US. The US government stipulated that it must be depopulated. When, in 1968 Mauritius gained its independence from Britain, the Chagos islands fell under Mauritian jurisdiction. The Labour government arranged the purchase of Diego Garcia from Mauritius for £3 million and concocted the fiction that the inhabitants of the island who had lived there for generations, were actually itinerants because their livelihood required some of them to journey to Mauritius to sell their produce. It was decided to expel the whole population, first by means of trickery, by denying the right of return to those who happened at the time to be temporarily in Mauritius to pursue their livelihood. Many of those remaining, who, alarmed at the failure of their families to return home, went to Mauritius to enquire after them, were then themselves prevented from returning. By 1970 most of the population had been removed. The condition of the islanders stranded in Mauritius was desperate. They were an unwelcome, totally dislocated, homeless people. In the years that followed many committed suicide. Those remaining on Diego Garcia when the US naval personnel began to arrive in 1971 were helpless to resist the final brutal expulsion. The naval base was built on an unpopulated island.

Any doubts one may have about this account of events are immediately dispelled on reading the documentary evidence from the time. The legal department of the Foreign Office gave this advice:

‘The purpose of the Immigration Ordinance is to maintain the fiction that the inhabitants of the Chagos are not a permanent or semi-permanent population. The Ordinance would be published in the BIOT (British Indian Ocean Territories) Gazette which has only a very limited circulation. Publicity would therefore be minimised.’

Eleanor Emery, head of the Indian Ocean department of the FCO wrote:

‘We shall continue to say as little as possible to avoid embarrassing the US administration. We would not wish it to become general knowledge that some of the inhabitants have lived on Diego Garcia for generations and would be regarded as “belongers” .’

For nearly forty years every effort has been made by both British and US governments to cover this story up. But many of the islanders and their descendants, now numbering 4.500, have continued to fight for their right to return to their homes. For decades their demand to be heard was met with stony silence by those who had expelled them. Then, in 2000, they took their case to the British High Court which ruled that they had the right to return to the Archipelago. In 2004, the Blair government resorted to the archaic constitutional device of an Order in Council to reverse the High Court decision. It ruled that the islanders were forever banned from returning.

In 2006 the High Court ruled that the 2004 Orders were unlawful, declaring that the islanders were entitled to return. The government appealed against this ruling. In May 2007 their appeal was dismissed. This is how things stand at present in this David and Goliath saga.

Both the US and British governments claim to be committed to the defence of human rights, justice and the rule of law. According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court ‘deportation or forcible transfer of population constitutes a crime against humanity if it is committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against any wider population, with knowledge of the attack.’ In their judicial review of the case the British High Court found the use of the Royal Prerogative to be an ‘unlawful abuse of power.’

The US government has made it clear that it will ignore any ruling of the British High Court in this case. In this stance it clearly enjoys the full support of the British government.

It is interesting to note that the name of the US naval base on Diego Garcia is ‘Camp Justice.’

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Ben Griffin: Former SAS, Banned speech to Anti-War Rally

Court gags ex-SAS man who made torture claims

U.K. used for Extraordinary Rendition Flights! (vid) + CIA confirms rendition flights to Brits

A possible Guantanamo on UK soil + More probes into Diego Garcia ‘rendition’ (videos)

Claims of secret CIA jail for terror suspects on British island to be investigated by Ian Cobain and Richard Norton-Taylor

Extraordinary Rendition (video)

Why Democracy – Taxi to the Dark Side (video; over 18)