NEWSLETTER # 53 (November / December 2007)
over 3 million displaced
Brown's wars, the surge, and hidden history
1.2 million dead
Torture and detention
Iraqis reject privatisation
Iraq poll latest
Negotiation or escalation
Brown backs Iran attack
Brown's wars, the surge, and hidden history
In his first few months as PM, Gordon
Brown has presided over a dramatic
increase in the bombing of Iraq,
secretly backed new
US plans for an attack on Iran, and continued to deport people
to Iraq whilst abdicating
Britain’s responsibility for the millions
of Iraqis that have been forced to flee their homes since the invasion.
He now looks set on further
escalating Britain’s war in southern Afghanistan, where British
troops have ‘called in US airstrikes hundreds of times in
recent months’ (Observer, 12 Aug).
far from marking a break with his predecessor, Brown’s
8 Oct announcement that the number of British troops in Iraq
will be ‘halved to 2,500 by next spring’ (Times,
9 Oct) was simply the continuation of the existing policy, begun
under Blair, of redeploying most British forces to Afghanistan
(see Voices 41 & 42).
Furthermore – despite a 9-10 Aug YouGov poll, in which
74% said they wanted all British troops withdrawn from Iraq either ‘immediately’ (29%)
or ‘within the next year or so’ (45%) - the deputy
chief of the defence staff has stated ‘that significant
numbers of British troops are likely to be based in southern
Iraq for the foreseeable future’ (Guardian, 24 Oct).
Meanwhile, US ‘[c]laims that [their] military strategy
is paving the way for a stable society bear little resemblance
to the reality on the ground’, Kim Sengupta reports from
Baghdad, where ‘the walls being put up by American contractors
at record speed, are formalising the break-up’ of the city
(Independent, 11 Sept).
civilian death tolls – which do appear
to have dipped - give only a very partial picture: the sectarian
purging of Baghdad’s neighbourhoods has ‘helped bring
down the number of violent deaths’ since ‘driving
people out means that there are fewer … targets left for
militias to kill.’
Much has also been made of the so-called “Anbar awakening”,
under which the US has been “arming and financing” Sunni
tribes in western Iraq – including former insurgents -
to help it fight al-Qaeda (FT, 8/9 Sept). In reality, this is
just the latest zig-zag in US policy, which four years ago was
backing Shiite militias, such as the notorious Wolf Brigade (later
found running a torture chamber in Baghdad), to help it combat
the then-predominantly Sunni insurgency (see Voices 44).
‘The hidden history of the past four years,’ veteran
Iraq journalist Patrick Cockburn notes, ‘is that the US
wants to defeat the Sunni insurgents but does not want the Shia-Kurdish
government to win a total victory. It props up the Iraqi state
with one hand and keeps it weak with the other … The US
is trying to limit the extent of the Shia-Kurdish victory, but
by preventing a clear winner emerging in the struggle for Iraq,
Washington is ensuring that this bloodiest of wars goes on, with
no end in sight’ (Independent, 7 Aug).
1.2 million dead
A recent poll suggests that upwards of a million people may have
been killed in Iraq since the beginning of the 2003 invasion,
including 116,000 killed by aerial bombing.
poll, conducted 12 – 19 Aug by Opinion Business Research
(ORB, a polling company believed to have conducted past polls
for the MoD) and barely reported in the British press, found
that 22% of Iraqi households had had one (16%), two (5%) of three
(1%) members die ‘as a result of the conflict in Iraq since
data from a 2005 census, ORB calculated that over 1.2 million
been killed since the start of the invasion.
52.1% (636,000) were killed by gunshots, 21.6% (264,000) by car
bombs and 9.5% (116,000) by aerial bombardment. A further 1.1
million were estimated to have suffered injuries ‘as a
result of the conflict.’
with the results of the 2006 survey published in the Lancet
described by the MoD’s chief scientific
adviser as ‘employing methods … regarded as “close
to best practice” in this area’ – see Voices
51), the ORB poll suggests that tens of thousands of Iraqis have
died as result of air strikes since July 2006.
“They came in the house, at night. I heard a noise and three or
four men were there. They held a knife to my throat. We were
scared they would rape us. “This is a warning,” they
said. We decided that night that we had to escape. It was either
stay and be killed or leave, that was the choice” – Iraqi
asylum seeker Amira (31), who arrived in the UK three years ago.
In August her case was still ‘under review’ (Telegraph
Magazine, 18 Aug 2007).
“We will discharge our obligations to the Iraqi people” – Gordon
Brown, 2 Oct (tinyurl.com/2zp4h7)
Since the 2003 invasion, over 3 million Iraqis 
have been forced to flee their homes - the largest population
in the Middle East since the dispossession of the Palestinians
in 1948 (UNHCR, Sept & Jul 07). Yet the two countries most
responsible for this ever deepening humanitarian crisis – the
US and Britain – have
done almost nothing to alleviate it.
On 13 April Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW)
and the Refugee Council wrote to Tony Blair, calling on the UK
provide a ‘substantial package of support’ to
those countries in the region that are sheltering the vast majority
of refugees from Iraq
* create its own programme to resettle Iraqi refugees here in
* suspend all forcible deportations to Iraq, and allow those
Iraqis who have been refused asylum the right to work, or to
receive a decent level of state support (http://tinyurl.com/ytkels).
8 Aug, HRW noted that the UK had made ‘little effort … to
address any of these elements’ (tinyurl.com/2shgxz). Almost
nothing has changed since then.
for frontline states
refugees in Syria (1.2m - 1.4m) now comprise at least
7% of the population,
those in Jordan (500,000 – 750,000)
around 10% (Millions in Flight, Amnesty International, 24 Sept,
hereafter ‘MiF’). A comparable flow into
the UK would consist of over 4 million people .
these refugees are ‘placing a huge strain
on [these countries] resources’, and their presence ‘may
soon become unsustainable unless [Jordan and Syria] receive increased
and long-term support from other states.’
lack of such assistance ‘has resulted in Jordan and
Syria initiating drastic measures to curb the large population
flows.’ On 10 Sept, Syria introduced visa restrictions
for Iraqis wishing to enter its territory, a measure that ‘effectively
sever[s] the last open escape route for Iraqis’ (Jordan
introduced a ‘severely restrictive border entry procedure’ earlier
in the year).
and Syria have both estimated their costs in hosting Iraq’s refugees at roughly $1bn / year. In April UNHCR
convened an international conference to try and raise funds,
yet by July both countries had ‘still received next to
nothing in bilateral help from the world community’ (UNHCR,
6 July). In Sept Jordanian officials told Amnesty ‘that
no direct bilateral assistance had yet been received’ (MiF).
of 9 Oct, the UK had contributed approx £15m to humanitarian
agencies operating in Iraq and the region this year (DfiD, 9
Oct) – less than 0.5% of the roughly £5bn it has
spent on military operations in Iraq over the past 5 years (FT,
to Amnesty, resettlement – the process whereby
states accept refugees still in the region at the request of
UNHCR or private sponsors – ‘should go far beyond
token numbers and should constitute a significant part of the
solution to the current crisis’ (MiF).
present, it barely exists as an option for Iraqis: between
1 Jan and
UNHCR referred 14,934 Iraqis for resettlement,
of whom a mere 1800 had actually departed by the end of September
(UNHCR, Sept 07). The UK – with a population of 60 million – currently
has an annual global resettlement quota of 500 (MiF).
Oct – following a campaign spearheaded by The Times – the
UK announced that a small number of Iraqis who had worked for
them (along with their dependants) would be able to apply for ‘exceptional
leave to enter the UK’ or for resettlement here (Hansard,
9 Oct, Col 25WS). However, the offer will apply to at most 1,100
former employees (Guardian, 10 Oct) – a tiny fraction of
even the estimated 20,000 Iraqis who have worked for the British
since 2003 (Times, 10 Oct), let alone the millions who have fled
Destitution and deportation
Only a tiny trickle of Iraqi asylum seekers ever make it to
the UK. Almost all are refused .
Moreover, ’The UK operates a harsh practice of cutting
off assistance, including accommodation and benefits, for people
who reach the end of the asylum process’, and ‘has
been one of the key players in forcible returns of Iraqis’ ,
returning more Iraqis than any other European state (MiF).
Amnesty ‘currently opposes all forcible returns to any
part of Iraq due to the security and humanitarian situation,
and the continued instability’ (MiF). As a consequence
of these policies, the Refugee Council notes, large numbers of
Iraqis ‘are now living in destitution, in a legal limbo,
and under constant threat of removal’ (Independent, 9 Aug).
Sign and send Voices’ Justice for Iraqi Refugees postcard
(see above). Further postcards for your union, church, mailing,
stall etc… are
available free from the Voices office: 0845 458 2564.
* Organise a local screening of Children Against the War’s
20 minute DVD on Iraqi child refugees in Jordan
* Support the Coalition to Stop Deportations to Iraq: sarahp107[at]hotmail.com,
t: 07856 032 991, w: www.csdiraq.com.
* The National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns (www.ncadc.org.uk)
have recently succeeded in getting XL Airlines to stop taking
part in forcible removals from the UK (Independent, 8 Oct). British
Airways (Waterside, PO Box 365, Harmondsworth UB7 0GB), and Virgin
(Virgin Atlantic Airways,
The Office, Manor Royal, Crawley, RH10 9NU) continue to supply
* Send a donation to the Direct Aid Initiative, a project of
Electronic Iraq (www.electroniciraq.net) building bridges of
friendship and support with displaced Iraqis. Cheques in dollars
can be sent to DAI care of the Middle East Cultural and Charitable
Society: MECCS/DAI, PO Box 382425, Cambridge, MA 02238, USA.
As of Sept, the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR estimated
that there were ‘well over 4 million displaced Iraqis around
the world, including some 2.2 million inside Iraq and a similar
number in neighbouring countries (in particular Syria and Jordan)’ (UNHCR,
Sept 07). ‘Around one million were displaced prior to 2003.’
 23,610 people applied for asylum in the UK in 2006 (tinyurl.com/yr5t9a).
 ‘[O]f the 310 Iraqis who sought asylum in the UK in
the second quarter of 2007, only 30 were allowed to stay on their
first application and a further 25 given leave to remain. The
remainder were refused’ (Guardian, 7 Oct).
The UK is known to have forcibly returned four groups of rejected
to Erbil in northern Iraq in
Nov 05, Sept 06, Feb 07, and Sept 07, and ‘other flights
are planned to forcibly return further’ Iraqis (MiF).
Torture and detention
The number of Iraqis detained
by US forces has skyrocketed since the beginning of the US troop “surge”, climbing from
roughly 16,000 in Feb (IPS, 30 Aug) to nearly 25,000 by early
Oct (AFP, 10 Oct). Moreover, the number of detainees held by
the US ‘is projected to hit 30,000 (by US command) by the
end of the year, and 50,000 by the end of 2008’ (Anthony
Cordesmann, 6 Aug, tinyurl.com/37k4pr).
Many – perhaps most - are being held without trial, ‘with
minimal access to the evidence against them and without their
defence counsel having access to such evidence’ (UN Human
Rights Report, 11 Oct).
at 10 Oct, the US was holding 860 under-sixteens, and the average
length of incarceration was 300 days. Eighty-three per
cent of inmates were Sunnis, 16% Shiite.
Meanwhile, the number of Iraqis detained by the US-backed Iraqi
government reached 37,000 in Aug (WP, 15 Aug). The most recent
UN Human Rights Report on Iraq (covering the period 1 Apr – 30
Jun) noted ‘continuing reports of the widespread and
routine torture’ of such detainees, particularly those
being held in Ministry of Interior facilities, such as police
’In addition to routine beatings with hosepipes, cables
and other implements, the methods cited included prolonged suspension
from the limbs … electric shocks to sensitive parts of
the body … and severe burns to parts of the body through
the application of heated implements.’
* Iraqi AP photographer Bilal Hussein has now been held without
charge by US forces for over 18 months. Though US military
officials say that he is being held for “imperative reasons
of security” he has never been charged with an offence
and a review of Hussein’s work by AP ‘did not find
anything to indicate inappropriate contact with insurgents’ (AP,
17 Sept 06)
12 Oct, in a petition faxed to the US State Department, 1,500
journalists – including 9 Pulitzer Prize winners
and world-renowned photographer Sebastiao Salgado – issued
a call for his immediate release (www.freebilal.org).
To support this call, Voices has produced a campaign postcard
(see above) to send to
the US Embassy. Copies are available free from the
“[I]t is clear that the government is trying to implement
one of the demands of the American occupation … [the draft
oil law] lays the foundation for a fresh plundering of Iraq’s
strategic wealth and its squandering by foreigners” – open
letter signed by 419 Iraqi academics, engineers and oil industry
experts (New York Times, 5 Sept)
“We call on all people who want peace and organizations
which opposed the war to help us in our struggle” – Hassan
Juma’a Awad al-Asadi, President of the Iraqi Federation
of Oil Unions
civil society and the global anti-war movement scored a major
the occupation’s oil privatisation
agenda this September, when Iraq's Parliament failed to pass
a draft oil law.
If passed, the law - which was written in secret under intense
the US/UK governments, the IMF, and Big Oil - would have allowed
multinational oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon to take
role in developing Iraq's oilfields, under contracts of up to
30 years, reaping staggering profits and depriving Iraq of tens
of billions of dollars worth of revenue (see Voices 51 and www.crudedesigns.org).
Despite massive pressure from Washington to pass it in time
for General Petraeus' mid-Sept report to Congress, a combination
of grassroots opposition (esp. from the Iraqi oil unions) and
internal conflict (within the Iraqi Government) has derailed
the law, at least temporarily.
In the run-up to the Sept deadline, Iraq's oil minister ‘issued
a directive banning unions from participating in any official
discussions about the new law, 'since these unions have no
legal status to work within the state sector'.’ Needless
to say, the main target of the ban, the Iraqi Federation of
Oil Unions (IFOU), has been at the forefront of opposition
to the new law.
Now, the Oil Ministry is saying that it hopes to sign contracts
with foreign firms, law or no law, and with Iraq still under
foreign occupation (Reuters, 24 Sept).
future is still being stolen, and its people still need our
to stop it.
* Take part in the National Day of Action Against the Privatisation
of Iraq’s Oil on 23 Feb. Contact 07749 421 576 for details
or visit www.HandsOffIraqiOil.org.
* Catch up with the Hands Off Iraqi Oil tour this Nov (see here).
* Help spread the word: get hold of some ‘Hands Off Iraqi
Oil’ stickers, available free from Voices: voices[at]voicesuk.org
or 0845 458 2564.
* Invite a speaker from Hands Off Iraqi Oil or Naftana (the UK
support committee for the IFOU) to speak to your group. Contact
Ewa on 07749 421 576.
* New comic: ‘Iraqi Oil for Beginners’ (see here).
* Platform’s briefings on oil and Iraq, including: ‘Shell – Stealing
Iraq’s Future’, ‘A guide to dispelling the
myths on Iraqi oil policy’, and ‘Slick Connections:
US Influence on Iraqi Oil.’ See tinyurl.com/37wdeh.
Iraqis reject privatisation
Iraqis oppose plans to open the
oilfields to foreign investment by a factor of two to one, according
Jun / Jul poll jointly commissioned by a coalition of US and
UK civil society groups, including Voices (tinyurl.com/2eqxta).
per cent would prefer Iraq’s oil to be developed
and produced by Iraqi public sector companies rather than foreign
companies, with 32% of those indicating a strong preference.
Only 10% strongly preferred foreign companies. Moreover, there
were no ethnic, sectarian or geographical groups that preferred
Furthermore, 76% of Iraqis said that the level of information
provided to them by the Iraqi Government about the law had been
either 'totally inadequate' (40%) or 'somewhat inadequate' (36%).
this poll is the first time that ordinary Iraqis have been
asked their views
on the contents of the draft oil
law (see above).
Iraq poll latest
of Iraqis – including majorities of both Sunnis
and Shiites - think that the withdrawal of US forces
would make a full-scale civil war ‘less likely’ (46%) or ‘w[ould]
not make much difference in whether this happens’ (19%).
47% believe that coalition forces should leave now. Forty-four
per cent believe they should stay ‘until security is restored’ (34%)
or ‘until the Iraqi government is stronger’ (10%).
81% believe that the presence of US forces in Iraq
is either ‘making
the security situation worse’ (72%) or
believe that the security situation in ‘the country
as a whole’ has become worse since the beginning of the
US troop “surge”
57% believe that attacks on US forces are “acceptable”
* 79% strongly (53%) or somewhat (26%) oppose the presence of
coalition forces in Iraq, including 84% of Shiites and 98% of
13% say that ‘unnecessary violence against citizens
by US or coalition forces’ has occurred ‘nearby’ within
the last 6 months (compared to 14% for ‘car bombs [or]
98% say that ‘the separation of people on sectarian
lines’ is ‘a bad thing for Iraq’
17 – 24 Aug poll for ABC/BBC/DHK,
conducted by D3 Systems and KA esearch Ltd.
war planes dropped ‘about twice as many bombs’ on
Iraq during the month preceding 12 Aug as had been used ‘in
the previous three years combined’ (Sunday Telegraph, 12
Tornados flying from a base in Qatar have been used to bomb
as well as targets in Basra, and British ‘commanders
have ordered two more bombers to the Middle East.’
sites & torture
2005 – long after the exposure of US torture at Abu
Ghraib – the US Justice Department issued a legal opinion
that ‘for the first time provided explicit authorisation
to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical
and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated
drowning [so-called “waterboarding”] and frigid temperatures’ (NYT,
a 2006 Supreme Court ruling, President Bush acknowledged the
secret CIA jails and ordered their inmates moved
to Guantanamo Bay and the CIA ‘halted its use of waterboarding.’ However,
this Jul ‘after a [month-long] debate inside the administration,
President Bush signed a new executive order authorising the use
of what the administration calls “enhanced” interrogation
techniques … and officials say the CIA again is holding
prisoners in “black sites” overseas.’
Rise in Shiite attacks
According to the US military, in Jul ‘for the first time
since 2003, Shiite militants carried out as many attacks on Coalition
forces as Sunni insurgents did nationwide’ (NYT, 10 Sept).
Negotiation or escalation
need] to be careful not to demonise the people we fight in Afghanistan …
the great majority [whom] are fighting with the Taliban for financial,
social and tribal reasons … one day we will need to deal
with and reconcile the majority of these people’ – Gen
Sir Richard Dannatt, head of the British army, 21 Sept, tinyurl.com/yq39z5.
Though ‘British officials have concluded that the Taliban
is too deep-rooted to be eradicated by military means’ (Guardian,
15 Oct), Britain looks set to dramatically escalate its war in
southern Afghanistan next Spring.
15 Oct, the Guardian reported that ‘[s]enior Taliban
commanders in Helmand province’ – including a key
aide to Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar – ‘ha[d]
sent a list of demands to the [Afghan] government as part of
tentative back-channel talks to bring a peaceful end to the conflict.’
demands – which the Guardian claimed were ‘unlikely
to be taken seriously’ - included ‘control of 10
southern provinces, a timetable for withdrawal of foreign troops,
and the release of all Taliban prisoners within six months.’
Afghans back negotiations
The overwhelming majority of Afghans back negotiations: in a
17 – 24 Sept poll, 74% supported the idea of negotiations
between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and 54% strongly
supported (25%) or somewhat supported (29%) the idea of a coalition
government (tinyurl.com/ytt2yj). Fifty two per cent agreed
that all foreign troops should be withdrawn within five years
(25% agreed within one year).
Meanwhile, UK Defence Secretary Des Browne has stated that ‘at
some stage, the Taliban will need to be involved in the peace
process because they are not going away’ (AFP, 25 Sept),
and the British Government is said to have ‘thrown its
backing behind an ambitious Afghan strategy to split the Taliban
by securing the defection of senior members of the militant group
and large numbers of their followers’ (Guardian, 15 Oct) – a
move apparently opposed by US commanders (Sunday Telegraph, 28
Crushing the Taliban
Nonetheless, according to the Sunday Times, ’Britain is
to deploy its biggest contingent of paratroopers and special
forces since the second world war in a bid to crush the Taliban’ next
year (30 Sept).
three regular battalions of the Parachute Regiment – about
2,000 troops – will be deployed, alongside the Eurofighter
/ Typhoon, ‘equipped with new missiles for a ground attack
role’ (Guardian, 6 Oct), and for the first time UK special
forces – whose numbers are set to treble – will concentrate
solely on southern Helmand (Sunday Times, 30 Sept). Such forces
are alleged to have killed thousands of people in Iraq since
the 2003 invasion (Sunday Times, 16 Sept).
Paul Rogers has noted: 'Des Browne may talk of negotiations,
but the military escalation
11 Oct). ‘It could even be that Afghanistan will begin
to match Iraq in 2008 as a focal-point for George W Bush’s
war on terror.’
Brown backs Iran attack
‘Pentagon officials have revealed that President Bush won
an understanding with Gordon Brown in July that Britain would
support air strikes [against Iran] if they could be justified
as a counter-terrorist operation’ (Sunday Telegraph, 7
to Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, ‘This summer, the White House, pushed by the office
of Vice-President Dick Cheney, requested that the Joint Chiefs
of Staff redraw long-standing plans for a possible attack on
Iran’ (New Yorker, 8 Oct).
emphasis of the new plans ‘is on “surgical” strikes
on Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC] facilities in Tehran and
elsewhere’, rather than a broader-based attack on nuclear,
military and other infrastructure sites.
Nonetheless President Bush has recently requested money from
congress to upgrade the B2 “stealth” bomber ‘so
that they can deliver [30,000 lb] satellite-guided bombs … designed
to destroy [WMD] facilities’, planes which ‘would
be based on British Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia where
hangars [for the bombers] are being specially upgraded’ (Independent,
24 Oct). The MoD ‘says that the US Government would need
need Britain’s permission to use the island’ -
an essential operating location for any attack on Iran (see
Voices 45) – ‘for offensive action’ (The
Herald, 29 Oct).
According to Hersh, ‘[t]he revised bombing plan … is
gathering support among generals and admirals in the Pentagon’ and ‘has
had its most positive reception from the newly elected government
of Britain’s Gordon Brown’ (New Yorker, 8 Oct).
Sunday Times claims that ‘British special forces have
crossed into Iran several times in recent months as part of a
secret war’ with Iranian special forces, and that there
have been ‘at least half a dozen intense firefights between
the SAS and arms smugglers’ (21 Oct).
* Get informed: get hold of a copy of JNV’s excellent booklet
on Iran, ‘Drawing Paradise on the Axis of Evil.’ See
* Sign Stop the War’s a ‘pledge for action against
an attack on Iran’ (see here).
Kathy Kelly speaking tour
Legendary US peace activist Kathy Kelly will be in the UK on
a whirlwind UK speaking tour from 13 - 17 November.
Kathy co-founded Voices in the Wilderness US, sending scores
of sanctions-breaking delegations to Iraq during the 90s and
early 2000s, and has visited Iraq 26 times since 1991, including
during the 2003 invasion. She has recently returned from spending
four months in the Middle East, living amongst Iraqi refugees.
has also helped organize - and participated in - nonviolent
direct action teams in Haiti
(‘94), Bosnia (’92 & ‘93)
and Iraq (Gulf Peace Team, ‘91). In 2002, she was among
the first internationals to visit Jenin, following the massive
Israeli attack on the West Bank refugee camp.
In 1988 she was sentenced to one year in prison for planting
corn on nuclear missile silo sites, and served nine months of
the sentence in a Lexington, KY maximum security prison. In the
spring of 2004, she served three months at Pekin federal prison
for crossing the line as part of an ongoing effort to close the
army military combat training school at Fort Benning, GA. In
2000 she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the American
Friends Service Committee.
will be speaking in London on 15 November at
the (free) world premiere of Children Against
War’s film ‘Giving
a voice to the children of Iraq’ (see here). She
will also be speaking in: Bangor (13 Nov, 7pm, Lecture
Room 4, Main Arts Building, University of Bangor), Hebden
Bridge (14 Nov, 7.30pm,
Trades Club, Holme St, HX7 8EE), Leeds (15 Nov,
12 noon - 1pm, Room MB.B11, University of Leeds, [Woodhouse Lane]
Parkinson building), Sherborne (16 Nov, 7.30pm,
Sherborne House, Newland, DT9 3JG) and Eastbourne (17
Nov, 1.15pm, Our Lady of Ransom Church,
2-4 Grange Rd, BN21 4EU), and taking part in an activists’ roundtable
discussion on war and resistance at 7pm, 17 Nov, London
Mennonite Centre, 14 Shepherds Hill, N6 5AQ (tube: Highgate).
the War has created a web-page where people can ‘ pledge
to join a national campaign of action and civil disobedience,
including city and town centre sitdowns, work stoppages and college
and school walkouts’ ‘in the event of escalation
towards an attack’ on Iran (tinyurl.com/2uaowv).
The pledge also commits signatories to ‘join[ing] lunchtime protests
and walkouts in workplaces, schools and colleges and mobilise
for local protests in towns and cities across the country’ in
the event on at attack.
This is, of course, excellent news. However, if the anti-war
movement is serious about conducting pre-emptive civil disobedience
against a war with Iran it must start organising for it at the
grassroots now. In particular, in must start holding direct action
and legal workshops that can empower people to take part in such
If you are a member of an anti-war group and have signed the
above pledge, then we urge you to organise such a workshop in
your area. We strongly recommend the free workshops run by the
Seeds for Change collective: www.seedsforchange.org.uk or 0845
2 Aug Margaret Jones – who, with Paul
disabled three tankers used for refuelling the US bombers at
RAF Fairford in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq – was
finally sentenced. Until the end of Jan 08 she may not leave
her house between the hours of 7pm and midnight (except on Mondays
and Sundays when she may attend religious meetings).
21 Aug author and activist (and founder of Voices UK) Milan
Rai was sentenced to 14 days
for refusing to pay
fines for two “unauthorised” anti-war protests near
Parliament: an Oct 05 reading of the names of Iraqis and British
soldiers killed in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, and the Oct
06 “No More Fallujahs” peace camp in Parliament Square.
18 Sept the remaining five “No More Fallujahs” defendants
- Brian Barlow, Steve Barnes, Genny
Clohesey and David
King – were all found not guilty at a 3+ hour trial, after
the magistrate concluded that the prosecution had failed to prove
the defendants had taken part in an “unauthorised” demonstration
or that they were even in the designated area where such authorisation
is a legal requirement. That same day a letter from the five
appeared in both the Times and Guardian, noted that ‘It
is not we who are the "serious and organised" criminals,
but the politicians who have perpetrated this brutal, illegal
On 17 Oct two Catholic priests, Fr.
Louis Vitale (75) and Fr.
Stephen Kelly (54) were sentenced to 5 months in prison for attempting
to deliver a letter to then-commander Major Gen Barbara Fast
at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, denouncing torture and the Military
Commissions Act of 2006 (which denies all non-citizens in US
custody - anywhere around the world - the right to challenge
the legality of their detention before an independent court).
a statement read to supporters who gathered outside the courthouse
the pair declared: "The real crime here has always been
the teaching of torture at Fort Huachuca and the practice of
torture around the world’ (www.tortureontrial.org).
Please send postcards of support (separately, for forwarding)
Stephen Kelly #00816111, CCA, P. O. Box 6300, Florence, AZ 85232,
Louis Vitale #25803048, CCA, P. O. Box 6300, Florence, AZ 8523,
Roughly 30 people showed up in Bournemouth on 23 Sept, for
a sit-down protest outside the Labour Party Conference to demand
that Gordon Brown end his current war-making policies and make
a ‘U-Turn for Peace.’ Six people were arrested,
though all charges were subsequently dropped. If you were one
of the more than 100 people who signed voices ‘pledge
to take part in civil disobedience at the 2007 Labour Party
Conference’ and weren’t there then we’d love
to know what happened to you! Were the postcards unclear?
Oil for Beginners’ by Jon Sack.
from Voices at £3 per copy (or £2 per copy for orders
of five or more) + £1 p&p. Send cheques (made
payable to 'Voices in the Wilderness') to: Voices UK, 5 Caledonian
N1 9DX. Please specify how many comics you would like.
to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, ‘No War for Oil’ (and
its variants) was a popular anti-war slogan.
as routine have been the official denials that oil played any
the decision to invade. Indeed,
Foreign Office minister
Kim Howells recently denounced 'conspiracy theorists’ who
had the temerity to suggest that Britain had used its position
as an occupying power to 'skew’ Iraq’s draft oil
law (see p.5) ‘to suit western oil companies.’
One of the reasons why such statements cannot be taken at face
value is that we have been here before.
as Jon Sack describes at length in his excellent new comic
history Iraqi Oil for Beginners, it
invasion of Iraq during WWI (and the subsequent occupation) that
allowed western companies to seize control of the country’s
oil – control that was not fully relinquished until the
early 70s. Then, as now, the British proclaimed loftier motives
for their actions.
the period from Britain’s 1908 discovery of oil
in Iran, right up to the current day, this is a dense but cleverly-laid-out
work that manages to present a complex mass of material – material
that should be part of every anti-war activists’ background
knowledge - in as painless a form as possible.
ideal Xmas present for an anti-war activist, or anyone
who likes comics …
‘Giving a voice to Iraqi children’,
a 20 minute film by Sonia Azad (DVD-R, Children Against War,
+ £1.50 p&p. Available from JNV, 29 Gensing Road, St
Leonards on Sea, TN38 0HE (cheques payable to ‘JNV’).
Reviewed by MILAN RAI.
Sonia Azad, who is 12 years old, went to Amman in Jordan in
August to film the desperate situation of Iraqi children driven
from their homes by the brutalities of the US-UK occupation,
and the violence it has spawned. In her new film, Giving a voice
to Iraqi children, she highlights two of the stories she heard.
Abeer, 15, is a bright, self-possessed teenager. She discovers
she shares with Sonia an admiration for pop queen Shakira. Then,
without turning a hair, Abeer recounts how she has witnessed
and documented bomb blasts on her mobile phone.
We meet Noor, 16, first in daytime, smiling in a white robe.
Later, we see her at night, ghostly, as she tells the same story
of hardship and humiliation, but now her bitterness spills out.
Her family sits in a circle, hopeless. Her father worked for
the occupation, is in danger of his life. Noor is the breadwinner
of the family, looked down on by Jordanians. We hear her truth.
truth has been brought back to us by a brave girl who refuses
to turn away, who refuses to tire of the tragedy and the suffering,
who is willing to take her own risks to enable us to hear and
see and feel a small part of the tragedy we have helped to create.
Weekly news and analysis
Watching the Warmakers
Excellent, free “war on terror” news digest emailed
out on a weekly basis by the Brighton Hands Off Forum. Formatted
for printing on double-sided A4.