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An activist, clown, trainee lawyer and writer from England. I was in Iraq several times, most recently Nov 03 to May 04, still writing about Iraq and passing on my friends' stories from there.

Monday, July 19, 2004

July 19th
Kurds in Turkey
I have received a couple of e mails now from a friend about the situation of the Kurds in Turkey. As I’m sure people are aware, Turkey has long disregarded the Kurds’ basic rights with the tacit and practical support of NATO allies. I’m going to forward the information from my friend to this list. At the end of this message is a call for action, towards stopping the isolation and abuse of the Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan.

I met thousands of Kurdish refugees from Turkey when we took the circus to Maxmur refugee camp near Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. People there explained to us that, though the European Union has taken a role in requiring the Turkish government to enact human rights reforms in order to join the EU, the reforms are only paper. Despite laws permitting use of the Kurdish language in public places, for example, in practice it is usually prevented and is never allowed at critical times.

To the call for letter writing I would add a call for protests against the arms trade. Wherever you are, there will be a company nearby linked to the sale of weapons to Turkey (see www.caat.org for loads of arms trade info). Five people outside with placards (or custard pies) is a good start. Also Turkish embassies and any kind of government building relating to the US or UK governments, the European Union or any NATO related facilities.
Everything that happened to the Iraqi Kurds under Saddam is still happening to the Turkish Kurds and there’s an enormous need for the people of the world to act.
 
 
International InitiativeFreedom for Ocalan – Peace in KurdistanP.O. Box 100511, D-50445 KoelnTelephone: +49 221 130 15 59Fax: +49 221 139 30 71E-Mail: info@freedom-for-ocalan.comUrl: www.freedom-for-ocalan.com
Cologne, 16 July 2004
Urgent Appeal Since June 9 2004 Abdullah Öcalan has not been allowed to receive visits from his lawyers and family. Officially it is claimed that the boat, which is used for the journey to the prison island, Imrali, has broken down and must be repaired. The fact that there are many alternative ways of travelling makes the reason given not very convincing, and this has caused serious worries.
Since his illegal abduction to Turkey on February 15 1999 the leader of the Kurdish people has been held prisoner in isolation under the most dehumanising circumstances. He is the only prisoner in the fortified building. The prison island has been declared a military zone, which means that it falls under the jurisdiction of the crisis management staff, which is only answerable to the Turkish prime minister. Time and again visits by lawyers and family members are prevent for differing reasons, and the right to communication with the outside world is denied. The six years of isolation detention have seriously affected the health of the Kurdish leader. Turkey has refused to allow a visit by an independent medical commission.
The measures taken against Öcalan are in breach of international law. They are not in line with the European Convention on Human Rights. The demand made by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) of the European Council, to abandon the isolation measures taken against Öcalan has been ignored by the Turkish government. On the contrary, the restrictions were tightened even further. The aim of the deprivation of the senses used against Öcalan is to destroy him mentally and physically. This amounts to an execution in instalments. As a candidate member of the European Union, Turkey has a duty to uphold the Copenhagen criteria, including among others upholding compulsory human rights standards. The European institutions responsible for the expansion of the EU view this situation in silence. The Turkish institutions involved see this silence as approval of their current course of action. Despite all these problems Abdullah Öcalan is continuing to strife for a democratic solution of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict and the democratisation of the Middle East region as a whole. He had and still has a big role in the search for a peaceful solution. The use of isolation detention against him shows that the Turkish government’s aim is to find a solution to the problem while shutting out the Kurdish side. In this way they want to establish a solution, which only serves the interests of the Turkish state. The law reforms, which were brought in under pressure from the EU, appear to be of only cosmetic nature. Because of this: · International ad hoc delegation to Imrali · Immediately lift the isolation detention of Abdullah Öcalan!




UN Special Rapporteur on TortureC/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human RightsUnited Nations Office in GenevaCH- 1211 Geneva 10SwitzerlandEmail: urgent-action@ohchr.org OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human RightsMr. Sirpa RAUTIOAleje Ujazdowskie 1900-557 Warsaw / POLANDTel: 0048 22 52006 00 Fax. 0048 22 520 06 05Email: Sirpa.Rautio@odihr.plInternational Bar Association 271 Regent StreetLondon W1B 2AQTel: +44 (0)20 7629 1206Fax: +44 (0)20 7409 0456E-mail: member@int-bar.orgPhysicians for Human Rights100 Boylston StreetSuite 702 Boston, MA 02116 USA Tel: (617) 695-0041Fax: (617) 695-0307email: phrusa@phrusa.org Human Rights First333 Seventh Avenue,13th FloorNew York, NY 10001-5004Tel: (212) 845 52 00Fax: (212) 845 52 99Email: communicatiosn@humanrights.orgThe International Network of Medicines du Mond62, rue Marcadet75018 Paris / FranceTel: 0033 1 44 92 14 15Fax : 00 33 1 44 92 14 55 Email : bearoux@medecinsdumonde.netMedecins Sans Frontieres MSF International Office Rue de la Tourelle, 39 –Brussels - BelgiumPhone: +32-2-280-1881 Fax: +32-2-280-0173Human Rights Watch Rue Van Campenhout 15, 1000 Brussels, Belgium Tel: 32 (2) 732-2009Fax: 32 (2) 732-0471hrwatcheu@skynet.be




First signatories of the International Initiative: Máiréad Maguire (Nobel Price Award, Northern Ireland), Dario Fo (Director, Writer, Actor, Nobel Literature Price Award, Italy), Adolfo Perez Esquivel (Nobel Literature Price Award, Argentine), Jose Ramos-Horta (Peace Nobel Price Award, East-Timor), José Saramago (Nobel Literature Price Award, Portugal), Danielle Mitterrand (President, Donation France Liberté, France), Ramsey Clark (Lawyer, former Attorney General, USA), Uri Avnery (Former Member of Knesset, Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc), Israel), Prof. Dr. Noam Chomsky (Linguist, Writer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA), Alain Lipietz (Member of the European Parliament, France), Pedro Marset Carpos (Member of the European Parliament, Spain), Mrs. Jean Lambert (Member of the European Parliament, GB), Lord Avebury (Chairman, Parliamentary Human Rights Group, House of Lords, GB), Harry Cohen (Member of Parliament, Labour Party, GB), Cynog Dafis (Member of Parliament, Plaid Cymru, GB), Lord Raymond Hylton (House of Lords, GB), Lord Rea (House of Lords, Great Britain), Walid Jumblat (President, Socialist Progressive Party, Lebanon), Rudi Vis (Member of Parliament, Labour Party, GB), Paul Flynn (Member of Parliament, Labour Party, Great Britain), Máiréad Keane (Director, International Department, Sinn Fein, Northern Ireland), Domenico Gallo (Lawyer, former senator (CI), member of Magistratura Democratica, Italy), Livio Pepino (Lawyer, President of Magistratura Democratica, Italy), Xabier Arzalluz (President, PNV (Basque Nationalist Party), Tony Benn (Member of Parliament, Labour Party, GB), Giovanni Palombarini (Lawyer, former president of Magistratura Democratica, Italy), Heidi Ambrosch (Vice-president and Women Speaker, Communist Party of Austria), Mag. Walter Baier (President, Communist Party of Austria), Giana Nanini (Artist, Italy), Geraldine Chaplin (Actress, Madrid, Spain), Dietrich Kittner, (Humorist, Writer, Cabarettist, Germany), David MacDowall, (Writer, GB), Alice Walker, (Writer, USA), Franca Rame, (Actress, Director, Writer, Italy), Prof. Dr. Jean Ziegler (Member of the Swiss National Council, Publisher, Switzerland), Dr. Diether Dehm (Vice President, PDS, Germany), Prof. Dr. Angela Davis (University of California, Santa Cruz, USA), Prof. Dr. Luigi Ferraioli (Philosophy and Law Professor, Italy), Prof. Dr. Uwe Jens Heuer (Law Professor, Berlin, Germany), Prof. Dr. Wolf-Dieter Narr (Comittee for Fundamental Rights and Democracy, Germany), Prof. Dr. Werner Ruf (International Law Professor, Kassel University, Germany), Prof. Dr. Norman Paech (International Law Professor, Hamburg School of Economy and Politics, Germany), Prof. Dr. Gerhard Stuby (International Law Professor, Bremen University, Germany), Prof. Dr. h.c. Ronald Mönch (Chair of Bremen Highschool, Germany), Prof. Dr. Elmar Altvater (President, International Lelio Basso Donation for the rights of the peoples, Germany), Prof. Dr. Helmut Dahmer (Sociology Professor, Darmstadt Technical University, Germany), Prof. Jürgen Waller (Chair of School of Arts, Bremen, Germany), Christine Blower (Former President, National Union of Teachers (NUT), Great Britain), Ken Cameron (General Secretary, Fire Brigades Union (FBU), GB), Josep Lluis Carod Rouira (President ERC, Barcelona, Spain), Michael Feeny (Adviser of Cardinal Hume in refugee affaires, GB), Gareth Peirce (Lawyer, Great Britain Frances Webber, Barrister, GB), Norbert Mattes (Information Project Near und Middle East, Germany), Yayla Mönch-Buçak (Oldenburg University, Germany), Dr. Mamoud Osman (Kurdish Politician, Great Britain), Jutta Bauer (Book Illustrator, Germany), Günther Schwarberg (Journalist, Germany), Hans Branscheidt (medico international / Appell von Hannover), Germany Rolf Becker (Actor, IG Medien (Media Union), Germany)

Sunday, July 18, 2004

July 18th

The Butler Report and the One-Legged Child

So the Butler Report came out. This, for the benefit of those who may have missed it, is the report of the committee convened to decide whether the Prime Minister, the intelligence services, the Joint Intelligence Committee or anyone else lied about the evidence relating to Iraq’s alleged weapons which were, in case anyone forgot, the alleged reason for the all-too-real bombardment and invasion of Iraq.

Not too complex a brief, one might suggest. Still, to make sure that only the finest minds were applied to the task, Tony Blair himself handpicked the committee. I’m sure that, as with the Hutton Report on whether the government, the BBC, the deceased’s immediate superiors, the tooth fairy or anyone else bore any responsibility for the death of weapons expert David Kelly, someone will send me an explanation of who Lord Butler is and how close and cosy are his ties to the Prime Minister.

In the meantime, consider this. Ann Taylor was the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, appointed by the PM to hold the security services to governmental account. As such she was the only person outside of the Joint Intelligence Committee invited to comment on the September dossier of ‘evidence’ on Iraq’s weapons.

She made a number of suggestions on strengthening the language, making the evidence appear more solid, suggestions which were incorporated into the final document. Ann Taylor was also appointed, by Tony Blair, to the Butler Committee, to consider who lied and misled whom.

According to the Independent, on Friday, Ann Taylor was on one side of an argument over how critical the report ought to be. Evidently learning the lessons from her previous experience, she insisted that the report should be toned down, should be less critical of her party leader, Tony Blair.

Hello?

You might have thought, given the number of lawyers inhabiting the Houses of Parliament, that someone would have pointed out the fundamental principle of justice, that no person shall be the judge in her own case. You might have thought that would preclude Tony Blair selecting the committee himself, let alone his picking the person who wrote the story to decide whether it was any good or not.

Predictably enough, the report says Tony Blair didn’t lie. The government ‘has been cleared’ of deliberately misleading anyone. But only by Lord Butler. Preview copies of the report went to the three main parties, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Tories but not to the smaller parties nor to independents, who got copies at the same time as the press. As my Iraqi friends used to say, with heavy sarcasm, ‘This is the freedom.’

As it happened, I had lunch in the House of Commons the day before. Amid lime green corridors, over coffee in the House of Lords, my friend-on-the-inside and I quietly conspired and plotted.

The dinner lady remarked apologetically that it was a bit like school meals. But the members were all a-chatter with ‘breaking up’ at the end of next week, which is exactly what schools do at the end of each term. The overwhelming majority of the catering and cleaning staff were black or other ethnic minority groups while the majority of the ones in suits were white.

Women in big hats decorated the terrace, on their way to the Royal Garden Party. You don’t often see Blair out on the terrace, according to my friend on the inside. You see Jack Straw about from time to time. He uses the gym as well, so you see him in there. And the Attorney General, what’s his name? Somebody Goldsmith? He always looks at you when you pass as if he’s waiting for something bad to happen, always looks beleaguered.

The way out is currently filled with a walk through exhibition called ‘House to Home’, asking how to bring the Houses of Parliament closer to the homes of the people, how to bring the government closer to the governed. There were little tents where you could stick up post it notes saying what you thought ought to be done. As if the government cared what the public thought.

It’s a bit like the Prime Minister handpicking a committee to decide whether he and they lied. It’s asking how to bring government closer to the people while in the same building they’re centralising everything, taking all the real decisions away from local government, privatising public services so that people have no right any more to elect the people who make those decisions.

I saw Ahrar again in London, the Iraqi journalist who was held prisoner with us in Falluja, for the first time since the Imam dropped us back from there. She started telling the story to the assembled group of Iraqis, most of them members or relations of the Iraqi Women’s League. Her family were violently angry with her for having been there. She lost her job but got a better one, in television. She started to sing, for the first time since Falluja.

She came to the UK accompanying a girl called Zeynab. Zeynab is eleven, from Basra in the south of Iraq. Seventeen members of her family, all but her father, were killed by a coalition bomb dropped on their house during the invasion. She swings on crutches, one leg of her jeans hanging empty. She had a fitting for a prosthetic leg in the morning. "It was beautiful," she said, her face full of glee.

Because of the chaos there are no agencies or organisations in Iraq now making prosthetic limbs, though Iraqi doctors are among the most advanced in the world in plastic surgery after the carnage of the war with Iran. It’s not practical to bring any number of kids to the UK for treatment and the hope is that we can set something up in Jordan or somewhere else close by. I’ll let you know when you can help with that.
Meanwhile, please protest loudly and disruptively against the ongoing manufacture and sale of cluster bombs, the continuing occupation of Iraq and creation of conditions which make it impossible for NGOs to clean up the mess and repair the maimed children and the lies of our governments.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

June 17th
Flagstaff

“If a school takes even a single dollar of Federal funding they’re obliged to hand over all of their confidential information to the State, for the military recruiters. By the time the kids leave high school they’ve had 50 to 60 phone calls at home from the recruiters, visits, cold calls from them at home, a mailbox full of glossy brochures, as well as careers advice from them.”

It’s part of a programme called ‘No Child Left Behind’. Or No Child Left Alive, if anyone was ever honest about these things. Susanne said recruiters have even been known to take kids on ski-ing trips to seduce them into the army. Veterans for Peace had a table at the talk, full of leaflets about recruitment issues. The recruiters frequently promise work-related training and money for college to kids without many opportunities in those departments.

The veterans say the training you receive in the military rarely translates into useful qualifications for civilian jobs. On average in 31 months of active duty a service person receives 1.78 moths – less than 8 weeks – of job training. 12% of male and 6% of female veterans make any use of the skills they gained in the military in their subsequent civilian jobs and more than 50,000 unemployed veterans are waiting for re-training. On average, veterans earn 85 cents per hour or $1700 a year less than non-veterans of comparable socio-economic status.

They say the money for college often depends on a series of conditions and the real funding is rarely forthcoming. Less than a third of recruits ever get any money for college and colleges can reduce their financial aid to students by the amount of the army scholarship so there’s no net gain at all. Even among those who pay a non-refundable deposit into the Montgomery G.I. Bill scheme, two thirds get no money at all, not even the amount that was deducted from their pay, and the programme made a profit of $720 million in its first 10 years, to 1995.

They say once you find out that the options you wanted aren’t going to be available to you after all, it’s too late to get out except with a dishonourable discharge which wipes out any pensions and healthcare you might have been entitled to and makes it hard to get anywhere in civilian life afterwards.

They say that pensions, benefits and healthcare are being dismantled leaving lots of them destitute. Around a third of homeless people in the US are military veterans. Two thirds of army families are living on food stamps or other public aid. It’s common for the Veterans’ Administration to refuse health claims arising out of military service, relating to depleted uranium, to Agent Orange and to radiation sickness for example.

Dick Cheney, more truthful than the military recruiters, which is a fairly damning indictment of the latter, declared that the military is “to fight and win wars… It’s not a jobs program.” Quite.

They also point out the comparative costs: the price of a blanket is roughly the same as that of a hand grenade. And it reminded me of the mourning tent in the entrance of the squatter camp at Shuala where Circus2Iraq used to go, the mourning tent for a two month old baby girl who, as Abu Ahmed put it, “died of the cold.” But there was no shortage of gunships to send to Shuala during the nation-wide uprisings in April.

Cheney, with all his shares in Halliburton, which has profited so handsomely from overcharging US taxpayers for meals it never served to soldiers and for petrol driven in from neighbouring countries, might also have said that the purpose of invading a country is “to make a lot of money for my company… It’s not a humanitarian programme.” Only he never did. In fact he said more or less the opposite.

The local Veterans for Peace group is trying to counteract some of the military influence in schools by getting vets into schools to talk about the truth of life in the army, the recruiters’ promises and war. The front row was filled with young Native American students.

Recruitment is not yet at such a stage in the UK but war video games, the economic draft, misleading TV ads and military access to schools are on the rise and need to be fought, by vets, teaching unions and all of us and by creating more alternatives, more co-ops, more training, more free education, more compelling non-party-based resistance movements that empower people to be part of something that’s ‘bigger than the individual’ but at the same time belongs to us.

Susanne, who started telling us about all this, used to teach public speaking at the University of Amsterdam to members of the International Relations course, students from 55 countries who would go home and run radio and TV. She’s married to a Dutchman who was part of the Dutch resistance during the Nazi occupation. He’d been, among other things, part of the camera group.

Water has been a continuing theme in what I’ve written from the south west. Flagstaff was no different. In a canyon we met a park ranger called Merl who was busy re-routing the trail away from the golf course, funded by the course’s operators who had got tired of things been thrown onto the course by walkers. It sucks up the water, Merl said, and by way of demonstration the sprinklers sprung into action among the cacti and the dust-dry rocks and ground.

“It sucks up the water and it’s ugly, but Conservancy tried to buy the land for $17 million and the tribal leaders said it was worth $30 million. Well, Conservancy couldn’t afford that, so the golf course people bought it.”

Past secoros, the tall cacti with upheld arms, past mobile phone masts that looked a little similar, Brenda told us about the many, many uninvestigated killings of Native Americans in the area. One was campaigning vociferously against the uranium mining in the area until he was found dead in his car with no apparent cause. Another was looking into some local corruption. He was murdered.

Brenda was looking into pollution problems from crop spraying flights and was threatened, told to stop, told to go and ask another would-be detective what would happen. He – I’ll call him A - told her he was campaigning against the crop sprayers. His neighbour was working in A’s garden and was shot dead, mistaken for A. Apparently the campaign was drawing attention to ‘Black Ops’ flights out of the air strip, flying weapons, drugs, people and so on to places the US was covertly supplying.

A local radio journalist got irate at us because it says somewhere on my website: “The media are lying to you.” A TV crew came down to the talk and did a piece from the angle that we were telling stuff you wouldn’t hear on the news, that the mainstream media in Iraq wasn’t getting out enough to tell the truth about what’s going on there.

Let me explain. The media are lying to us. They lie by printing misinformed or misleading stories or writing captions which deliberately misinterpret what a picture shows, as in a lot of the anti-capitalist protests where non-violent demonstrators have been attacked by police..

They lie by simply quoting the government and military spokespeople without investigation, as in the New York Times and many others on the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.

They lie by trivialising or over simplifying, as with the environmental protests, especially the road protests: a real and common sense debate over the merits of road building? No, let’s just talk about lifestyles and hairstyles on a road protest camp.

They lie by filling their space with celebrity crap and neglecting to tell people that they’re being shafted by the World Trade Organisation, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the Paris Club, the Carlisle Group and all the rest of them.

They lie by exclusion, simply not telling stories that don’t fit with their editorial line and in Bristol, where all the local newspapers, free sheets, entertainment and listings mags and commercial radio licences are owned by the same Northcliffe Group, that’s a pretty comprehensive lie.

They lie by telling us there’s nothing we can do, that things are the way they are because it’s the only way they can be and they lie because they’re all owned by the people who benefit the most from the status quo.

And Laurel, either you’re part of that and you’re lying too and you know it or else you’re not part of that, you’re part of the ‘alternative’ and you know that the rest of them are lying. If the cap fits, wear it. If not, keep fighting.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

June 14th
Phoenix

Victor has been a lawyer for 25 years, mostly in criminal defence. His was the case that established that Native American prisoners have the right to refuse to have their hair cut in jail.

In the US, lawyers can only practise in the state in which they passed their bar exam. You can study at home for another state’s bar qualification but there’s no process of apprenticeship as there is in the UK. Once you pass the bar you can start advertising and practising. The purely market-based system of entry to law colleges means there are more lawyers than there is demand (or people who can afford their services). Hence, Victor explained, the preponderance of adverts for class action lawsuits in the US. An excess of lawyers produces an excess of cases.

The pay for a public defender is good enough, Victor said – the equivalent of a lawyer paid for by legal aid in the UK. It’s just that judges will rarely approve the funding for finding and calling expert defence witnesses, whereas the state is able to access experts for the prosecution.

There’s a strong systemic tilt in favour of the prosecution, Victor said. The judge won’t be responsible for hearing the appeal so, once he's made the judgement, it’s out of his hands. But a conviction makes almost everyone happy: the police, the prosecution, the victim or victim’s family; even the jury feel like they’ve done something useful.

Victor came from Boston, moved to Phoenix 35 years ago: “And I should’ve left 34 years ago,” he muttered with apparently characteristic grumpiness. A factory worker, he spent his nights spraying stencil graffiti against the Vietnam war. Eventually arrested, he was charged with something to do with unauthorised advertising. He went to the university law library, defended himself on the basis that the legislation invoked was intended to prevent – as you might assume – unauthorised commercial advertising, not political expression.

“Case dismissed,” the judge said. “Now go to law school.” And he did.

Driving into Phoenix a man called David pointed out a river-shaped lake. Dammed three times higher up its course, the Salt River is now a dry bed on most of its course through the city. Water supplies for the population have to be piped in from elsewhere and a small stretch of the river has been reflooded with water imported from the Colorado River. Abruptly the river-lake ends, reverting to a deep stony ditch, a monument to stupidity.

In a similar arse-backwards scheme, ‘President’ Bush came to Phoenix to promote his housing plan, a plot to take money out of low income housing projects and divert it into loans for wealthier people. David teaches political science at the University of Phoenix and had his students research the details and implications of the policy. “They held a press conference, caused quite a stir and somewhat undermined Bush’s visit,” David said, but he added that most of the students take a generally pragmatic view of the course, just wanting to graduate, not necessarily to explore.

At the talk, a man whose name I don’t know came and asked me where I got my accent. At home, I said. It’s pretty much bog-standard non-specific southern England.

“Oh,” he said. “I thought maybe Iraq had once been a British colony and all the Iraqis speak like that and you picked it up from them.”

“No, I actually am English and Iraq was a part of the British empire for a while but the Iraqis speak Arabic, not English.”

“Oh,” he said again. “Well, my wife is a speech therapist. She can teach you to talk with a Hollywood accent if you like.”

From time to time I make a fool of myself and / or confuse everyone by assuming that Americans are being sarcastic when they’re not.

Dahr’s e mail said that, in the first 13 days of June, there were 16 car bombs in Iraq. The Deputy Finance Minister and a high ranking Ministry of Education were killed, as was a geography professor, yet another in the killing spree against academics since the occupation started.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

House OKs Pre-emptive U.S. Attack Against Iran
by Trish Schuh 15 May 2004
http://nyc.indymedia.org/newswire/display_any/93431

Undeterred by the results of pre-emptive war in Iraq, the House of
Representatives passed a non-binding resolution May 6 authorizing
pre-emptive military strikes against Iran. The vote was 376-3.
Undeterred by the results of pre-emptive war in Iraq, the House of
Representatives passed a non-binding resolution May 6 authorizing
pre-emptive military strikes against Iran. The vote was 376-3.

³It [Iran] has engaged in a systematic campaign of deception and
manipulation to hide its true intentions and keep its large scale nuclear
efforts a secret,² said Dan Burton (R-Indiana).

The resolution urges nations that have signed the Treaty on the
Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (See P. 13) to ³use any and all
appropriate means to deter, dissuade and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear
weapons.² It also demands that the European Union, Asian nations, and Russia
cease future commercial and energy trade with the Islamic Republic. Russia
is the main contractor for Iran¹s nuclear grid.

House members said the legislation is in line with the Bush Doctrine of
preventive war, and creates a legal framework for later sanctions and
³military options² against Iranian nuclear sites. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio)
and Pete Stark (D-Calif.) both condemned the bill, noting its similarity to
the law that permitted a preemptive war on Iraq.

The bills¹ adoption capped a year of anti-Iranian efforts in Congress.

A U.S. plan for military action against Iran has been complete since May
2003, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Under the plan, the U.S. would
strike the Arak, Natanz, Isfahan and Bushehr installations with precision
missiles launched from Iraq as well as Iran¹s northern neighbors, Georgia
and Azerbaijan.

British and American intelligence and special forces units have been put on
alert for an Iran conflict within 12 months, according to British news
sources. Also. the Israeli newspaper Ha¹aretz recently revealed that a
special Mossad unit has been activated to draw up ³Osirik II² (a reference
to the 1981 Israeli bombing raids that destroyed the Osirak nuclear complex
near Baghdad).

Mossad chief Meir Dagan declared Iranian nuclear capability to be the
greatest threat ever faced by Israel. In December 2003, he informed the
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that an operation to
annihilate Iran¹s facilities had been finalized.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz also announced that ³under no
circumstances would Israel tolerate nuclear weapons in Iranian possession,²
warning that by the end of 2004 Iran¹s atomic development would
have reached ³the point of no return.²

In response, former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said, ³If
Israel committed such an error, we would give it a slap it would never
forget- not only now but for all its history.²
June 6th
Albuquerque

There are more than 2000 weapons of mass destruction at Kirtland, near Albuquerque, New Mexico: the world’s biggest nuclear weapons stockpile. The University of California, which operates the Los Alamos nuclear research lab and the Lawrence Livermore lab on behalf of the US government, is the biggest nuclear weapons contractor in the world, though the University of Texas is among those bidding to take it over.

Greg Mello is the driving force behind the Los Alamos Study Group which has monitored the base and its accidents, manoeuvrings and dastardly schemes for years. Over beers in Albuquerque, he and Darwin, a University of California student and LASG intern, not the white-bearded evolutionist, told us everything, although some of it I promised not to put on my weblog.

The Los Alamos base is 73% nuclear, the rest being dedicated to CIA – it is the centre of the plan to seize Pakistan’s nuclear warheads should a non-US-friendly entity take power in that country, intelligence and non-proliferation. That’s non-proliferation in the sense of preventing other countries getting nuclear weapons, in case you were confused, not in the sense of seeking to reduce the US’s own nuclear arsenal and looking for other means of security.

On the contrary, a Bill is going through the Senate to decide whether to build new, smaller nuclear weapons which will bury themselves in the earth before detonating. The idea is that they destroy underground targets and the radiation is contained, but the politicians and scientists concerned were forced to admit that the radiation would not be effectively contained and the missiles would not go as deep as first claimed because they can only bury themselves so far before detonating themselves. The maximum possible penetration so far is three metres.

The Nuclear Position Review concluded that smaller nuclear weapons would be taken more seriously because they are more useable. Half the size of the 30 Kiloton warheads built during the cold war, the new petite version would be merely the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima: practically handbag size, if your handbag happens to be massively swollen by all the wealth you’ve been gathering by mugging the rest of the world at nuke point.

It’s true, of course, that a 30KT nuclear warhead is impractical in today’s warfare where the ‘enemies’ are often scattered through sprawling slums which the attacker aims to take control of. A study ordered by the US government on possible nuclear targets in Vietnam concluded that the only viable targets in the country were the US’s own bases. The guerrillas were scattered and moveable. Nuking the city of Hanoi would draw China into the conflict and China might respond by nuking the US bases.

The study was carried out by the JASONs, a group of ageing science professors collected up annually by the Department of Defence to study stupid questions related to the infliction of extreme violence. The name is thought to derive from either the legend of the Golden Fleece or the initials of the months from July to November. The group was de-funded in 1999 because it was essentially useless but the Department of Defence stepped in to resuscitate them. The DoD, Greg said, confuses political problems with military ones. “That’s why they’re losing Iraq, because they try to apply military solutions to political problems.”

Los Alamos is the US counterpart to Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment in Berkshire in the UK, which is also planning to build The New Generation of smaller nuclear weapons. Los Alamos gave one facility to Aldermaston in exchange for another from the UK lab. The slope at Aldermaston was even bulldozed to make it identical to the one at Los Alamos so they wouldn’t have to change any of the internal specifications. If only the world could always be so easily bulldozed to fit the requirements of the military.

Of course the new-fangled nukes likely to come out of Aldermaston and Los Alamos would need to be tested: it’s inconceivable that they would be deployed without. That means abandonment of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, with all the disastrous implications that the Treaty was designed to prevent.

Greg explained how grassroots groups are being suppressed: The Clinton people are into big foundations. They want groups to be aligned with the Democratic Party policy. They focus on electability, ‘crackpot realism’, rather than real moral thought and demands for things the Democrats wouldn’t deliver if elected. Groups with no utility or pliability to the Democratic agenda are obstructed and defunded.

“They try to co-opt groups around the Capitol Hill realpolitik du jour by bringing them together around issues involving a third of one per cent of the nuclear budget. Or for example they’d have all the groups promote a small plant as better than a big one, effectively destroying opposition to it, but then a small plant wouldn’t be enough so you end up with both.”

It’s hard to know exactly who’s involved, Greg said, which led us onto the science of Social Network Analysis. Darwin explained it: for whatever purpose, business deals, finding a specific individual, destroying an organisation, there is always some key player or players. Identifying that person and affecting them in the requisite way will lead to the goal.

In the search for Saddam, the Key Player Program was used to analyse the web of every person Saddam knew and had contact with. Two people were identified, caught and pressured and, sure enough, they led to Saddam. Yes, they still lied about when they found him, claiming that it happened in December, when their own video footage showed dates on the trees, proving that it was at least a couple of months earlier, but that was how it happened.

The advantage of non-hierarchical organisation is that groups can’t be broken in that way. British soldiers in the Second World War were usually not told what their missions were, presumably so if any were captured they couldn’t give any information, but if the commander was killed the mission was over. The Germans did the opposite. Yet another reason to abandon hierarchies and re-organise.

The talk was in the Albuquerque Peace and Justice Centre. These, David explained, were what kept the peace movement going between the Vietnam and anti-nuclear protests of the 1970s and early 80s until the recent revival. The trouble is, he said, they can be a bit po-faced and dour. They’re like the counterpart to the party-and-politics scene, where a lot of people have got the party side happening but forgotten about the politics.

In fairness there might not be much time for politics. As well as more nuclear weapons than anywhere else in the world, New Mexico also has sweat shops and the death penalty to deal with. As well as clothing factory sweatshops, where low paid, often underage and always non-unionised workers suffer poor and unsafe working conditions for long hours, there are ‘sweatshops without walls’ such as New Mexico’s chilli farms. Taco Bell, by the way, use sweat labour and there are calls for boycotts and direct action.

The New Mexico Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty points out that no person has ever been executed who had enough money to hire their own lawyer. Poor, unskilled, mentally ill or retarded and minority defendants are a lot more likely to be sentenced to death than another person for a similar crime. Police chiefs don’t believe that the death penalty is effective in reducing crime and New Mexico families of murder victims have set up a local branch of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation.

From an economic point of view, death penalty trials cost more: repealing the death penalty would save between $1-2.5 million per year just in the New Mexico Public Defender Department, vaguely equivalent to the Legal Aid system in the UK. The Coalition says that since 1972 at least 101 innocent people have been released from death rows in the US.

The trees were dying along the roadside from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. The bark beetles are killing them, Greg explained, because they’ve got no sap to repair the damage, because of the drought. The drought is made worse by the misuse of water supplies and a lot of the land is on the brink of desertification because of the drought and overgrazing.

The nuclear labs and especially the proposed new ‘Modern Pit Facility’ are only making the water situation worse: already the Rio Grande is polluted with nuclear waste and the population of Albuquerque will soon have nothing else but that to source drinking water from. The Rocky Flats plant used to make the plutonium ‘pits’or cores for nuclear weapons but was shut down because of serious health and environmental problems. If building goes ahead the Department of Energy will have to buy extra water rights, depleting the public supply even further.

The reason the new factory is needed is because the US could suddenly lose half of it’s nuclear stockpile overnight to the ageing of the pits. These 10,000 weapons plus 12,000 spare pits are made of plutonium 239, which has a half life of 24,000 years. That means it take s 24,000 years to decay to half its potency. The Department of Energy had to admit in 1996 that ageing effects had never occurred in pits up to 30 years old.

Answers on a postcard please: if you can see the need for another 500 pits per year, let me know. If not, tell Bush, Blair, the University of California, Lockheed Martin, Serco and so on, enough is enough.

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