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.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

People have been writing to ask what they can do to help the Iraqi people. By now you’ve either broken all your new year resolutions, in which case it’s time to try again, or you’ve kept them all, in which case you’re on a roll and may as well make some more. Either that or you never made any and it’s time you did. Helpful as ever, I offer some suggestions. Take this as How to Stop Wars, How to Protect the Environment, How to Take Action on Human Rights, Trade, Debt, whatever’s bothering you – it’s all the same at the roots.

1. Join a co-op. Getting your food through a food co-op is cheaper and also breaks down the supermarkets’ dominion over your food supply, farmers’ conditions of work and trade and town planning. Living in a housing co-op means you no longer pour your wages away in rent, slave to a mortgage or fret constantly about being evicted from a squat. Using your labour in a workers’ co-op means you control your own work and working conditions, rather than being under the orders – and often exploitation – of a boss. You and your co-owner-directors decide what the company does so you can’t be forced to make something unethical or trade on unfair terms with other workers. You challenge the stranglehold of the multinationals (who encourage, fuel and profit from wars) and make yourself happier and healthier at the same time. Info on how to do it and where to access finance: www.ica.coop

2. Plan some protest action for the G8 summit in Gleneagles, July 6th (but then join a co-op because we won’t really change anything till we seize control of the economy). www.schnews.co.uk and www.dissent.org.uk or for international info and co-ordination, e mail international-g82005-subscribe@lists.riseup.net

3. Adopt an arms dealer, military base or dodgy multinational in your neighbourhood and plague it (and then join a co-op so you can take the power away from the military-industrial capitalist economy which sustains them). Among the top war profiteers in Iraq are Aegis (1), Bechtel (3), Halliburton (7). More on war profiteers on www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk and www.corpwatch.org Arms trade info on www.caat.org.uk

4. Boycott Coca Cola because they’re murdering trade unionists and opponents in Colombia, India and elsewhere and funding Bush and his wars. Stick anti Coca Cola stickers telling the truth about them on every single vending machine you pass. www.mtcp.co.uk (Mark Thomas’s website) and www.colombiasolidarity.org.uk for the Coke workers’ call to boycott and the names of some of the workers murdered by Coke in recent years.

5. Transfer your electricity supply to Good Energy (formerly Unit E) or other green energy supplier so you don’t buy nuclear. It costs a little bit more because renewable sources don’t get any of the massive subsidies poured into nuclear power. www.ethicaljunction.org and www.greenenergy.org.uk

6. Transfer your phone provision to the Phone Co-op because it’s a good deal and almost all the other Telecommunications Companies are huge and unpleasant multinationals (lots of which are ‘investing’ in Iraq) and for all the reasons above. www.thephone.coop

7. Investigate the possibility of running any cars you use on bio-diesel. It doesn’t create the harmful emissions that oil does and uses either waste cooking oil or the whole of cereal plants which are normally only grown for the grain. Despite George Monbiot’s ill thought out nonsense in the Guardian, it is a really useful and practical solution to a lot of the oil-use problems. www.biodiesel.org

8. Alternatively or as well, join a car club or co-op if you need to use a car, so you use it less, don’t have to take up parking space and promote common ownership instead of private buying of more and more stuff.

9. Get on your bank’s case about what and who they invest in. if it’s arms dealers, dictators or sweat shops, and if you can’t remove your custom to the Co-op Bank (and tell your old bank why), then bother them relentlessly till they stop it. www.mindbranch.com/listing/product/R310-0154.htm and www.ethicalconsumer.org

10. Get on politicians’ cases to drop all the debts of poor countries – if the countries hit by the Tsunami on Boxing Day hadn’t been so poor, chances are they’d’ve had an early warning system already, which might’ve saved hundreds of thousands of lives. If the Maldives hadn’t mined so much of its coral reef to provide hotels for tourists it might’ve had a bit more protection. Yes, this disaster was caused by events beyond our control but we’re working on creating a load more environmental catastrophes and debt and poverty accelerate the causes and worsen the effects. And remember that more people die of starvation every year than were killed in the tsunami. They die because the global system denies them a right to food and healthcare. We’ve got to respond to man-made disasters as well as the ones that aren’t our fault. www.jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk and www.data.org and www.jubileeiraq.org

11. Go vegan or vegetarian. There’s no other single thing you can do to reduce your impact on the environment. You use less water, less land and less fossil fuels and create less of every major greenhouse gas and most air, water and soil pollutants, lessen your personal impact on the rainforests and soil erosion generally. During the 1984 famine in Ethiopia, food was still being exported from there to feed farm animals in the UK and Europe. Your decision to switch from animal- to plant-based eating would immediately free up hundreds of litres of water and several acres of farmland. www.viva.org.uk

12. Write a letter to a prisoner. People are in jail for protest actions all over the world and they need letters to keep their spirits up. It can just be a postcard saying hello or a letter about you or almost anything, just so they know they’re not forgotten. It doesn’t have to be an obvious protest – people are in jail for all kinds of reasons to do with poverty and illness, not just badness and greed – in fact the baddest and greediest people are mostly running the country and the big corporations and not in jail at all, but I digress. www.spiritoffreedom.org.uk

13. Impeach Tony Blair. Adam Price MP (with a little help from a few activists who had been there) had articles of impeachment drawn up against Blair for his actions in Iraq. Some MPs have signed up to it from various parties but not Labour – not even the anti-war Labour MPs. Anyone in the UK, or with friends, relations, etc in the UK can write to their MP and ask them to sign up. MPs assume that for every letter they get, another 300 people felt the same but didn’t bother to write, so your one letter counts for 301 votes, and so does the letter from every other person you persuade to write. Find out more about the case against Blair on www.impeachblair.org or just Google ‘impeach Blair’ Also www.peacerights.com and www.publicinterestlawyers.co.uk

14. Do more dancing. It’s organic, fair trade, emission free and it makes you happy.

That’ll do for February.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Read this and then do something...

Centre for Research on Globalisation
Centre de recherche sur la mondialisation

The Ultimate War Crime: Breaking the Agricultural Cycle
Edited by Iman Khaduri, http://abutamam.blogspot.com/ January 2005
www.globalresearch.ca 25 January 2005
The URL of this article is: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/KHA501A.html


For the record: “U.S. declares Iraqis can not save their own seeds”
"As part of sweeping "economic restructuring" implemented by the Bush Administration in Iraq, Iraqi farmers will no longer be permitted to save their seeds, which include seeds the Iraqis themselves have developed over hundreds of years. Instead, they will be forced to buy seeds from US corporations. That is because in recent years, transnational corporations have patented and now own many seed varieties originated or developed by indigenous peoples. In a short time, Iraq will be living under the new American credo:
Pay Monsanto, or starve ."

"The American Administrator of the Iraqi CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) government, Paul Bremer, updated Iraq's intellectual property law to 'meet current internationally-recognized standards of protection'. The updated law makes saving seeds for next year's harvest, practiced by 97% of Iraqi farmers in 2002, and is the standard farming practice for thousands of years across human civilizations, to be now illegal.. Instead, farmers will have to obtain a yearly license for genetically modified (GM) seeds from American corporations. These GM seeds have typically been modified from seeds developed over thousands of generations by indigenous farmers like the Iraqis, and shared freely like agricultural 'open source.'"

Iraq law Requires Seed Licenses November 13, 2004

"According to Order 81, paragraph 66 - [B], issued by L. Paul Bremer [CFR], the people in Iraq are now prohibited from saving seeds and may only plant seeds for their food from licensed, authorized U.S. distributors.

The paragraph states, "Farmers shall be prohibited from re-using seeds of protected varieties or any variety mentioned in items 1 and 2 of paragraph [C] of Article 14 of this chapter."

Written in massively intricate legalese, Order 81 directs the reader at Article 14, paragraph 2 [C] to paragraph [B] of Article 4, which states any variety that is different from any other known variety may be registered in any country and become a protected variety of seed - thus defaulting it into the "protected class" of seeds and prohibiting the Iraqis from reusing them the following season. Every year, the Iraqis must destroy any seed they have, and repurchase seeds from an authorized supplier, or face fines, penalties and/or jail time."

Iraqis Can't Save Seed January 19, 2005

The original article on this topic: Iraqi farmers aren't celebrating October 15, 2004

As per an Iraqi proverb, the day will come, sooner rather than later, when the Iraqis will shred Bremer’s Laws, soak them in water and offer the glass to Bremer to drink.

Monsanto has got many, many offices all over the world. Take your friends and you mischief and mayhem and pay them a visit. They've got to stop privatising food, not just in Iraq but everywhere. We've got to stop them doing it.

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