Tags: bagram, ben emmerson, desmond tutu, enemy combatant, england, Guantanamo, human rights, Moazzam Begg, muslim, racism, roger hollander, rumsfeld, torture, victoria brittain, war on terror, women
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Published on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 by TomDispatch.com
Once, as a reporter, I covered wars, conflicts, civil wars, and even a genocide in places like Vietnam, Angola, Eritrea, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, keeping away from official briefings and listening to the people who were living the war. In the years since the Bush administration launched its Global War on Terror, I’ve done the same thing without ever leaving home.
In the last decade, I didn’t travel to distant refugee camps in Pakistan or destroyed villages in Afghanistan, nor did I spend time in besieged cities like Iraq’s Fallujah or Libya’s Misrata. I stayed in Great Britain. There, my government, in close conjunction with Washington, was pursuing its own version of what, whether anyone cared to say it or not, was essentially a war against Islam. Somehow, by a series of chance events, I found myself inside it, spending time with families transformed into enemies.
I hadn’t planned to write about the war on terror, but driven by curiosity about lives most of us never see and a few lucky coincidences, I stumbled into a world of Muslim women in London, Manchester, and Birmingham. Some of them were British, others from Arab and African countries, but their husbands or sons had been swept up in Washington’s war. Some were in Guantanamo, some were among the dozen Muslim foreigners who did not know each other, and who were surprised to find themselves imprisoned together in Britain on suspicion of links to al-Qaeda. Later, some of these families would find themselves under house arrest.
In the process, I came to know women and children who were living in almost complete isolation and with the stigma of a supposed link to terrorism. They had few friends, and were cut off from the wider world. Those with a husband under house arrest were allowed no visitors who had not been vetted for “security,” nor could they have computers, even for their children to do their homework. Other lonely women had husbands or sons who had sometimes spent a decade or more in prison without charges in the United Kingdom, and were fighting deportation or extradition.
Gradually, they came to accept me into their isolated lives and talked to me about their children, their mothers, their childhoods — but seldom, at first, about the grim situations of their husbands, which seemed too intimate, too raw, too frightening, too unknowable to be put into words.
In the early years, it was a steep learning curve for me, spending time in homes where faith was the primary reality, Allah was constantly invoked, English was a second language, and privacy and reticence were givens. Facebook culture had not come to most of these families. The reticence faded over the years, especially when the children were not there, or in the face of the kind of desolation that came from a failed court appeal to lift the restrictions on their lives, an unexpected police raid on the house, a husband’s suicide attempt, or the coming of a new torture report from Washington’s then-expanding global gulag of black sites and, of course, Guantanamo.
In these years, I met some of their husbands and sons as well. The first was a British man from Birmingham, Moazzam Begg. He had been held for three years in Washington’s notorious offshore prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, only to be released without charges. When he came home, through his lawyer, he asked me to help write his memoir, the first to come out of Guantanamo. We worked long months on Enemy Combatant. It was hard for him to relive his nightmare days and nights in American custody in Kandahar and in the U.S. prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and then those limbo years in Cuba. It was even harder for him to visit the women whose absent husbands he had known in prison and who, unlike him, were still there.
Was My Husband Tortured?
In these homes he visited, there was always one great unspoken question: Was my husband or son tortured? It was the single question no one could bear to ask a survivor of that nightmare, even for reassurance. When working on his book, I deliberately left the chapter on his experiences in American hands in Bagram prison for last, as I sensed how difficult it would be for both of us to speak about the worst of the torture I knew he had experienced.
Through Moazzam, I met other men who had been swept up in the post-9/11 dragnet for Muslims in Great Britain, refugees who sought him out as an Arabic speaker and a British citizen to help them negotiate Britain’s newly hostile atmosphere in the post-9/11 years. Soon, I began to visit some of their wives, too.
In time, I found myself deep inside a world of civilian women who were being warred upon (after a fashion) in my own country, which was how I came upon a locked-down hospital ward with a man determined to starve himself to death unless he was given refugee documents to leave Britain, children who cried in terror in response to a knock on the door, wives faced with a husband changed beyond words by prison.
I found myself deep inside a world of civilian women who were being warred upon (after a fashion) in my own country, which was how I came upon a locked-down hospital ward with a man determined to starve himself to death, children who cried in terror in response to a knock on the door, wives faced with a husband changed beyond words by prison.
I was halfway through working on Moazzam’s book when London was struck by our 9/11, which we call 7/7. The July 7, 2005, suicide bombings, in three parts of the London underground and a bus, killed 52 civilians and injured more than 700. The four bombers were all young British men between 18 and 30, two of them married with children, and one of them a mentor at a primary school. In video statements left behind they described themselves as “soldiers” whose aim was to force the British government to pull its troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Just three weeks later, there were four more coordinated bomb attacks on the London subway system. (All failed to detonate.) The four men responsible, longterm British residents originally from the Horn of Africa, were captured, tried, and sentenced to life imprisonment. In this way, the whole country was traumatised in 2005, and that particularly includes the various strands of the Muslim community in Great Britain.
The British security services quickly returned to a post-9/11 stance on overdrive. The same MI5 intelligence agents who had interrogated Moazzam while he was in U.S. custody asked to meet him again to get his thoughts on who might be behind the attacks. However, three years in U.S. custody and five months at home occupied with his family and his book had not made him a likely source of information on current strains of thought in the British Muslim community.
At the same time, the dozen foreign Muslim refugees detained in the aftermath of 9/11 and held without trial for two years before being released on the orders of the House of Lords were rearrested. In the summer of 2005, the government prepared to deport them to countries they had originally fled as refugees.
All of them had been made anonymous by court order and in legal documents were referred to as Mr. G, Mr. U, and so on. This was no doubt intended to safeguard their privacy, but in a sense it also condemned them. It made them faceless, inhuman, and their families experienced it just that way. “They even took my husband’s name away, why?” one wife asked me.
The women I was meeting in these years were mostly from this small group, as well as the relatives of a handful of British residents — Arabs — who were not initially returned from Guantanamo with the nine British citizens that the Americans finally released without charges in 2004 and 2005.
Perhaps no one in the country was, in the end, more terrorised than them, thanks to the various terror plots by British nationals that followed. And they were right to be fearful. The pressure on them was overwhelming. Some of them simply gave up and went home voluntarily because they could not bear house arrest, though they risked being sent to prison in their native lands; others went through years of house arrest and court appeals against deportation, all of which continues to this day.
Among the plots that unnerved them were one in 2006 against transatlantic aircraft, for which a total of 12 Britons were jailed for life in 2009, and the 2007 attempt to blow up a London nightclub and Glasgow International Airport, in which one bomber died and the second was jailed for 32 years. In the post-9/11 decade, 237 people were convicted of terror-related offences in Britain.
Though all of this was going on, much of it remained remote from the world of the refugee women I came to know who, in the larger world, were mainly preoccupied with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that, with Palestinian developments, filled their TV screens tuned only to Arabic stations.
These women did not tend to dwell on their own private nightmares, but for anyone in their company there was no mistaking them: a wife prevented from taking her baby into the hospital to visit her hunger-striking husband and get him to eat before he starved to death; another, with several small children, turned back from a prison visit, despite a long journey, because her husband was being punished that day; children whose toys were taken in a police raid and never given back; midnight visits from a private security company to check on a man already electronically tagged.
These women did not tend to dwell on their own private nightmares: a wife prevented from taking her baby into the hospital to visit her hunger-striking husband and get him to eat before he starved to death; another turned back from a prison visit because her husband was being punished that day; children whose toys were taken in a police raid and never given back; midnight visits from a private security company to check on a man already electronically tagged.
Here was the texture of a hidden war of continual harassment against a largely helpless population. This was how some of the most vulnerable people in British society — often already traumatised refugees and torture survivors — were made permanent scapegoats for our post-9/11, and then post-7/7 fears.
So powerful is the stigma of “terrorism” today that, in the name of “our security,” whether in Great Britain or the United States, just about anything now goes, and ever fewer people ask questions about what that “anything” might actually be. Here in London, repeated attempts to get influential religious or political figures simply to visit one of these officially locked-down families and see these lives for themselves have failed. In the present political climate, such a personal, fact-finding visit proved to be anything but a priority for such people.
A Legal System of Secret Evidence, House Arrest, and Financial Sanctions
Against this captive population, in such an anything-goes atmosphere, all sorts of experimental perversions of the legal system were tried out. As a result, the British system of post-9/11 justice contains many features which should frighten us all but are completely unfamiliar to the vast majority of people in the United Kingdom.
Key aspects for the families I have been concerned with include the use of secret evidence in cases involving deportation, bail conditions, and imprisonment without trial. In addition, most of their cases have been heard in a special court known as the Special Immigration Appeals Commission or SIAC, which is housed in an anonymous basement set of rooms in central London.
One of SIAC’s innovative features is the use of “special advocates,” senior barristers who have security clearance to see secret evidence on behalf of their clients, but without being allowed to disclose it or discuss it, even with the client or his or her own lawyer. The resignation on principle of a highly respected barrister, Ian Macdonald, as a special advocate in November 2004 exposed this process to the public for the first time — but almost no one took any interest.
And a sense of the injustice in this arcane system was never sufficiently sparked by such voices, which found little echo in the media. Nor was there a wide audience for reports from ateam of top psychiatrists about the devastating psychological impact on the men and their families of indefinite detention without trial, and of a house-arrest system framed by “control orders” that allow the government to place restrictions of almost any sort on the lives of those it designates.
An even less noted aspect of the anti-terror legal system brought into existence after 9/11 was the financial sanctions that could freeze the assets of designated individuals. First ordered by the United Nations, the financial-sanctions regime was consolidated here through a European Union list of designated people. The few lawyers who specialized in this area were scathing about the draconian measures involved and the utter lack of transparency when it came to which governments had put which names on which list.
The effect on the listed families was draconian. Marriages collapsed under the strain. The listed men were barred from working and only allowed £10 a week for personal expenses. Their wives — often from conservative cultures where all dealings with the outside world had been left to husbands — suddenly were the families’ faces to the world, responsible for everything from shopping to accounting monthly to the government’s Home Office for every item the family purchased, right down to a bottle of milk or a pencil for a child. It was humiliating for the men, who lost their family role overnight, and exhausting and frustrating for the women, while in some cases the rest of their families shunned them because of the taint of alleged terrorism. Almost no one except specialist lawyers even knew that such financial sanctions existed in Britain.
In the country’s High Court, the first judicial challenge to the financial-sanctions regime was brought in 2008 by five British Muslim men known only as G, K, A, M, and Q. In response, Justice Andrew Collins said he found it “totally unacceptable” that, to take an especially absurd example, a man should have to get a license for legal advice about the sanctions from the very body that was imposing them. The man in question had waited three months for a “basic expense” license permitting funds for food and rent, and six months for a license to obtain legal advice about the situation he found himself in.
In a related case before the judicial committee of the House of Lords, Justice Leonard Hoffman expressed incredulity at the “meanness and squalor” of a regime that “monitored who had what for lunch.” More recently, the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court endorsed the comments of Lord Justice Stephen Sedley who described those subject to the regime as being akin to “prisoners of the state.”
Among senior lawyers concerned about this hidden world of punishment was Ben Emmerson, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms While Countering Terrorism. He devoted one of his official U.N. reports to the financial sanctions issue. His recommendations included significantly more transparency from governments who put people on such a list, the explicit exclusion of evidence obtained by torture, and the obligation of governments to give reasons when they refuse to remove individuals from the list. Of course, no one who mattered was paying the slightest attention.
Against ideological governments obsessed by terrorism on both sides of the Atlantic and a culture numbed by violent anti-terrorist tales like “24” and Zero Dark Thirty, such complicated and technical initiatives on behalf of individuals who have been given the tag, implicitly if not explicitly, of “terrorist” stand little chance of getting attention.
“Each Time It’s Worse”
Nearly a decade ago, at the New York opening night of Guantanamo: Honour Bound to Defend Freedom, the play Gillian Slovo and I wrote using only the words of the relatives of prisoners in that jail, their lawyers, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, an elderly man approached Moazzam Begg’s father and me. He introduced himself as a former foreign policy adviser to President John Kennedy. “It could never have happened in our time,” he said.
When the Global War on Terror was still relatively new, it was common for audiences to react similarly and with shock to a play in which fathers and brothers describe their bewilderment over the way their relation had disappeared into the legal black hole of Guantanamo Bay. In the years since, we have become numb to the destruction of lives, livelihoods, futures, childhoods, legal systems, and trust by Washington’s and London’s never-ending war on terror.
In that time, I have seen children grow from toddlers to teenagers locked inside this particular war machine. What they say today should startle us out of such numbness. Here, for instance, are the words of two teenagers, a girl and a boy whose fathers had been imprisoned or under house arrest in Britain for 10 years and whose lives in those same years were filled with indignities and humiliations:
“People seem to think that we get used to things being how they are for us, so we don’t feel the injustices so much now. They are quite wrong: it was painful the first time, more painful the second, even more so the third. In fact, each time it’s worse, if you can believe that. There isn’t a limit on how much pain you can feel.”
The boy added this:
“There is never one day when I feel safe. It can be the authorities, it can be ordinary people, they can do something bad for us. Only like now when we are all in the house together can I stop worrying about my mum and my sisters, and even me, what might happen to us. On the tube [subway], in class at university, people look at my beard. I see them looking and I know they are thinking bad things about me. I would like to be a normal guy who no one looks at. You know, other boys, some of my friends, they cut corners, things like driving without a current license, everyone does it. But I can’t, I can’t ever, ever, take even a small risk. I have to always be cautious, be responsible… for my family.”
These children have been brought up by women who, against all odds, have often preserved their dignity and kept at least a modicum of joy in their families’ lives, and so, however despised, however unnoticed, however locked away, made themselves an inspiration to others. They are not victims to be pitied, but women our societies should embrace.
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s response to recent proposals that Washington establish a secret court to oversee the targeting of terrorist suspects for death-by-drone and President Obama’s expanding executive power to kill, speak for the world beyond the West. They offer a different perspective on the war on terror that Washington and Great Britain continue to pursue with no end in sight:
“Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours? That President Obama can sign off on a decision to kill us with less worry about judicial scrutiny than if the target is an American? Would your Supreme Court really want to tell humankind that we, like the slave Dred Scott in the nineteenth century, are not as human as you are? I cannot believe it. I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity.”
Victoria Brittain, journalist and former editor at the Guardian, has authored or co-authored two plays and four books, including Enemy Combatant with Moazzam Begg. Her latest book, Shadow Lives: The Forgotten Women of the War on Terror (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2013) has just been published.
UK Unions Plot a Winter of Discontent as They Ballot More Than a Million Workers for Biggest General Strike Since 1926 September 14, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Britain, Europe, Revolution.
Tags: anna edwards, britain, civil disobedience, dave prentis, david cameron, england, general strike, labor, labour, organized labor, roger hollander, uk strike, unions, unison
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Millions of workers including police, firefighters, health workers, teachers and prison officers could strike over bitter pension row Unions describe potential walk-out as ‘unprecedented’ in scale and ‘the biggest fight of our lives’ Unison says they will be ‘vilified’ for striking but urges members to ‘stay strong’
A ‘winter of discontent’ looks imminent as Unison, the country’s biggest public sector workers’ union, gave formal notice today that its 1.1 million members will be balloted for industrial action in the bitter row over pensions.
A crowd of protesters made their feelings clear in London as marches take place across the country, sparked by a proposed increase in the retirement age for public sector workers and paying more into their pensions The Government face the threat of the biggest outbreak of industrial action since the 1926 General Strike after unions served notice of ballots over the row which will see workers pay an extra 3.2 per cent in pension contributions.
Unison’s general secretary, Dave Prentis, said 9,000 separate employer groups would be involved in the action, describing the ballot as ‘unprecedented’ in scale.
He blamed the Government for the ballot decision, which could see workers in school, hospitals, police and voluntary sectors, join the move.
He said: ‘A ballot unprecedented in scale will cover over a million workers in health, local government, schools, further education, police, the voluntary sector and the environment and private sector.
‘It’s a decision we don’t take lightly and the stakes are high, higher than ever before, but now is the time to make our stand.
‘It will be hard, we’ll be vilified, attacked, set against each other, but we must stay strong and united.’
The union was joined by Unite and the Fire Brigades Union, who all gave notice of ballots in the worsening row over pensions and launched angry attacks against the Government.
Mr Prentis announced to the TUC Congress in London that unions were involved in the ‘fight of our lives’ over the Government’s controversial reforms of pensions, which will see workers pay an extra 3.2 per cent in contributions.
He said Unison would work with the GMB and Unite, which could mean the country grinding to a halt if millions of the members decide to strike together.
His announcement was met with a standing ovation as delegates applauded the move, which brings the prospect of a winter of strikes closer.
Mr Prentis accused the Government of an ‘unprecedented’ attack on workers with its ‘audacious and devious’ pension reforms.
Mr Prentis said that exhaustive talks had not worked for the unions: ‘We’ve been patient, we’ve co-operated, but there comes a time when we say enough is enough because, if we don’t, they’ll be back for more.
Gail Cartmail, assistant general secretary of Unite, told the conference: ‘When the coalition came to power we knew we faced the fight of our lives, we knew they would seek to weaken and divide us.
‘While we will never walk away from talks, neither can we sit on our hands. We will support days of action and tactical selective action.’
The Fire Brigades Union’s ballot of its 43,000 members raises the threat of a walkout without ‘Green Goddess’ military cover.
Firefighters last took national strike action in 2003, when Green Goddesses were used as emergency cover, but the ageing military vehicles have since been taken out of service.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, which has already announced fresh industrial action in November, said today’s moves showed that opposition was growing to the Government’s ‘raid’ on public sector pensions.
‘Following the hugely successful strike by civil servants, teachers and lecturers in June, there is a clear momentum behind our campaign that ministers cannot ignore, and they must now enter into serious and open negotiations.
‘We will now join our colleagues from across the public sector to discuss the nuts and bolts of this fightback, which we fully expect will mean industrial action on a scale not seen for many years.’
Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers Association, which is not allowed to take industrial action, warned that his members would defy the law if no deal was reached on pensions.
Brian Strutton, national officer of the GMB, announced that his union’s 250,000 public sector members will also be balloted for strikes, warning that industrial action could last for months.
‘We are not talking about a day – we are talking about something that is long and hard and dirty, running through the winter, into next year and following the legislative programme right into the summer.’
The dispute will involve hospital and ambulance workers, meals-on-wheels staff, refuse collectors and cemetery workers, he said.
Mr Strutton said recent talks over pension reform had been held between Government ministers and local authority leaders, with unions ‘not even in the room’.
Public sector unions will meet later today to discuss co-ordinated action ahead of more talks with the Government planned for next week.
Joining them, workers at four British Sugar plants are to be balloted on industrial action in a dispute over pay and the ‘soaring cost of living’.
Unite said 250 members based in the East of England will vote in the coming weeks on whether to launch a campaign of strikes after rejecting a 3.5 per cent pay offer.
The union said it was seeking a pay deal equal to RPI inflation, currently running at 5.2 per cent, plus 0.5 per cent for the year to next April.
Regional officer Mick Doherty said: ‘Our members are being hit very hard by the soaring cost of living.
‘British Sugar is a very profitable company and despite its complaints that the sugar beet crop was hit by last winter’s bad weather, it is well able to afford a decent pay rise.’
The Government hit back at the ‘disappointing’ strikes, saying they had tried to reach a negotiation with unions.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s official spokesman described the calls for strike ballots as ‘disappointing’, and slammed the industrial action would be irresponsible at a time of economic difficulty.
‘Our view is that the best way forward is to continue with talks and we have always been very clear that we should try to have a constructive dialogue with the unions,’ said the spokesman.
‘Clearly, it is disappointing that there have been calls for industrial action, particularly as the talks are still ongoing.
‘On pensions, we have been very clear about the need for reform, but we have also been making the point that even after these reforms come through, public sector pensions will still be amongst the very best available.’
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, answering questions after a speech in London, said: ‘It is very regrettable that they are rushing to announce days of strikes when the discussions are still ongoing.
‘It would lovely to wave a magic wand and say we have discovered pots of gold, and the ageing population is not ageing, and, hallelujah, pension funds are entirely sustainable.
‘We entered into these discussions in good faith and we will continue to do so.”
Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude, who is leading negotiations for the Government, told BBC News: ‘I think the public will be really fed up if they see industrial action damaging the economy, damaging their ability to get to work and earn their own living when (they) may be paying more towards public sector pensions than they are towards their own.
‘We want this to be a proper settlement so that we know that public sector workers are going to be able to enjoy these good pensions – better pension schemes than are available almost anywhere else – but that’s on a sustainable basis.
‘I don’t want governments to be coming back in five or 10 years’ time and saying ‘We need to have another go at this because it wasn’t sorted out properly in 2011′.
‘I think the unions need to think about the effect on the public and the effect on the economy and on their own members.
‘Their own members want to be going to work, they don’t want to be giving up a day’s pay, or more than that, at a time when we are all of us working under major constraints.’
Increasingly militant transport union leaders joined in with the walkout threats, warning they were planning the ‘biggest campaign’ of civil disobedience in Britain’s history.
They plan to disrupt public services and block motorways as well as declaring they are ready to ‘go to prison’ in protest at proposed changes to pensions.
In a bid to persuade them to stop striking and wrecking the Games, transport bosses have offered hefty bonuses to railway workers amid fears the militant RMT union could wreck the Games with strikes.
Train drivers will pocket up to £1,800 simply for turning up for work during the London Olympics next summer.
Last night, MPs condemned the payments as a ‘bribe’ and accused the unions of holding the public to ransom.
Astonishingly, the Daily Mail understands that the £1,800 bonus deal with Tube drivers does not even include a no-strike clause.
The glaring omission leaves them free to pocket the cash and still cause mass disruption with industrial action.
A senior source connected with the talks said: ‘The drivers could have demanded fur coats for the wives or football season tickets for the men if they wanted.
‘It’s an amazing deal but one which the Tube had to do. There was no alternative.’
Union sources revealed a battle plan has been devised, mapping out ‘blocks’ of strikes running in ‘target areas’ for two to three days at a time.
One union leader said to expect scenes reminiscent of the 1978 ‘winter of discontent’ when rubbish filled the streets.
Another, unnamed, told the BBC: ‘In some areas there will be two or three days. In other areas it will be continuous. In other areas it will be a rolling programme.’
The irony of David Cameron’s riot condemnation August 10, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Britain, Revolution.
Tags: bullingdon, bullingdon club, cavid cameron, england, england riots, natasha lennard, oxford university, roger hollander, uk riots
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The British prime minister was a member of a student club famed for smashing windows — but in the name of elitism
British Prime Minister David Cameron has been unequivocal in his condemnation of the riots that have broken out across the London and other parts of the U.K. in recent days, decrying the scenes of destruction as “sickening.”
As a student at Oxford in the late 1980s, however, Cameron was part of a members’ club (the British equivalent of a fraternity), which ritualistically smashed up local restaurants. Unlike the rioters, however, Cameron’s club, The Bullingdon, was exclusive and notoriously elite.
“This is criminality pure and simple and it has to be confronted and defeated,” Cameron said on Tuesday, having returned from his vacation in Italy three days after the riots first ignited in the British capital. He added: “If you are old enough to commit these crimes you are old enough to face the punishment” (referring to the fact tha many of those involved are in their early teens).
The prime minister has never applied such strong words to condemn the actions of his former club. The Bullingdon Club — a members’ only dining society in the university preserved for the most privileged of (male only) students — is known for breaking the plates, glasses and windows of local restaurants and drinking establishments and destroying college property in Oxford. (The U.K. newspaper, The Independent, described it as a club “whose raison d’être has for more than 150 years been to afford tailcoat-clad aristocrats a termly opportunity to behave very badly indeed.”) New recruits are secretly elected and informed of this by having their college bedroom invaded and “trashed”.
The Conservative leader’s affiliation with the Bullingdon and its elite and riotous reputation has at times haunted his political career. In the 2010 election, in which Cameron’s Conservative Party won a majority in Parliament for the first time since 1997, his opponents and the media frequently brought up his Oxford past. A television documentary was devoted to one particular night in 1987 — when both Cameron and the current London mayor, Boris Johnson, were Bullingdon members – during which club members were arrested for causing havoc in Oxford and broke a restaurant window. Cameron claimed he went to bed early on the night in question, but the Financial Times reported in 2010 that he was “most definitely” at the party. An old Bullingdon friend told the paper that Cameron’s determination not be caught was “extraordinary.”
Today’s rioters and the Bullingdon club are diametrically opposed in terms of socio-economic background and racial diversity. Cameron’s college cadre were all upper-class and white; the rioters in London are from many different racial backgrounds and are almost exclusively from council estates, the British equivalent of project housing. Unlike the rioters, the Bullingdon club’s modus operandi involves leaving large sums of cash or checks behind, to cover damages. It is not traditional, however, that they pick up brooms or face serious recriminations.
G20 Protesters ‘Will Try to Bring London to Standstill’ March 21, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Britain, Economic Crisis.
Tags: anti-capitalism, climate change, Economic Crisis, england, G20, global financial crisis, jerome taylor, london, mark hughes, political protest, protest, revolt, roger hollander, scotland yard, summit, tibet, tibetan activists, world leaders
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Published on Saturday, March 21, 2009 by Independent/UK
Police fear anti-capitalist groups will seek violent confrontation on streets
But their presence is expected to encourage a large number of protests, with scores of activists from an array of different causes determined to generate publicity from demonstrations around the event.
The majority of protest groups have promised to demonstrate peacefully, but there are fears anarchist and hardcore anti-capitalists from Britain and abroad will try to fight police in pitched battles reminiscent of the anarchist riots of the late 1990s which caused millions of pounds of damage.
Senior officers at Scotland Yard say they are aware of several groups which plan to converge on the City of London financial district to cause blockades, and attempt to get inside major banks including the Bank of England.
One organizer is believed to be a senior lecturer at the University of East London. Some groups are said to be considering filling roads with sand and then sending children to play in it, making it impossible for police officers to forcibly remove them.
An anti-capitalist umbrella group calling itself “G20 – Meltdown in the City” has promised to “storm” banks and target many of the luxury hotels where world leaders will stay.
Climate change campaigners will also concentrate their protests within the Square Mile where they intend to hold one of their ubiquitous Climate Change Camps. Previous camps have been held at Heathrow and outside Kingsnorth power station in Kent, but this time thousands of activists will descend on the City in the week up to the three-day summit.
The Independent has learnt small “commando” groups of environmental activists are planning high profile publicity protests, similar to the Parliament rooftop protests last year.
One climate change activist, who has been arrested on numerous protests, said yesterday: “With so much media attention and so many world leaders coming to town next week I can guarantee there will be all sorts of groups looking to perform an array of exciting direct action stunts.
“I just hope the action won’t take the form of throwing things at the police as that gets us nowhere.”
Tibetan activists from around the world will also use the G20 to protest against the continuing crackdown in Tibet, where scores of people have been killed and arrested by Chinese forces since widespread rioting and protests broke out last year. The G20 meeting takes place at the ExCel center in Docklands, and the Metropolitan Police plan to use a marine unit to prevent attempts by protesters to infiltrate the site by boat.
More than 10,000 officers’ shifts will be used in the operation, which will cost the Met at least £7.2m, although £4.7m of this money would have been spent regardless of where the officers were patrolling.
Sir Paul Stephenson, the Scotland Yard Commissioner, said: “G20 is a huge challenge for the Met. Quite clearly the notice for this event is less than one would normally have, but I think we are in extraordinary times and that has led to an extraordinary event.”
Commander Bob Broadhurst is in charge of the security operation – one of the biggest the Met has ever mounted. All police leave has been canceled for the duration of the summit and officers from six forces are working to second guess “innovative” protesters determined to evade traditional security arrangements.
“We have to be flexible and mobile,” he said. “These are innovative people and we must be innovative as well.
“They are very clever people and they understand our tactics and will try to outsmart us. I have encouraged officers to try to think about what these people might try and do and hopefully we will have something to mitigate that. It will be an exciting couple of days to say the least.”
US Using British Atomic Weapons Factory for Its Nuclear Program February 9, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Europe, Foreign Policy, War.
Tags: aldermaston, anti-nuclear protests, atomic weapons, berkshire, britain, cnd, england, International law, kate hudson, liberal democrats, matthew taylor, mda, non-proliferation treaty, nuclear warhead, nuclear warhead stockpile, nuclear weapons, Pentagon, president barack obama, richard norton-taylor, Robert Gates, roger hollander, rrw, uk, uk parliament, warhead research
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Anti-nuclear protesters surround the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment in Berkshire, England. (Photo: Getty Images)
09 February 2009, www.truthout.org
by: Matthew Taylor and Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian UK
The US military has been using Britain’s atomic weapons factory to carry out research into its own nuclear warhead programme, according to evidence seen by the Guardian.
US defence officials said that “very valuable” warhead research has taken place at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston in Berkshire as part of an ongoing and secretive deal between the British and American governments.
The Ministry of Defence admitted it is working with the US on the UK’s “existing nuclear warhead stockpile and the range of replacement options that might be available” but declined to give any further information.
Last night, opposition MPs called for a full parliamentary inquiry into the extent of the collaboration at Aldermaston and campaign groups warned any such deal was in breach of international law. They added that it also undermined Britain’s claim to have an independent nuclear weapons programme and meant British taxpayers were effectively subsidising America’s nuclear programme.
The US president, Barack Obama, while on the campaign trail said he wanted to eliminate nuclear weapons and that one of his first actions on taking office would be to “stop the development of new nuclear weapons”. But the Pentagon is at odds with the president. The defence secretary, Robert Gates, and other senior officials argue that the US’s existing arsenal needs to be upgraded and that would not constitute “new” weapons.
Kate Hudson, of CND, said: “Any work preparing the way for new warheads cuts right across the UK’s commitment to disarm, which it signed up to in the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. That this work may be contributing to both future US and British warheads is nothing short of scandalous.”
Nick Harvey, defence spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said parliament and the country would react with “outrage” at the prospect of British taxpayers funding a new US nuclear weapon.
“All this backroom dealing and smoke and mirrors policy is totally unacceptable, the government must open the Aldermaston accounts to full parliamentary scrutiny,” he added.
The extent of US involvement at Aldermaston came to light in an interview with John Harvey, policy and planning director at the US National Nuclear Security Administration, carried out last year by the thinktanks Chatham House and the Centre for Strategic Studies.
Referring to “dual axis hydrodynamic” experiments which, with the help of computer modelling, replicate the conditions inside a warhead at the moment it starts to explode, Harvey said: “There are some capabilities that the UK has that we don’t have and that we borrow… that I believe we have been able to exploit that’s been very valuable to us.”
It is unclear whether the experiments are still being carried out but, in the same interview, Harvey admitted that the US and UK had struck a new deal over the level of cooperation, including work on US plans for a new generation of nuclear warhead known as the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW). He said: “We have recently, I can’t tell you when, taken steps to amend the MDA [Mutual Defence Agreement], not only to extend it but to amend it to allow for a broader extent of cooperation than in the past, and this has to do with the RRW effort.”
Campaigners said the comments represent the first direct evidence that the US is using UK facilities to develop its nuclear programme. Lawyers acting on their behalf said the increasing levels of cooperation and the extension the MDA breach the non-proliferation treaty, which states: “Each nuclear weapon state party to the treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices indirectly or indirectly.”
The MoD admitted the two countries are working together, “examining both the optimum life of the UK’s existing nuclear warhead stockpile and the range of replacement options that might be available to inform decisions on whether and how we may need to refurbish or replace the existing warhead likely to be necessary in the next parliament”.
Congress has stopped funding research into RRW but campaigners believe the US military may have used facilities in the UK to get around the restrictions at home.
“Billions of pounds have been poured into the Atomic Weapons Establishment over recent years to build new research facilities,” said Hudson. “If these are being used to support US programmes outside Congress’s controls on spending, it raises even more serious questions about why the British taxpayer is paying for a so-called ‘independent deterrent’.”