Friday, September 30, 2005

Walter Wolfgang on Tony Blair

After his readmission to the Labour Party conference, Walter Wolfgang offered some thoughts to the media on the conduct of the conference, the leadership of Tony Blair, and the reasons for the invasion of Iraq.

"Tony Blair is the worst leader the Labour Party has ever had, Ramsay Macdonald included."

"I suspect that he is too theatrical even to realise that he is lying."

"We have been lied to about the war. But not only that. The party has been manipulated so that it has not been allowed to discuss the issue properly."

"There was no justification for the conflict in Iraq. It isn't only that there were no weapons of mass destruction. The war was simply unnecessary. It was done in support of the United States."

For the full article go here.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Iraq war debate closes at the Labour party conference

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

New Accounts of Torture by U.S. Troops

U.S. Army troops subjected Iraqi detainees to severe beatings and other torture at a base in central Iraq from 2003 through 2004, often under orders or with the approval of superior officers, according to accounts from soldiers released by Human Rights Watch.

The administration demanded that soldiers extract information from detainees without telling them what was allowed and what was forbidden. Yet when abuses inevitably followed, the leadership blamed the soldiers in the field instead of taking responsibility.

The new report, “Leadership Failure: Firsthand Accounts of Torture of Iraqi Detainees by the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division,” provides soldiers’ accounts of abuses against detainees committed by troops of the 82nd Airborne stationed at Forward Operating Base Mercury (FOB Mercury), near Fallujah.

Three U.S. army personnel—two sergeants and a captain—describe routine, severe beatings of prisoners and other cruel and inhumane treatment. In one incident, a soldier is alleged to have broken a detainee’s leg with a baseball bat. Detainees were also forced to hold five-gallon jugs of water with their arms outstretched and perform other acts until they passed out. Soldiers also applied chemical substances to detainees’ skin and eyes, and subjected detainees to forced stress positions, sleep deprivation, and extremes of hot and cold. Detainees were also stacked into human pyramids and denied food and water. The soldiers also described abuses they witnessed or participated in at another base in Iraq and during earlier deployments in Afghanistan.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Pressure builds on Blair over handling of Iraq invasion and occupation

In comments that will pile pressure on Blair over his handling of the conflict, General Anthony Walker, a former Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff, told Scotland on Sunday:

"The soldiers should have said to the politicians 'fuck this, we are not going into this conflict until you tell us how you are going to deal with this country once we have won you the war'.

"But they didn't, and it now looks as though we will be there a lot longer than we planned."

The spin docs will no doubt shore up any breaks in the ranks at the Labour Party conference this week - but for how much longer can they keep this up?...

Friday, September 23, 2005

British operation in Iraq declared a disaster

The British military are starting to speak out! While the protests of experienced diplomats and middle east specialists seemed easy for the government to discard, they may have a harder job to discredit the opinion of senior military figures.

The former Chief of the Defense Staff, Lord Bramall, declared on BBC Radio 4 (Real Player) this morning that the operation has degenerated into a disaster and a review of policy and a clear exit strategy for British forces is required.

Former head of the SAS and commander of the Bosnia operation Sir Michael Rose, is also quoted in the same segment as saying that the British government should have the courage to order a troop withdrawal.

For details of the demonstration in London this Saturday that will be calling for a withdrawal of British troops please see previous posting.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Peace and Liberty march in London this Saturday

Click image for details of Saturdays demonstrationJust 2 days to the Peace and Liberty march on the 24th September!

With southern Iraq now likely to spiral into open rebellion against the British presence, the importance of forcing the government into announcing a clear exit strategy has never been more important.

For full details of the demonstration go here

Update: Brian Eno will be joining the platform in Hyde Park on Saturday to call for troops out of Iraq alongside Iraqi Novelist Haifa Zangana, Tariq Ali, Reg Keys, Baroness Jenny Tonge and many others.

Reviews of 'The Ambassador’s Last Stand'

The BBC 2 documentary on the Craig Murray's election campaign went out yesterday evening. Craig stood against Jack Straw over the issue of British government endorsement of torture. While the vote count was less than Craig's campaign would of wanted, it did provide an invaluable opportunity to raise awareness of the issue and set a platform for ongoing work to hold the UK government to account for the consequences of its foreign policy.

The TV documentary of the election campaign has received a wide range of reactions ranging from "very, very good" to a cringe making stich up.

My own thoughts are that it was a very intimate, and at time uncomfortably honest, look at someone in the midst of a life changing struggle. Craig appeared willing to open himself and his family up to the documentary crew and at time I wondered whether they had abused their position and verged on the exploitative. However, despite the strange style of the production for me it still worked. Here was someone, fully up front with his own short comings yet doing his upmost to get a critical message across against a corrupt FCO and a duplicitus and compromised Foreign Secretary. Straw lied barefaced to the camera and while this was nothing new of course, my respect for him slipped from zero to severely negative as the programme progressed. The interviews with the families of torture victims in Uzbekistan brought home what it was all about. An interesting 50 minutes for sure and further motivation to continue working to bring the those lying bastards to account.

For reviews of the documentary by other Bloggers see:

The X Files

The Silver Eel


For media reviews see:

The Guardian (1)

The Times

The Guardian (2) (if you are after something cheap and nasty)

Monday, September 19, 2005

America - a special favored nation under God?

Click the image to listen to the Church of England describe the religious underpining of the Washington Neocons and its role in the invasion of Iraq (Real Player) A number of new initiatives related to the Iraq war have been happening here in London:

On the 24th September a very large turnout is expected for the Peace and Liberty march.

Meanwhile, a group of celebrities, academics, artists and musicians have drawn up and handed in a letter to Downing Street calling for the bringing home of British troops.

The third and most surprising move has come from a report from the Church of England, which has suggested that Christian leaders apologise to Muslim leaders for the war in Iraq. A report from a working group of bishops says the war was one of a "long litany of errors" relating to Iraq. They go on to say that as the government is unlikely to offer an apology, a meeting of religious leaders would provide a "public act of institutional repentance". It also suggests a "truth and reconciliation" meeting, but acknowledges that arranging it could be difficult. The report analyses in detail some of the moral and political arguments surrounding the "war on terror" and, not surpisingly, the importance of religious leadership in avoiding unjust war.

On BBC radio this morning one of the Bishops involved in the initiative blamed the Christian right in the US for formenting the Iraq conflict and for using a mis-interpretation of the bible to justify their ambitions. The prophetic chapters of the bible are being used by the neo-cons as a justification for the 'favored nation' view of America and its role in world leadership. Such political positions have of course been around for some time and are documented on the Project for the New American Century www site. Signatories to the view "that American leadership is good both for America and for the world; and that such leadership requires military strength, diplomatic energy and commitment to moral principle" include Cheney, Rumsfeld, Jeb Bush, and of course Paul Wolfowitz.

However, what was new from the interview carried by Today was the explicit association of fundamentalist/right wing christians with American expansionism, and that this link was made by a senior member of the Church of England. We should of course be encouraged that leaders of parts of the christian church are speaking out to challenge the dangerous assertions of extremists. Nonetheless, the feeling I was left with was that the powerful association between church and state in the US is likely to continue unchecked for the foreseeable future.

Click here to listen to the BBC interview with the Bishop of Oxford (Real Player).

Religious warriors propelled on a mystic mission, sanctified by obscure prophetic texts and lubricated by barrels of black gold.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

MOD figures reveal one thousand British casualties in Iraq to date

British Casualty Monitor British forces have suffered approximately one thousand casualties since the invasion of Iraq and the total is likely to keep increasing as the conflict intensifies.

With the sad news of two more deaths of British soldiers earlier this week and another today, it may be time to ask again about the true cost of the Iraq war - this time to the British people. A simple answer is available you might think, but actually it is next to impossible to find the true number of British casualties.

The reason is that the government and Ministry of Defense, unlike their American counterparts, do not willingly issue any information on the large number of wounded UK personel. These hidden casualties include people who have lost limbs and had their lives permanently shattered but, because they survived, their loss receives no public recognition.

The large discrepancy between published and actual casualties became clear to me at the start of this year when I, along with others, wrote to the MOD to request information under the new freedom of information act.

The reply from the MOD revealed that while 85 fatalities had occurred by that time, 790 other troops had been seriously wounded. They would not provide information on the extent of the injuries or even how they received them so some doubt remains. However, these were people who had to be evacuated form Iraq as a result of their condition so one has to assume that they were seriously hurt.

The wounded to dead ratio for the British forces during the Iraq conflict of 9.3 is similar to that for the US. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine from December last year revealed that for every 10 US casualties only one died, despite the lethality of the weapons employed. They comment that:

"Though firepower has increased, lethality has decreased. In World War II, 30 percent of the Americans injured in combat died. In Vietnam, the proportion dropped to 24 percent. In the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, about 10 percent of those injured have died. At least as many U.S. soldiers have been injured in combat in this war as in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, or the first five years of the Vietnam conflict, from 1961 through 1965. This can no longer be described as a small or contained conflict. But a far larger proportion of soldiers are surviving their injuries. Because of the improvements in medical practice soldiers are surviving injures in the Iraq war that would of killed them in Vietnam or even other more recent conflicts. The high ratio of wounded to dead is largely accounted for by these advises in technology and proactie, but, this results in people surviving with horrific disabilities including multiple limb losses and other impairments."

While such a study has not been performed in the UK one can assume that the situation is similar even though UK troops have not been involved in the sort of intense urban conflict that the US has under taken in Falluja and elsewhere.

Therefore, it is probable that the true UK casualty situation is as follows:

From the invasion in March 2003 to January 10th 2005, MOD figures tell us that there were at least 875 casualties of which 85 died and 790 were seriously injured.

Since that date we know that eleven more soldiers have been killed. Based on the previous ratio we can estimate that 102 troops have also been seriously wounded giving a total for the period of 113 and a overall estimated figure for total casualties since the war began of 988.

Why is it that the UK government, unlike the Americans, refuse to issue the full casualty figures for British forces serving in Iraq? And why does the mainstream media allow the perpetuation of this distortion of the real situation?

An obvious reason is that if the true casualty figures were circulated the British public would gain quite a different picture of the ongoing conflict, the extent of our involvement in the fighting, the somewhat cozy image that we have of the British role in the Iraq operation. While such a position may provide some, unfortunately, false comfort to the families of those serving in Iraq, it fails to acknowledge the full price being paid by our young men and women and the full cost to our armed forces of Mr Blair's decision to join the US led invasion. With violence increasing in Southern Iraq as the insurgency becomes more active in the area, it is likely that the direct involvement of British troops and the resulting casualty toll will increase still further.

Update: From June 2007 we are tracking current data on British casualties as it is released. For the latest see the British Casualty Monitor page.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Craig Murray documentary - BBC change date and time!

The BBC have changed the date and time of the Craig Murray election campaign documentary from a popular Saturday slot to mid-week at 7.00pm.

The BBC documentary is now on Wednesday September 21, at 7.00pm. Please see original post for further details.

Muslim alienation and the British political process - a TV documentary on Craig Murray's campaign in Blackburn

'The Ambassador’s Last Stand' - is a forthcoming BBC TV documentary on the Craig Murray election campaign against Jack Straw and the reasons for it. More than just a nostalgic look back - it raises issues of the alienation of Muslims through New Labour foreign policy. In the wake of the London bomb attacks these issues are of continuing and urgent concern.

There appears to have been a reluctance within the BBC about broadcasting this programme and, as a result, there may be little or no advertising. All avenues through the internet and other media are therefore being used to make sure that people are informed about its broadcast.

The documentary is due to be shown on Wednesday September 21, at 7.00pm, on BBC 2. Please note the change in date and time.

More details at Craig Murray's weblog

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Tabloids, lies and video tapes: Is Blair approaching his Aznar moment?

An open letter to President Bush
Hurricane Katrina, anti-war conservatives, Al Queada videos, outrage and denials all made for a very strange and disturbing week indeed.

We saw the prospective leader of the Conservatives, traditionally the most pro-war political party in the UK, start his campaign with a stinging attack on the Iraq invasion and the leadership of Tony Blair. A politically suicidal move or an astute assessment of opportunity afforded by the current climate? Ken Clark certainly has form as a heavy weight but also as a leadership campaign loser. Will be an interesting one to watch.

Then we had the video from Al Jazeera in which one of the suicide bombers from the 7/7 attacks tries to explain his reasons for the inexcusable horror. Equally sad was the predictable tabloid response, saying that such information should not be broadcast and the castigation of Al-Jazeera by pro-American commentators. Personally, if someone is trying to blow me up on the way to work I want to find out why - it might well prove useful! Of course, it must be extremely upsetting for the relatives of the victims who quickly disappear from the media coverage while having to deal with the consequences for years to come. As for the attacks on Al-Jazeera, while they obviously have their own agenda, they seem to me to be one of the most progressive, pro-reform, media organisations to broadcast out of the Middle East and are an extremely important counterbalance to the often biased, partial, and unreliable reportage that emanates from many mainstream western news sources.

The ludicrous nature of Blair's continuing Iraq - terror link denial was held up again to examination by the events of last week. Sooner or later he must be exposed by his colleagues as the emperor who, yet again, is wearing not a stich. However, his phenomenal ability to stay on message in the full face of overwhelming contrary evidence has seen him through so many times before. Aznar was caught out after Madrid for a similar level of attempted deception while Blair has so far survived relatively unscathed. The consummate politician that he is reinforced with an extreme talent for public communication makes him as hard to nail down as a blamange floating on an oil lake. One day Mr Blair, one day.

The third event that gripped the headlines was of course the horrendous events in the Southern US and the woefully inadequate response to the plight of the hurricane and flood victims. Blatant racial bias in the media reporting of looting was also highlighted. The deluge of Bush criticism that resulted may have eventual positive benefits on US foreign and environmental policy - surely there must be a silver lining to this one...

Update 05.09.05 - One such silver lining might be the saving of the American media from mediocrity and deference as a surprisingly strident viewpoint from the BBC argues.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Craig Murray's Book

The one-day posting of the preview chapter from Craig Murray's book on his weblog is now over. However, it appears that a number of sites have copied the material and are now displaying it. These include:

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Banned book by former UK ambassador available online

As part of the international day of blogging on Uzbekistan, Craig Murray has put online a chapter from his book that the British Goverment is trying to ban. The book is only online for one day but can be read here. Reading the material makes clear why the government is so keen to try and prevent its publication! A must-read for anyone interested in the workings on the present government and the conduct of foreign policy in the time of the "war-on-terror".