Tuesday, January 31, 2006

One Hundred British Dead - No end in sight

Click for more information on the impact of British casualties

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Clairty of Mission? John Reid on Britain's Military Role in Afghanistan

Whats the difference between anti-insurgency and anti-terrorism?

With thousands of British troops being sent to Afghanistan, clarity on exactly what they are supposed to be doing, how they are going to know when they have suceeded, and how and when the mission will end are crucial. Does John Reid really have a grip on this?

Many soldiers don't seem to think so.

Still, with the prospect of escalating conflict in Afghanistn its always encouraging to see the progress in Iraq.....

From Times Online

BRITISH troops are facing a showdown with the governor of Basra after he threatened to end co-operation with the Army and called for mass demonstrations unless the British command freed a group of senior policemen it arrested on charges of plotting deadly attacks.

The dispute with the Iraqi official came against a backdrop of increasing roadside bombings, assassinations and kidnappings in the Shiite port city, where thousands of British troops are based. In the city market yesterday, witnesses said that they had seen a man step out of a police vehicle to plant a bomb that killed one woman and wounded three other people.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Mainstream Coverage of the Tashkent Telegrams...

The release of the Craig Murray Tashkent Telegrams on the internet continues to attract mainstream media coverage. The publication of an interim report on extraordinary rendition by the Council of Europe has led to renewed interest.

A selection of links to some of the more popular mainstream media coverage is given below and will be updated as the story continues to develop.

25th January

The Times: Britain accused of turning blind eye to torture flights

The Telegraph: `'Gangster US' accused over torture

17th January

The Washington Post: Transcript: Former Vice President Gore's Speech on Constitutional Issues
Many other media are carrying coverage of Al Gores Speech which cites the Tashkent Telegrams

9th January

The Times: The Click

The Irish Examiner: Former envoy lets cat out of the bag

8th January

The Observer: Official or not, it's no secret in the the blogosphere

The Sunday Independent (South Africa): Expose info that's tainted by torture

6th January

The Guardian: Whitehall unconfidential: the censors are on the run

4th January

The Guardian: Hot Air
(At last a tiny mention in this paper. 2006 is obviously more of a year for the wardrobe than the lion)

2nd January

Sydney Morning Herald: Damning torture files revealed

Middle East times: British envoy says UK lied on torture

1st January

The Washington Post: World in Brief

Los Angeles Times: Briton Offers Documents on Torture

(plus a large number of other mainstream US news sites aswell as Mexico and Canada via AP)

CRI Online (China): Ex-Envoy Says Britain Used Coerced Intel

The Sunday Herald: Her Majesty’s Secret Service?

31st December

BBC Online: Ex-diplomat prints torture claims

The Mirror: Ex-Ambassador: Straw knew we used info from torturers

USA Today: Ex-envoy: U.K. received info via torture

ABC News: Ex-Envoy: U.K. Received Info Via Torture

30th December

The Telegraph: Ex-ambassador - information gained by Torture

The Times: Diplomat Says Britain Used Data Gotten by Torture

United Press International: Brit envoy says UK lied on torture

29th December

The Independent: Ex-envoy to Uzbekistan goes public on torture

For a Channel 4 viewpoint see Inside News
For a more detailed listing of related searches try Empire Burlesque
For a blog discussion on the Tashkent letters see Daily Kos

Sunday, January 22, 2006

As the Government Plays Around with Casualty Statistics British Soldiers Prepare to Sue MOD

Unthinkable just a week ago, the defence secretary John Reid last Friday conceded Britain had sustained 'thousands of casualties'. The first confirmation that the complexities of the Iraq conflict has exerted an adverse psychological impact on a vast pool of British servicemen and women has started to emerge.... More damaging though is news that 15 British soldiers who recently served in Iraq are to sue the government over claims it failed to help them cope with the psychological trauma of the conflict.

...A year ago, a parliamentary answer put the number of British servicemen and women wounded in Iraq at 794. Last Wednesday afternoon, The Observer was sent figures by the MoD claiming that 177 British men and women had been wounded as a result of hostile action in Iraq. Shortly after midday last Friday this had changed again when Reid announced that in fact this figure was 230, including 40 very seriously injured. At least 11 are known to have lost limbs. The previous figure of almost 800 was suddenly 'withdrawn' and would 'never be used again'. Sources from the MoD struggled to explain the sudden discrepancy, saying only that previous figures were invalid. But the new data raised their own questions, omitting as it did, the fact that 3,800 UK personnel had been hospitalised after being airlifted from Iraq without any detailed explanation of their condition. As Reid said: 'It depends upon the definition of casualty.'

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Is John Reid Telling the Truth about UK Casualties in Iraq?

John Reid, the UK defense secretary, went on record yesterday to claim that only 'about' 230 British troops have been injured in enemy action since the invasion of Iraq. This figure is unbelievably low and an urgent enquiry is required into how the Ministry of Defense arrived at that estimate.

Previously, information on the total number of casualties was withheld by the UK government and it was left to enquiries under the Freedom of Information Act to try and uncover the true situation.

The MOD web site has until recently published consistently inaccurate statements by claiming that the figures it produced represented all casualties when in fact they only reported fatalities and a selection of injury cases. This has now been corrected and references to injuries now seem to have been removed completely.

The estimate of casualties declared by John Reid should be challenged immediately, on the basis of arithmetic if nothing else. An article published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2004 describes the ratio of wounded to dead US troop as 9:1. The raio implied by John Reid's figures is 4:1, less than half of what would be expected.

Something appears to be seriously wrong and Mr Reid should not be allowed to move on from this without a full accounting! Thankfully, this time it appears that the mainstream opposition also view this as important.

I for one have resubmitted my original FOI request from January 2005 and look forward to hearing what the MOD may have to say.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Democracy Now: The Craig Murray Interview

Craig Murray interviews on Democracy Now prior to testifying at the Bush Commission at the weekend

"We spend the hour with the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray. The British government has stopped the publication of his book. In a Democracy Now exclusive, Murray tells why he defied the British Foreign Office by posting a series of classified memos on his website. Murray was fired as ambassador to Uzbekistan after he openly criticized the British and U.S. governments for supporting human rights abuses under the Uzbek regime."
The interview can be watched here

Missing in Action?

Please help us to find this man!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Al Gore Infringes the Official Secrets Act

In his speech yesterday Al Gore quotes from telegrams sent by Craig Murray while he was British Ambassador to Uzbekistan. These communications illustrate that both the US and UK governments were aware of ongoing torture of detainees in Uzbekistan, that they regularly obtained and used information gained by torturing prisoners, and that they saw viewed this arrangement as beneficial and one that should be nurtured and sustained. No new news there, although it probably still comes as a shock to many.

However, did Mr Gore realise that the documents that he was quoting from were actually subject to restrictions under the British Official Secrets Act. They were in fact only in the public domain due to unauthorised distribution on the internet.

So, is Al Gore is complicit in a crime against the government of the UK?

Scottish Member of Parliament urges police to quiz Powell

An MSP has urged Scots police to interview former US Secretary of State Colin Powell over the allegations of torture flights using British airports. Sandra White of the SNP said Strathclyde Police had a "golden opportunity" to rebuild public confidence over the issue of rendition flights by speaking to Mr Powell about allegations that international law had been breached. Last month Mr Powell claimed that European countries including the British Government were being "disingenuous" in claiming that they were unaware of extraordinary rendition flights through UK and Scottish airports....Mr Powell was Secretary of State in George W Bush's first administration from 2001 and 2005.

Colin Powell was also on Newsnight last night, apparently trying to pave the way towards European submission for military action against Iran. The Bush administration is desperate indeed. Powell's international credibility, impressive at the time, was shot to pieces by his attempts to mislead, literally, the world at the UN over Iraqi WMD. But Bush is plumb out of anyone else to send with any gravitas or kudos to try and impress an international audience. Really, think about it...who else from his top team could he send? So we are left with a discredited old general, still trying to do his duty, as the the cry of soiled goods drowns out his rather pathetic attempts at persuasive diplomacy.

Not dignified Mr Powell, its way time to step off the stage and write your memoirs!

A defining image for Colin Powell - click for further information

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Anger as Britain admits it was wrong to blame Iran for deaths in Iraq

From The Independent

"MPs and soldiers' families have demanded an explanation from the Government after a U-turn over claims that Iran was complicit in the killing of British soldiers in southern Iraq. Britain has dropped the charge of Iranian involvement after senior officials had repeatedly accused the Tehran regime of supplying sophisticated explosive devices to insurgents. Government officials now acknowledge that there is no evidence, or even reliable intelligence, connecting the Iranian government to the infra-red triggered bombs which have killed 10 British soldiers in the past eight months."

Surprised? Not really. Dodgey dossiers are of course standard operating procedure for this government.

For the background to this story see previous posts:

'Iranian bombs' actually came from British intelligence (18/10/05)

British government is shaping the battlefield with Iran? (12/10/05)

Why does Britain accuse Iran of attacks now? (05/10/05)

Monday, January 09, 2006

FCO Offers Reasurances on Free One-way Flights

The former head of the FCO - You knew what you were getting with Jack!

Tags: Air Travel UK Jack Straw Cheap Flights

Impeach Blair!: Sir Michael Rose makes the call this morning

Sir Michael Rose, the retired British army General who led United Nations forces in Bosnia has called for Tony Blair to be impeached for taking the country to war in Iraq on false grounds. Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme, he said that Blair must not be allowed to "walk away", and must be held accountable in order to deter future politicians from making the same mistakes. Asked whether he believed his views were shared by senior officers still serving in the army, Rose suggested that a "debate" had been going on.
You can listen to the interview here Radio interview (Real Player)

See also: Blairwatch - General Sir Michael Rose calls for Blair to be Impeached

The campaign for impeachment is online: ImpeachBlair.org

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Experts Say Iraq War Will Cost at Least $1 Trillion

Its being reported that the cost to the US of the Iraq invasion and occupation will be in excess of 1 trillion dollars.

"In a paper presented to this week's Allied Social Sciences Association annual meeting in Boston, Linda Bilmes of Harvard and Nobel Laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz of Columbia University said the final bill is likely to be much higher than the Bush administration estimates.

The study includes the cost of disability payments and health care for the over 16,000 injured military personnel -- one-fifth of whom have serious brain or spinal injuries. Stiglitz and Bilmes also analyzed the costs to the economy, including the economic value of lives lost and higher oil prices."

Sunday Papers and the Taskent Telegrams

The Observer covers the release of the Tashkent Telegrams in their Media Matters section.

"Murray is surprised still to be at liberty. The documents in question are memos dating back to his stint as Her Majesty's man at the court of President Islam Karimov, an authoritarian leader who is accused of massacring opponents and torturing dissidents. His trademark is reported to be boiling his political opponents alive. Murray objected to Britain's and America's cultivation of Karimov, whose country was a useful staging post for attacks on Afghanistan. He was sacked."

So does the the Sunday Independent (even if its the South African edition :-( )

Expose info that's tainted by torture

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Charles Kennedy Resigns: Leadership change for the Liberal Democrats can begin at last

Following the belated resignation speech of Charles Kennedy this afternoon, the process of leadership change and regrouping can finally begin. The Liberal Democrats are the only mainstream UK political party to have stood firm against the dishonesty, illegality and strategic folly of the Iraq war, as well as the erosion of human rights under Blair's leadership. Britain desperately needs them to sort themselves out fast and provide an enhanced voice of opposition to the New Labour-Conservative pact with Bush and the US neocons.

All best wishes to Mr Kennedy who eventually did the right thing and showed great personal courage.

Step up Mr Campbell!

London bombs inspire Indian film

From BBC Online

One of Bollywood's leading producers, Mahesh Bhatt, is making a film inspired by last year's London bombings. The film, Suicide Bomber, is about a disenchanted British Asian Muslim from Bradford and is set in the UK and India.

Mahesh Bhatt says his film will seek to spread the message that Islam is a religion of peace and compassion.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Weakness of the Official Secrets Act explained?

The Guardian peeks carefully over the parapet with this interesting piece on why the OSA is so damn difficult to implement and why Craig Murray still has to pay for his own breakfasts. See also here

"We have obtained one of Ms Yasamee's private Whitehall letters, written last October. But publication of its contents here does not make it likely that the Guardian is in turn due for a knock on the door by Special Branch. She writes that the government is entitled to ask for alterations to passages in Murray's book that "might damage national security, international relations or confidential relationships". But this "depends on the willingness of the author to make changes".

Iraq: The Bloody Circus

Iraq: The Bloody Circus 9 - 12 January 2006. A week of programmes about Iraq, exploring the reasons why we went to war, and how the Arabs view the West.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

"Ban on torture is economically inefficient"

Just in case anyone thought the American right was getting a bad press we recommend a look at this!

"Moreover, if the right balance can be struck between the use of torture as a fierce interrogation tool and its morale-boosting (but ultimately inefficient) qualities as an “office game”, then the interests of the United States are best served. At the moment, for reasons of short-run political expediency, the pendulum has swung back too far against torture, making intelligence gathering as inefficient as it was under Clinton. And Mr Bush knows it. "

Have Bloggers Killed the Official Secrets Act?

The Register looks at the health of the OSA post the web release of the Tashkent Telegrams.

NB Some bloggers seem exercised on the nomenclature of the documents. The following names have been used and do actually all refer to the same documents (OK Brian?):

Tashkent Letters
Tashkent Telegrams
Torture Memos
Torture Telegrams

7/7 Anniversary Memorial Service

One of the London sites devestated on 7/7 This Saturday at 3pm there will be held an informal ceremony at the Cenotaph, near Downing Street on Whitehall for the half-year anniversary of the London bombings.

In remembrance of past, present and future acts of war, terror and aggression against people everywhere, we will share silent and spoken prayers for the coming year. And in solidarity with Maya Evans*, there will
also be a public bell ringing and a reading of the names of all those who
died on the London transport system on 7th July 2005.

* The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 [also known as SOCPA]makes it a criminal offence to demonstrate without police control within 1km of Westminster. On 9th December 2005 Maya became the first person to be convicted under this awful legislation. She and the writer Milan Rai were arrested for ringing bells and reading aloud the names of Iraq war victims immediately outside Downing Street.

Please come and join us for our 7/7 Anniversary Memorial Service. This
Saturday 7th January 2006, 3pm at the Cenotaph, Whitehall, Westminster.

For more info about the service please call Mark on 0785 439 0408

Service organised by individual members of http://www.peopleincommon.org/ in liason with others.

Inflamatory Language?

The Guardian shows, er.., massive courage with this snipet:

"In the meantime, Craig Murray continues to tempt fate on his blog: Britain's former man in Uzbekistan titled a post "On the death of the Official Secrets Act" yesterday. Now that's what the Backbencher calls inflammatory."

Where are you people?!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Impeachment, Ahmed Chalabi, and Green Dreams

Impeach Bush and Cheney Now!

The Green party in the USA are now calling for the impeachement of Bush and Cheney citing White House lawlessness, a growing threat to U.S. democracy, and war crimes.

All fairly minority interest stuff perhaps, but nonetheless, reflective of the growing realisation by the peoples on both sides of the Atlantic of how badly duped they were by their governments.

Meanwhile, the lobbying excesses of the Beltway are seeing some well needed light of day in the Jack Abramoff affair, but Bush admits, by slashing the budget, that the US rebuilding of Iraq is not going to happen anytime soon, if ever.

Still its not all bad news for Bush as this White House briefing reveals:

Q: As Iraq moves forward, does the United States feel that naming Ahmed Chalabi as the oil minister is the right person for that job, given his credibility problems? His offices were raided --

MR. McCLELLAN: It's not up to the United States; it's up to the Iraqi people to make those decisions, and it's up to their government that is elected by the Iraqi people to make those decisions.

Q: Is the White House pleased with that announcement that he will be the oil minister?

MR. McCLELLAN: We're pleased that Iraq is moving forward on democracy and building the foundations of peace for generations to come. It's vital to our national security interests that we succeed in Iraq, because it will help transform a dangerous region of the world.

Lastly, the President also does very well in the The Political Folly Awards of 2005

Great year!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Bringing to Account: War Crimes in the Iraq War

For information on civillian deaths directly caused by the violence and reported in the media click hereOn 7th December 2005 Tony Benn and forty three others, including Rose Gentle, Reg Keys, Harold Pinter, and Michael Mansfield QC, sent a letter to The UN and to the UK Attorney General asking them to investigate breaches of The Nuremberg Charter and Geneva and Hague Conventions during the Iraq War, and to bring those responsible to account.


With Reference to The Iraq War 2003 - 2005

This is a request to Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the UN that he should instigate an investigation into the claims listed in the attachment to this memorandum. It is also jointly addressed to Lord Goldsmith the Attorney General of the UK. The UK is a High Contracting Party and Signatory to The Geneva and Hague Conventions and Protocols and The Nuremberg Charter of 1945, and of The Rome Statute of The International Criminal Court. It is thus appropriate that The Attorney General should investigate what appear to be grave breaches of these Conventions and Protocols, and of UN General Assembly Resolution No 95, before and during the Iraq War 2003 - 2005.

To read the full letter and, if you agree, back this move by submitting your name, vist the Stop the War site here