Monday, May 29, 2006

MOD caught lying again: This time on desertion rates

Sixty attacks a month on UK troops as 1000 desert

From the New Zealand Herald

British forces in Iraq have been attacked by insurgents nearly 60 times a month since the start of the year, figures released to the Commons have revealed. The figures for the first four months of 2006 show a 26 per cent increase in attacks, compared to 2005. The sharp increase is expected to prompt more calls for the troops to be pulled out quickly rather than staying on in the hope that the violence can be controlled.

The revelation coincides with a report, denied by the Ministry of Defence, of a sharp increase in the number of British soldiers who have been absent without leave (awol) for more than a month and who may have deserted to escape the long running Iraq conflict. The BBC reported that more than 1000 soldiers had deserted for more than 30 days since Iraq was invaded in 2003, and that about 900 had not been found. In 2005, 377 went awol and are still missing.

The Ministry of Defence has denied that Iraq had caused a sharp increase in the number of soldiers deserting or going absent without leave. It claimed that the numbers going awol in 2004-05 were the lowest since 2001.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Dispatches: Battle Fatigue

In the Channel 4 Dispatches documentary broadcast tonight Andrew Gilligan reported on disturbing evidence of how wounded Iraq veterans are being abandoned, how army recruitment has collapsed and the lengths to which the Ministry of Defence has gone to prevent the full story emerging. Badly injured Iraq veterans recounted stories of neglect and the parents of a soldier killed earlier this year explained how their son’s death prompted his friends to leave the Army.

None of this is of suprise to this blog but it was good to see mainstream tv media starting to take an active interest in these stories. Following hard on the heels of recent publications in The Lancet, and increased fighting and casualties in the British sectors in both Iraq and Afghanistan, this documentary has filled in some of the human detail of the tragedy that Blair chose to visit on Iraq, this country and our armed forces.

Friday, May 19, 2006

A Night of Conscience


Intoduced by Tony Benn
St. James Church, 197 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9LL

Comedians Mark Thomas and Mark Steel, musician Michael Nyman, actress Janet Suzman, film director Ken Loach, playwright Caryl Churchill, musician Ed Harcourt, Iraqi novelist Haifa Zangana, Walter Wolfgang, chair of CND Kate Hudson, Lindsey German, John Rees and many others from film, stage, television and politics will appear at this benefit concert to raise funds to help pay Malcom Kendall-Smith's legal costs, imposed on him when he was sent to jail for refusing to serve in Iraq.

Tickets are £15 and available from Stop The War Coalition

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Blair rises from the ashes

Click to play the movie!

Times are a bit tough for the Prime minister right now but from experiences such as this Grow the Roses of Sucess!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Blair is damaged by election result: but is it enough to force his removal?

The Guardian

"Despite assertions of confidence inside No 10, the mood in Mr Blair's inner circle is jittery and his aides are actively considering whether Mr Blair should say today he will stand down in the summer of 2007.

Mr Blair is braced for backbench calls for him to name the date of his departure."

Financial Times

"Ministers began arriving at Downing Street on Friday morning for an expected cabinet reshuffle as Tony Blair tries to fend off demands from Labour MPs that he must quit after the party’s poor performance in England’s local government elections."

BBC Online

“Voters have delivered a decisive and damaging verdict on British prime minister Tony Blair who now faces the judgement of his own party on his future as prime minister. ...believe the drubbing is a direct consequence of the prime minister’s waning authority and refusal to listen to voters’ concerns over a whole series of policies on the welfare state, civil liberties and, still, the war on Iraq.”

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Voting tomorrow? London Strategic Voter calls for a decisive turnout

Click to find out more about Strategic Voting in the May 4th elections in London

Anti-New Labour tactical voting by former Labour voters, and supporters of all other parties, looks set to deliver a local election result in London that will contribute significantly to sweeping Tony Blair out of 10 Downing Street.

As one indication of the difficulites that now face Tony Blair, the London Strategic Voter website registered about 10,000 hits in the pre-election month of April, and interest has continued to grow rapidly in the days leading up to the vote tomorrow.

"If opponents of the war unite and vote tactically for the strongest challenger to New Labour the party of government could be defeated in every London borough. It is the first time the internet has been used to encourage and co-ordinate large-scale tactical voting in a London election.

Simply by typing in their postcode on the website, Londoners can find out which party stands the best chance of beating New Labour in their council ward. The interactive website will be a centre for vote-swapping between supporters of different parties in different boroughs, so that the power of tactical voting to create change can be exploited to the full.

London Strategic Voter spokesman Richard Wilson: “May 4th is a referendum on whether the voters want Tony Blair to stay or to go now. We want him to go."

See also Blair at the voter’s mercy

Monday, May 01, 2006

UK Casualties in Iraq: The debate continues in The Lancet

Two letters are published this week in the medical journal The Lancet on the subject of the under reporting or mis-reporting of British casualties in Iraq by the Ministry of Defence.

The letters were written following the publication of an article by Prof. Sheila Bird, which described how the government has consistently refused to provide clear or complete information on British casualties.

The first of the letters published this week is from the Defence Medical Services and discusses the way that information on injuries is used to improve treatment and counter measures. The letter, however, fails to address in any way the failure of the government to provide honest information on casualties to the British people.

The second letter supports the article by Prof Bird and confirms that the data does indeed exist that would allow the MOD to provide the requested information.

"The reason given at the time for not compiling or making available the data for analysis was that the cost would exceed the £600 fee specified under section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act. Clearly, extracting and summarising such data would require a lot of work, but in light of the arguments outlined by Bird, the cost-effectiveness of the Ministry of Defence's decision surely has to be questioned.

The same communication indicated that, since February, 2003, there had been 2762 medical evacuations from Iraq and that 790 of these had involved UK military personnel. The reasons for medical evacuation included “injuries sustained as a result of hostile actions, accidents and other incidents”. Further information published online by the Ministry of Defence reveals that about 1200 additional medical evacuations had occurred during 2005."

The letter then concludes:

"Until there is a change in policy and practice within the Ministry of Defence, we can only deal in informed guesswork in the assessment of the public-health effect of the war on people serving in the British military. As argued by Bird, we owe them more than this."