Wednesday, August 30, 2006

'Titanic Express' reviewed in the Independent

Peter Stanford reviews Titanic Express, By Richard Wilson

From The Independent

Forgiveness is not a popular concept these days. Instead, we seek justice, compensation and, often, revenge when others have done us wrong. These were the immediate goals of Richard Wilson when his 27-year-old sister, Charlotte, was murdered by rebel gunmen in Burundi in December 2000. A VSO worker in neighbouring Rwanda, Charlotte had been travelling on a bus - the Titanic Express of the title - with her Burundian fiancé, Richard Ndereyimana, when the attack took place. As well as the couple, 20 other passengers were robbed, stripped and then killed in cold blood.

Titanic Express begins with an account of Wilson's battle to find out how his sister died, and to bring the perpetrators to justice. Foreign Office officials and the Metropolitan police officers assigned to the case are among the obstacles he has to surmount. More than once, he contemplates commissioning someone with a gun in Burundi to do to Charlotte's killers what they did to her.

As his investigation unfolds, however, Wilson makes contacts with other aid organisations in Burundi, foreign journalists and exiles from its corrupt political system and ethnic tensions between Tutsis and Hutus - the same animosities that caused the genocide in Rwanda in 1995. In the process, he becomes an expert on Burundian politics - a microcosm of the problems that continue to afflict parts of post-colonial Africa. Movingly, he goes beyond a desire for revenge to develop an understanding of why Charlotte's killers did what they did. Yes, they were heartless murderers, but something had happened to make them like that. In violent, hopeless societies, everyone and everything is infected and degraded.

It is not an easy personal journey. Wilson continues to struggle with a more primitive reaction even late in the book, when he meets a BBC World Service journalist from Burundi who has close links with the rebel group behind the attack. But his honesty carries the reader with him. Intimate books charting an individual's quest only work if the author is prepared to show himself, warts and all. This Wilson does unflinchingly.

He also goes beyond the particular to ask broader questions about grief. It is a messy, painful, isolating experience that society today is reluctant to acknowledge or support. In his anguish, Wilson speaks to and for all who cannot easily put loss behind us and get on with life as if nothing has happened.

To find out more about this book go here

Manchester Labour Party Conference: Time to Go!

Military Families Against the War will host a Peace Camp to coincide with September's TIME TO GO demonstration at the Labour conference in Manchester.

• The camp will begin in Albert Square at 3pm on Thursday 21st September.

• Open to all who want to show their support for our campaign to get the troops home.

• Please publicise the Peace Camp, tell your family and friends, post the details on web forums or groups.

• If you would like to take part in the peace camp contact MFAW at [email protected]

Monday, August 21, 2006

Israel Breaks Lebonese Ceasefire

From the UN News Centre

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been in touch with top Israeli and Lebanese officials today following an Israeli raid in eastern Lebanon which he warned endangers the fragile calm that has generally held in the region since Monday.

“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about a violation by the Israeli side of the cessation of hostilities as laid out in Security Council resolution 1701,” a UN spokesman said in a statement. Adopted on 11 August, that text mandated a halt to the fighting which took effect three days later.

There have also been several air violations by Israeli military aircraft, according to the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which is helping to support and coordinate the Israeli withdrawal.

Mr. Annan said violations of Security Council resolution 1701 such as the Israeli raid today “endanger the fragile calm that was reached after much negotiation and undermine the authority of the Government of Lebanon.”

Monday, August 14, 2006

What good is a ceasefire while occupation continues?

By Robert Fisk in The Independent

The real war in Lebanon begins today. The world may believe - and Israel may believe - that the UN ceasefire due to come into effect at 6am today will mark the beginning of the end of the latest dirty war in Lebanon after up to 1,000 Lebanese civilians and more than 30 Israeli civilians have been killed. But the reality is quite different and will suffer no such self-delusion: the Israeli army, reeling under the Hizbollah's onslaught of the past 24 hours, is now facing the harshest guerrilla war in its history. And it is a war they may well lose.

In all, at least 39 - possibly 43 - Israeli soldiers have been killed in the past day as Hizbollah guerrillas, still launching missiles into Israel itself, have fought back against Israel's massive land invasion into Lebanon....

...Far more worrying, however, are the vague terms of the UN Security Council's resolution on the multinational force supposed to occupy land between the Israeli border and the Litani river. For if the Israelis and the Hizbollah are at war across the south over the coming weeks, what country will dare send its troops into the jungle that southern Lebanon will have become?

Tragically, and fatally for all involved, the real Lebanon war does indeed begin today.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Ceasefire Now!

Click here for details

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Blair's new foreign policy vision: Naive, self-deluding and extremely dangerous

Following Blair's speech yesterday in the US what can be said of his 'new' direction for UK foreign policy? Outside the obvious and critical need for the US to force Israel into a realistic position on achieving a Palestinian state, and the need to focus on ideas rather than bombs, the prime minister had little constructive to say.

His speech was, on the contrary, full of danger signs for what may be in store for UK policy, and was also frankly a fine illustration of the dangers of prolonged power on perceptive abilities. Conspiracy theories have there place but, as we saw with as ex-prime minister Wilson, they tend to accumulate at No. 10 Downing street when a change of tenant looms.

Former Conservative Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said it was "either naive or over-simplistic" of the prime minister to say conflicts such as those in Chechnya or Kashmir were part of a "world battle against terror".

"In Chechnya it's not a battle between freedom and terrorism, it's between Russian nationalism and Chechnya nationalism. In Kashmir, it's between India and Pakistan and to try and just draw all these threads in and simplify it in a rather foolish way indicates that the prime minister has become totally bereft of original thinking."

He added: "The single greatest triumph of what he (Mr Blair) calls Islamic terrorism has been in Iraq, which is a direct consequence of his own policy and that of George Bush."

More at BBC Online