On Question Time on Thursday night before this remembrance Sunday, Benjamin Zephaniah wore a white poppy, not a red one – and the BBC did their best to angle the cameras so that this would not be visible. I dropped some money in a British Legion collecting box on Friday, but refused the red poppy.
- Forty years ago on September 11, 1973, the Chilean military led by General Augusto Pinochet, crushed the democratically elected Unidad Popular government of Salvador Allende.
Thousands of people were tortured and killed, others ‘disappeared’ at the hands of the authorities, the secret police and more were illegally detained. Men, women and children were rounded up by the military and taken from their homes. Most were never seen alive by their families again. 1 million people were forced into exile. – Chile 40 Years On network
In the UK, widespread public support against the coup was not welcomed by the Conservative government in 1973:
The shipbuilders’ union urged the government not to sell warships to Pinochet, even though losing these contracts could threaten their own jobs. The government’s response? To send spies to shipyards across Britain to check workers were not sabotaging vessels destined for Chile.
When Labour came to power in 1974, it cut off arms sales, aid and credit to Pinochet and, in 1977, withdrew the British ambassador. But existing arms contracts were to be honoured, so trade unionists took matters into their own hands. Employees at East Kilbride engineering yard in Scotland refused to fix bomber-plane engines destined for Chile, forcing Rolls Royce to break its contract with the Chilean air force. This forgotten history of solidarity will be celebrated across Britain today, the 40th anniversary of the coup.
Unsurprisingly, when Pinochet’s most prominent defender, Margaret Thatcher came to office in 1979, diplomatic relations were soon restored and arms sales resumed. Declassified papers reveal that, by June 1982, her government had sold the dictatorship: two warships, 60 blowpipe missiles, 10 Hunter Hawker bomber planes, naval pyrotechnics, communications equipment, gun sights, machine guns and ammunition. A unique attempt at a British “ethical foreign policy” had ended.
- On 11th January, 2002, the first 20 illegally-detained prisoners were delivered to cages at Guantanamo Bay: over 11 years later, the US is still holding 164 prisoners in extrajudicial detainment illegal under international law.
- Since 12th July 2005, it has been publicly known that the US government authorised US soldiers to torture Guantanamo Bay prisoners: US soldiers also tortured prisoners in Iraq and in Afghanistan and the US military is also linked to the use of torture in Iraqi-run prisons.
As ever, The Onion cuts to the quick of the matter. Given Syria has allies on the Security Council at the UN, there is no legal way for a United Nations member to take military action on Syria.
Just as the 2003 war on Iraq was not lawful.
James Fallows in The Atlantic:
Fact 1: Atrocities are happening in Syria. Fact 2: The United States has bombers, cruise missiles, and drones. Putting those two facts together does not make the second a solution to the first.
Only ten years after the disastrous “what could go wrong?” / “something must be done!” rush to war in Iraq, you would have thought these cautions would not need restatement. They do. In the face of evil we should do something, except when the something would likely make a bad situation worse.
We’ve done all this before.
Asked in a candid interview on BBC2’s Newsnight whether he minded if “people call you a liar, some people call you a war criminal, protesters follow you; it’s difficult to walk down the street in a country”, he replied: “It really doesn’t matter whether it’s taken its toll on me.
“The fact is yes there are people who will be very abusive, by the way I do walk down the street and by the way I won an election in 2005 after Iraq. However, yes it remains extremely divisive and very difficult.”
By 23rd July 2002 George W. Bush had already decided to invade Iraq.
For Tony Blair, at the time, it seems quite clear what his reasoning was.
- Saddam Hussein was a terrifying dictator – anyone who travelled in Iraq while he ruled there confirms that.
He had unquestionably been guilty of horrifying atrocities, though as those had been committed at a time when he was regarded as a useful Middle Eastern dictator, they had then been ignored by the governments of the US and UK. He had been using Iraqi oil money for internal investment, building Iraq up to become a fully-developed nation (yes, he also spent it on his “palaces”, but so did every other Middle Eastern dictator with oil: he also spent it on Iraqi industry and infrastructure, and that’s what really bothered oil magnates). He had invaded a neighbouring country with intent to conquer and occupy (Gulf War II).
For at least two thousand years, if not longer, people have been calling that particular area of the Middle East “Palestine”.
You only have to look at an animated map of Europe for the past two thousand years to understand that names of countries and national boundaries are constantly changing.
In 1709, there was no country called Israel in the Southern Levant, but you’d have found Palestine on the maps. The modern Zionist movement began less than two centuries ago: even by the 1880s, numerically Muslims were the majority faith, Christians second, and Jews third. The modern Zionist movement from the 1880s onward was a movement of European and American colonisation of Palestine.
The idea that Jews around the world have some mystical religious “right” to live in the Southern Levant because there have been Jews living there for several thousand years or because God gave that land to them is absurd. I am an atheist, and historical claims from past millennia are not made valid by religious faith.
Chris Stevens, US ambassador to Libya, killed in Benghazi attack:
On Tuesday [11th September] night a group of extremists attacked the US consulate building in Benghazi, setting it on fire, and killing one US diplomatic officer.
On Tuesday the US state department confirmed that one of its employees had been killed by the mob that stormed the US mission in Benghazi, incensed by a US film that they deemed blasphemous to the prophet Muhammad. Libyan officials said Stevens and two security staff were in their car when gunmen fired rockets at it, Reuters reported. The official said the US military had sent a military plane to transport the bodies to Tripoli and to fly them back to the US.
One witness told the Guardian on Wednesday that a mob fired at least one rocket at the US consulate building in Benghazi and then stormed it, setting everything ablaze. “I was there about an hour ago. The place [consulate] is totally destroyed, the whole building is on fire.”
Apparently Julian Assange himself is curating the @Wikileaks account:
By the US accepting the UK siege on the Ecuadorian embassy in London it gave tacit approval for attacks on embassies round the world.
11th September is the day in 1997 when we went to the polls to vote yes/yes to a Scottish Parliament with tax-raising powers: a Parliament that had already been crowdsourced and mutually agreed to over seven years of debate in Scotland. Tony Blair later claimed to have “given” it to us, but however much that may rankle, it isn’t every day that an MSP suggests we arrest him.
Margo MacDonald holds a special place in Scottish politics, when in 2003, discovering that her party did not intend to have her re-elected by pushing her down the Regional list of candidates, she stood as an Independent. And won. And has continued to win ever since. She has a solid reputation for independent thinking and common sense. The SNP may well feel that their attempt to cut her out of Lothian and Scottish politics was one of the worse mistakes they’ve made since they decided not to get involved with campaigning for devolution.
Motion S4M-04022: Margo MacDonald, Lothian, Independent, Date Lodged: 06/09/2012:
That the Parliament agrees with Archbishop Desmond Tutu that Tony Blair should be tried for waging aggressive war against Iraq and further believes that the Scottish Government should take the opportunity afforded by the independence of Scots law to complete the incorporation of international criminal law by introducing a simple amendment making illegal the waging of aggressive war with the intention of regime change so that Tony Blair could be brought to trial in Scotland.
Four days after the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush gathers his national security team at Camp David for a war council. Wolfowitz argues that now is the perfect time to move against state sponsors of terrorism, including Iraq. But Powell tells the president that an international coalition would only come together for an attack on Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, not an invasion of Iraq.
The war council votes with Powell. Rumsfeld abstains. The president ultimately decides that the war’s first phase will be Afghanistan. The question of Iraq will be reconsidered later. The evolution of the Bush doctrine: chronology
In March next year, it will be the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq by the US, supported by the UK. In the past ten years, over a million people in Iraq have been killed and millions more have become refugees. George W. Bush and Tony Blair are responsible.
Nor is the war on Iraq all that Blair should perhaps answer for. There is the torture and extrajudicial imprisonment of “terror suspects”, too. Written as an appendix to Eleven Years After 9/11 about how Blair lied the UK into war with Iraq.
On Thursday 30th August, the US government announced that it had
closed its investigation into the alleged torture of more than 100 detainees held by the CIA in overseas prisons, and the deaths of two men who died while in CIA custody, without prosecuting anyone.
The Justice Department’s announcement Thursday that it would not bring charges in the deaths of terror suspects Gul Rahman and Manadel al-Jamadi formally ended a multi-year probe by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham into the CIA’s controversial “enhanced interrogation” program.
(Update, 15th October: But this post at Empty Wheel suggests that there may be still some US legal action against torturers, in a whistleblowing case about another known instance of torture in US custody.)
In 2003 and 2004 the Bush administration discussed and approved a list of “enhanced interrogation techniques” which were to be permitted for use by the CIA. The evidence for these meetings has been public since October 2008. The approval of torture techniques by the US administration was illegal under the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
CND representative, Ben Folley, reports from Hiroshima on 6th August:
‘As the delegates pour into the city, a peace march of hundreds who have walked from Tokyo also arrives at the Memorial Peace Park. The Japanese anti-nuclear movement is growing – many are from amongst the hibakusha – the survivors of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But many others are young people – around 600 attended Saturday’s youth rally, calling for a nuclear free world.
On 6th August 1945, a nuclear weapon was used in war for the first time. Three days later, over Nagasaki, a nuclear weapon was to be used in war for what, so far, has been the last time.
The artist Isao Hashimoto made this film as a “bird’s eye view of the history”, a month per second. “The blinking light, sound and the numbers on the world map show when, where and how many experiments each country have conducted. I created this work for the means of an interface to the people who are yet to know of the extremely grave, but present problem of the world.” Isao Hashimoto was born in Kumamoto prefecture in Japan in 1959.