Suppression of the Truth: Depleted Uranium – The Deadly Killer

DU tank

IT all began in September 1992, when as a newly ensconced chief reporter at the Galloway Gazette – a weekly newspaper in South West Scotland – I began investigating a report into high levels of radiation in the local waters of the Solway Firth.

At the time, the worrying measurements of Caesium 137 and Americium 241 – a decay product of Plutonium – were ascribed to radioactive waste from the Sellafield Nuclear Reprocessing Plant across the Firth in Cumbria.

Over the winter of 1992-93 I ran a small campaign in our newspaper to investigate these high levels of radioactivity in our sea water.

Then in February 1993 I stumbled across a report to Dumfries and Galloway Regional Council which claimed that the radiation from Sellafield could be responsible for “excess” incidences of leukaemia in our local area.

The report by medical consultant Dr James Chalmers said radiation exposure was of ‘particular concern’ to people in the region, because of the proximity of Sellafield and a nuclear power station at Chapelcross, near Dumfries.

“The main conclusion is that there appears to be a higher than expected incidence of acute leukaemia in Dumfries and Galloway,” he said.

“And some areas have markedly higher than expected incidences. These include areas where there is concern about high exposure to radiation – Kirkcudbright and Chapelcross. In some areas recorded incidences are twice the expected level for those areas.”

While the local Conservative MP Ian Lang gave public assurances that the “levels of radiation on the Galloway coast pose no threat to public health”, both the regional council and the four district councils demanded a closer investigation.

Like a terrier with a bone my journalistic mind kicked in, and I could scent an ongoing newspaper campaign.

By the end of the month, nuclear experts and spokespeople for Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace claimed that both BNFL (the operators of Sellafield) and the Government were “covering up” the true levels of local radiation and the risks to public health.

Dr Patrick Green – who had conducted detailed research for Friends of the Earth – said the Government testing of critical groups of local fish eaters had underplayed the levels of radiation uptake by more than half.

By April 1993, Alex Smith, the Labour Euro MP for South West Scotland was calling on Ian Lang (who was also the Secretary of State for Scotland) to speak out on the contamination from Sellafield.

My campaign into shedding light on the radiation threat to the Galloway coast ran and rumbled throughout the spring and summer of 1993 and by August it was receiving attention from local radio and Scottish national newspapers.

But nothing prepared me for what was to happen next.

Local resident Teresa Spurling, who was worried about the radiation levels in her local sands at Cumstoun, near Kirkcudbright, was one of many who contacted me.

Teresa, who lost her four-year-old daughter Alix with a rare combination of cancers 16 months earlier, was campaigning vigorously for more attention to be paid to the high levels of radiation in the area where her daughter once played.

She pointed accusingly at the contamination from Sellafield but also at the test firing of depleted uranium (DU) artillery shells into the sea from the MoD base at Dundrennan – some eight miles from her home.

“I have come to know so many children who have cancer along this stretch of coast,” she said, before showing me a list of local children who had died from cancer within the previous eight years.

My senses were heightened. Not only did I not realise that there was at MoD base at Dundrennan, but what the hell were they doing firing radioactive shells into the local coastal waters?

Quickly my campaign into a link between radioactive contamination of our coastline and cancer clusters took on a new dimension as we gradually managed to expose years of test firing of these DU shells into the Solway Firth and their link to local cancer clusters – particularly childhood leukaemia.

Public anger over what was perceived as a Government cover-up of the test firing grew by the week and fuelled dozens of questions in the House of Commons plus reports by the national press and BBC’s Panorama TV programme.

By late October the MoD had invited me and other journalists to visit the Dundrennan firing range. In an effort to placate the feral press we were briefed by smartly uniformed senior ranks that the DU shells posed no threat to health and everything was “above board”.

But this sugar-coated PR attempt was ruined in the afternoon when at a public briefing by Secretary of State for Defence Jonathan Aitken and his PPS Stephen Milligan, the public concern and blame was wholly turned on the “local press” (ie me). Mr Aitken said we were spinning lies and “No-one should believe the reports from this backwoods gutter press”.

In 1999, the same Jonathan Aitken was jailed for 18 months for perjury and lying about his arms dealing with Saudi Arabia. Stephen Milligan was found dead in his London flat in 1994. He was naked except for a pair of stockings and suspenders, with an electrical flex tied around his neck and a black bin liner over his head, with an orange in his mouth.

You couldn’t make it up!

My newspaper campaign accelerated in the New Year when a report for the magazine Red Act revealed that 10 per cent of US servicemen who served in the Gulf War had qualified for disability compensation after suffering medical symptoms attributed to exposure to depleted uranium (DU) tank and artillery shells. More than 1,600 American Gulf veterans had also died from similar symptoms.

The report stated: “Of 600,000 American soldiers sent to the Middle East to confront Saddam Hussein, more than 54,000 have qualified for disability compensation.”

Their symptoms included chronic fatigue, rashes, eye and ear infections, bleeding gums, facial paralysis, headaches, memory loss, muscle and joint pains, liver problems and cancer.

The report also referred to the MoD base at Dundrennan, where it said an estimated 4,000 DU shells had been fired into the Solway Firth.

It concluded: “The MoD plans to develop and fire new DU shells there, which will increase local toxic and radioactive contamination.”

The report “Depleted Uranium, Sick Soldiers and Dead Children” came just two weeks after a parliamentary statement by Defence Minister Jeremy Hanley confirmed that sizeable stocks of DU shells were held at the Dundrennan firing range.

“On 15th December 1993, 111 DU rounds were held at the Dundrennan range in anticipation of a number of trials,” he said.

His statement completely contradicted an earlier parliamentary answer by Mr Aitken, who in June 1993 said there were no stocks of Depleted Uranium shells at Dundrennan, “nor any future arisings expected”.

But, I was in for another shock.

Suddenly, and without any warning, I was given two major press awards for my work into the DU shell firings – the first was a Judges’ Special Award for Investigative Journalism.

Then I was informed that 41 MPs had signed an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons praising my investigation (and that of a dear and late colleague at the Sunday Mail) into the link between DU shell firing and the serious risks to health – including cancer.

The EDM read: “That this House congratulates Nic Outterside, chief reporter of the Galloway Gazette, for his special award of the year ‘for his investigative journalism and individual tenacity’, and Angus Macleod of the Sunday Mail, for his ‘talent for disclosing stories in an aggressive and attacking writing style’ in winning the journalist and reporter of the year award in the Scottish Press Awards made on 26th April; notes that both reporters revealed the hidden dangers of depleted uranium shell tests at Ministry of Defence test ranges, and unveiled the links between vapourised depleted uranium dust and the Gulf War or Desert Storm syndrome; believes these Scottish reporters have properly publicised a problem of national and international importance as recognised by investigations in the United States Congress and the United Nations Compensation Committee; and reiterates its call for an urgent public inquiry.”

Some of my political heroes signed that EDM including Tony Benn, Alan Simpson, Ken Livingstone and Dennis Skinner. These names next to mine were like a personal shield of honour, and a vindication of 18 months of sometimes painstaking investigation.

In June 1994 I moved to Edinburgh and left my investigations into the Dundrennan cover-up behind.

But the story did not die.

Studies since 1994 showed that exposure to depleted uranium leads to cancers, birth defects, memory loss, damage to the immune system and neuro-psychotic disorders.

Yet the MoD still steadfastly claimed sine the first Gulf war that “DU does not pose a risk to health or the environment”.

This claim was undone when in 2004 it was revealed that the British Army told soldiers in Iraq that DU can cause ill-health.

An MoD card handed to troops on active service in the second Gulf War, in 2003-2005, read: “You have been deployed to a theatre where depleted uranium (DU) munitions have been used. DU is a weakly radioactive heavy metal which has the potential to cause ill-health. You may have been exposed to dust containing DU during your deployment.

“You are eligible for a urine test to measure uranium. If you wish to know more about having this test, you should consult your unit medical officer on return to your home base. Your medical officer can provide information about the health effects of DU.”

A UN sub-commission ruled that the use of DU breaches the Geneva Convention and the Genocide Convention. DU has also been blamed for the effects of Gulf War Syndrome among some 200,000 US troops.

It has led to birth defects in the children of veterans and Iraqis and is believed to be the cause of the “worrying number” of anophthalmos cases – babies born without eyes – in Iraq. A study of veterans showed 67% had children with severe illnesses, missing eyes, blood infections, respiratory problems and fused fingers.

Professor Doug Rokke, the ex-director of the Pentagon’s DU project and a former US Army colonel who was tasked by the US defence department to deal with DU after the first Gulf War, said: “The MoD card acknowledges the risks. It contradicts the position it has taken publicly – that there was no risk – in order to sustain the use of DU rounds and avoid liability.”

Dr Rokke attacked the US and UK for “contaminating the world” with DU munitions and said the issuing of the card meant that they had “a moral obligation to provide care for all those affected” and to clean up the environment in Iraq.

“DU is in residential areas in Iraq, troops are going by sites contaminated with it with no protective clothing or respiratory protection, and kids are playing in the same areas.”

He added: “What right does anyone have to throw radioactive poison around and then not clean it up or offer people medical care?” Dr Rokke said that the use of DU in Iraq should be deemed a war crime.

“This war was about weapons of mass destruction, but the US and UK were the only people using WMD – in the form of DU shells.”

Ray Bristow, trustee of the UK’s National Gulf Veterans and Families Association, said the MoD card “confirms what independent scientists have said for years”. Mr Bristow, 45, suffers from chromosomal abnormalities and conditions similar to those who survived the nuclear bomb in Hiroshima.

A former warrant officer in the medical corps in the first Gulf war, he is now only able to walk short distances with a walking frame and often has to use a wheelchair.

“While the card may have been issued to British troops we have to ask, ‘what about the Iraqi people?’ They are living among DU contamination. And what about the people in Dundrennan?

“The MoD line has always been that DU is safe – it has been caught out in a lie.”

Mr Bristow said some 29,000 British troops could be contaminated. He was found to have uranium in his system more than 100 times the safety limit. “I put on a uniform because I believe in democracy and freedom,” he said. “Now I can’t believe a word my government says.”

He also believed the discovery of the DU card will help affected troops sue for compensation. “Globally, this discovery is of huge significance.”

Chris Ballance, the Green MSP for the area, added: “DU is a weapon of mass destruction that must be banned.”

He said the MoD must remove the shells that had been fired into the Solway Firth and tell the people of Dundrennan about the risks.

Malcolm Hooper, emeritus professor of medicinal chemistry at Sunderland University and an expert on DU, said it was “administrative deception” for the MoD to claim DU was not a risk to health while issuing warnings to troops.

Dr Hooper, a Government adviser on DU, described the government’s behaviour as “a dreadful experiment … an obscenity … and a war crime against our own troops”.

 

Dirty Tricks, Murder and the Masters of War

Come you masters of war

You that build all the guns

You that build the death planes

You that build the big bombs

You that hide behind walls

You that hide behind desks

I just want you to know

I can see through your masks

 

You that never done nothin’

But build to destroy

You play with my world

Like it’s your little toy

You put a gun in my hand

And you hide from my eyes

And you turn and run farther

When the fast bullets fly

 

Like Judas of old

You lie and deceive

A world war can be won

You want me to believe

But I see through your eyes

And I see through your brain

Like I see through the water

That runs down my drain

 

You fasten the triggers

For the others to fire

Then you set back and watch

When the death count gets higher

You hide in your mansion

As young people’s blood

Flows out of their bodies

And is buried in the mud

 

Let me ask you one question

Is your money that good

Will it buy you forgiveness

Do you think that it could

I think you will find

When your death takes its toll

All the money you made

Will never buy back your soul

(Bob Dylan, 1963)

 

SIX days have now passed since the atrocities in Paris, and it seems that the Western governments’ strongest efforts to pin the blame on radical ISIS jihadists is not going to plan.

Increasing numbers of observers and journalists are now questioning the role that the USA’s CIA and Israel’s Mossad may or may not have had in the killing of at least 129 people.

I have already written about the dirty propaganda behind the supposed killing of ‘Jihadi John’ in Roll On John https://seagullnic.wordpress.com/2015/11/13/roll-on-john and the unanswered questions behind the Paris murders Beyond the Horizon Oer the Treacherous Sea https://seagullnic.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/beyond-the-horizon-oer-the-treacherous-sea but now we need to look in greater depth at the USA’s murky interference in the Middle East.

In one of the fiery oratories for which he was well-known, the late Hugo Chávez once stated that “the American empire is the greatest menace to our planet.”

Looking at the history of US engagement in Latin America, it is easy to see why Chávez made such a claim.

From overthrowing democratically elected leaders, operating death squads, and torturing civilians, the history of US involvement in the region helped create a widespread popular backlash that persists to this day.

Since the late 1980s the USA’s theatre of war has switched from Latin America to the Middle East, and many of the same tactics of that period were redeployed on the other side of the world.

Since the end of World War 2 the world’s biggest super power has:

  • Attempted to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of which were democratically-elected.

  • Dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries.

  • Attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders.

  • Attempted to suppress a populist or nationalist movement in 20 countries.

  • Interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries.

Investigations reveal that Pentagon officials at the highest levels oversaw torture facilities during the war in Iraq in 2003. The evidence includes: rooms used for interrogating detainees stained with blood; children tied into extreme stress positions with their bodies beaten to discoloration and others tortured with high voltage electricity and waterboarding.

Most chillingly, a veteran of the United States’ “dirty war” in El Salvador was reported to have been brought in to personally oversee the interrogation facilities.

As described by Iraqi officials this programme was condoned at the highest levels of the US military and utilized “all means of torture to make the detainee confess … using electricity, hanging him upside down, pulling out their nails”.

At the now infamous School of the Americas, thousands of Latin American “special forces” were explicitly trained in torture techniques by US handlers. Many of those SOA graduates took their new training home to El Salvador, where they waged a war that killed an estimated 80,000 Salvadoran civilians.

The creation and patronage of locally trained indigenous militias – such as we are seeing with ISIS – to wreak havoc among subject populations in pursuit of American military objectives is a tactic that seems to have been adapted to the present day with great effect.

The USA’s most prominent trained paramilitaries were the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF), an elite counterterrorism force referred to as “the dirty brigade”.

Trained and guided by US military advisers at every level of its hierarchy, the ISOF was structured so as to place it outside the confines of normal oversight by international observers.

The use of torture, the patronage of sectarian proxy forces, and the facilitation of widespread human rights abuses all characterize US policy in the “war on terror”.

Evidence has emerged that ISIS and its military advances in northern Iraq and Syria has been shaped and controlled out of Langley, Virginia, and other CIA and Pentagon outposts as the next stage in spreading chaos in the world’s second-largest oil state, Iraq, as well as weakening Syrian stabilization efforts.

There is widely corroborated evidence that MI6 cooperated with the CIA on a “rat line” of arms transfers from Libyan stockpiles to the Syrian rebels in 2012 after the fall of the Gaddafi regime.

So a year into the Syrian rebellion, the US and its allies weren’t only supporting and arming an opposition they knew to be dominated by extreme sectarian groups; they were prepared to countenance the creation of some sort of “Islamic state” – despite the “grave danger” to Iraq’s unity – as a Sunni buffer to weaken Syria.

But all is not as it seems.

According to well-informed Iraqi journalists, ISIS overran the strategic Mosul region, site of some of the world’s most prolific oilfields, with barely a shot fired in resistance.

According to one report, residents of Tikrit reported remarkable displays of “soldiers handing over their weapons and uniforms peacefully to militants who ordinarily would have been expected to kill government soldiers on the spot.”

We are told that ISIS masked psychopaths captured “arms and ammunition from the fleeing security forces” – arms and ammunition supplied by the American government. The offensive coincides with a successful campaign by ISIS in eastern Syria.

According to Iraqi journalists, Sunni tribal chiefs in the region had been convinced to side with ISIS against the Shiite Al-Maliki government in Baghdad. They were promised a better deal under ISIS Sunni Sharia than with Baghdad anti-Sunni rule.

Key members of ISIS were trained by US CIA and Special Forces command at a secret camp in Jordan in 2012, according to informed Jordanian officials.

The US, Turkish and Jordanian intelligence ran a training base for the Syrian rebels in the Jordanian town of Safawi in the country’s northern desert region, conveniently near the borders to both Syria and Iraq.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the two Gulf monarchies most involved in funding the war against Syria’s Assad, financed the Jordan ISIS training.

Advertised publicly as training of ‘non-extremist’ Muslim jihadists to wage war against the Syrian Bashar Assad regime, the secret US training camps in Jordan and elsewhere trained perhaps several thousand Muslim fighters in techniques of irregular warfare, sabotage and general terror.

Former US State Department official Andrew Doran wrote in the conservative National Review magazine that some ISIS warriors also hold US passports!

Iranian journalist Sabah Zanganeh notes: “ISIS did not have the power to occupy and conquer Mosul by itself. What has happened is the result of security-intelligence collaborations of some regional countries with some extremist groups inside the Iraqi government.”

Very revealing is the fact that almost two weeks after the dramatic fall of Mosul and the ‘capture’ by ISIS forces of the huge weapons and military vehicle resources provided by the US to the Iraqi army.

Whatever the final details that emerge, what is clear in the days since the fall of Mosul is that some of the world’s largest oilfields in Iraq are suddenly held by Jihadists and no longer by an Iraqi government determined to increase the oil export significantly.

Of course this is not the story given to us by our Western media, most of which owned by the same billionaire big businessmen which in turn manipulate our governments.

War propaganda often demands the abandoning of ordinary reason and principle, and the USA’s Dirty War in the Middle East demonstrates this in abundance.

Normal ethical notions of avoiding conflicts of interest, searching for independent evidence and disqualifying self-serving claims from belligerent parties have been ignored in much of the western debate.

As in previous wars, the aim is to demonise the enemy, by use of repeated atrocity claims, and so mobilise popular support behind the war.

In the words of leading Nazi, Hermann Goering: “Why of course the people don’t want war… that is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along.

“Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

Today those who finance and arm the sectarian groups have slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocent people in the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

We now know is the air campaign against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has killed more than 450 innocent civilians, according to a new report, even though the US-led coalition has so far acknowledged just two non-combatant deaths.

More than 5,700 air strikes have been launched in the campaign, which had its first anniversary this week with its impact on civilians largely unknown.

Now Airwars, a project by a team of independent journalists, has published details of 52 strikes with what it believes are credible reports of at least 459 non-combatant deaths, including those of more than 100 children.

One of the attacks investigated was on Fadhiliya, Iraq, on 4 April where witnesses and local politicians said a family of five had died, including a pregnant woman and an eight-year-old girl.

These figures do not take into account any more civilian deaths caused by French and US airstrikes since last Friday’s Paris atrocities.

Finally to give some insight into the impact of US foreign policy in the Middle East, Wikileaks obtained and decrypted a previously unreleased video footage from a US Apache helicopter in 2007.

It shows Reuters journalist Namir Noor-Eldeen, driver Saeed Chmagh, and several others as the Apache shoots and kills them in a public square in Eastern Baghdad.

After the initial shooting, an unarmed group of adults and children in a minivan arrives on the scene and attempts to transport the wounded. They are fired upon as well.

The official statement on this incident initially listed all adults as insurgents and claimed the US military did not know how the deaths occurred.

Wikileaks released this video with transcripts and a package of supporting documents on http://collateralmurder.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rXPrfnU3G0&sns=fb

It is frightening in its content and a chilling sub text of the way the USA treats its friends and enemies.

It is also clear why the USA is so keen to bring Wikileaks founder and the director of the video into its custody.

As British Prime Minister Lloyd George said in 1916: “If the people really knew the truth the war would be stopped tomorrow. But of course they don’t know and can’t know.”

 

Beyond the Horizon O’er the Treacherous Sea

SINCE the atrocities in Paris on Friday evening I have been surprised just how many of my friends have believed without question the explanation of events as described by our own Government.

This is the same Government which covered up the Hillsborough disaster, lied over MI6 dirty tricks during the miners’ strike, lied over MPs’ expenses and shifted Heaven and Earth to blanket a 50 year VIP paedophile network, involving at least one former PM.

It is a truism that “all you believe are your eyes, but your eyes they just tell you lies”.

For me, as a so-called investigative journalist for more than 20 years of my working life, I am naturally more sceptical, having many times seen, at first hand, the depths to which our own British Establishment will stoop to distort the truth, cover-up malpractice and quite simply lie.

Within half an hour of the tragic events of Friday night being relayed to our TV screens I was informed by former journalist friends that the official spin was the attack was the work of ISIS.

And within 12 hours the official press office lines from Paris, London and Washington corroborated that, with the sound knowledge that the terror group numbered eight – including suicide bombers – and they were of Syrian and Egyptian origin.

But sixty hours later, their hall of smoke and mirrors is starting to crumble.

Eyewitnesses now say they saw white professional killers at the Bataclan Concert Hall and at one of the restaurant shootings in Paris.

And by my own reckoning (it is quite easy to count between the official reports) there were at least 10 and possibly 12 people involved in the terror attacks.

French police have now confirmed that at least three separate teams perpetrated the attacks which left 129 people dead and hundreds injured in the capital city.

One survivor told Sky News that he was in the Bataclan Concert Hall and saw the attackers who murdered hostages.

He said that one of the gunmen had white skin and blonde hair.

Elsewhere an eyewitness has told how 20 people were executed in a calculated attack on a busy restaurant in the heart of the French capital as they ate at tables on the pavement.

Mahoud Admo said: “The gunman showed no emotion at all as he began spraying bullets into the diners. He just kept reloading his machine gun and firing, without saying a thing.”

Mr Admo, 26, who was staying at the Salvation Army hostel in Rue de Charonne opposite the Le Belle Equipe, recalled how the massacre unfolded, he said: “I was just in my room and had the window open on to the street below.

“I could see lots people sat outside the bar eating dinner and enjoying a drink. The place was full of people just enjoying themselves.

“At about 9.30pm a new looking black Mercedes pulled up outside with dark tinted windows at the back and the passenger and driver windows down. I could clearly see the passenger’s face as he was not wearing a hat or mask.

“As soon as the car stopped he quietly opened the door and got out in front of the restaurant.

“That is when I saw he was holding a machine gun that was resting on his hip.

“People outside spotted the shooter approaching with his gun and tried to run inside but he shot them down in the doorway.

“Then people inside moved forward to see what was happening and he sprayed more bullets into them. I was trying to catch them on my camera phone but the gunman saw the light on my mobile and I ducked down behind the wall as they fired at my hotel.

“The gunman calmly reloaded his weapon several times. He then shot up at the windows in the street to make sure nobody was filming anything or taking photographs. It lasted over six minutes.

“He fired lots of bullets. He was white, clean shaven and had dark hair neatly trimmed. He was dressed all in black accept for a red scarf.

“The shooter was aged about 35 and had an extremely muscular build, which you could tell from the size of his arms. He looked like a weightlifter.

“He was not wearing gloves and his face was expressionless as he walked towards the bar.

“The driver had opened his door shortly before the shooting began and stood up with his arm and a machine gun rested on the roof of the car. He stood there with his foot up in the door acting as a lookout.

“I would describe him as tall, with dark hair and also quite muscular.

“They looked like soldiers and carried the whole thing out like a military operation. It was clear that they were both very heavily armed and the gunman was carrying several magazines on him.”

These killers, like the ones in the Charlie Hebdo attack in January, are professionals for all intents and purposes.

The true facts are buried in a murkiness few can possibly imagine.

The West’s endless War on Terror, launched 14 years ago by George Bush, is tying itself up in ever more grotesque contortions.

In June this year, the trial in London of a Swedish man, Bherlin Gildo, accused of terrorism in Syria, collapsed after it became clear British intelligence had been arming the same rebel groups the defendant was charged with supporting.

The prosecution abandoned the case to avoid embarrassing the intelligence services.

The defence argued that going ahead with the trial would have been an “affront to justice” when there was plenty of evidence the British state was itself providing “extensive support” to the armed Syrian opposition.

That didn’t only include the “non-lethal assistance” boasted of by the government (including body armour and military vehicles), but training, logistical support and the secret supply of “arms on a massive scale”. Reports were cited that MI6 had cooperated with the CIA on a “rat line” of arms transfers from Libyan stockpiles to the Syrian rebels in 2012 after the fall of the Gaddafi regime.

Clearly, the absurdity of sending someone to prison for doing what ministers and their security officials were up to themselves became too much.

But it’s only the latest of a string of such cases.

Less fortunate was a London cab driver Anis Sardar, who was given a life sentence a fortnight earlier for taking part in 2007 in resistance to the occupation of Iraq by US and British forces. Armed opposition to illegal invasion and occupation clearly doesn’t constitute terrorism or murder on most definitions, including the Geneva Convention.

But terrorism is now in the eye of the beholder.

And nowhere is that more so than in the Middle East, where today’s terrorists are tomorrow’s fighters against tyranny, a place where allies suddenly become enemies.

For the past year, US, British and other Western forces have been back in Iraq, supposedly in the cause of destroying ISIS. This was after ISIS overran huge chunks of Iraqi and Syrian territory and proclaimed a self-styled Islamic caliphate.

The campaign isn’t going well. Last month, ISIS rolled into the Iraqi city of Ramadi, while on the other side of the now non-existent border its forces conquered the Syrian town of Palmyra.

Al-Qaida’s official Nusra Front, has also been making gains in Syria.

Some Iraqis complain that the US sat on its hands while all this was going on. The Americans insist they are trying to avoid civilian casualties, and claim significant successes.

Privately, officials say they don’t want to be seen hammering Sunni strongholds in a sectarian war and risk upsetting their Wahhabi Sunni Muslim allies in the Gulf – particularly Saudi Arabia.

A revealing light on how we got into this crazy mess has been shone by a recently declassified secret US intelligence report, written in August 2012, which predicts – and effectively welcomes – the prospect of a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria and an al-Qaida-controlled Islamic state in Syria and Iraq.

In stark contrast to Western claims at the time, the Defense Intelligence Agency document identifies al-Qaida in Iraq (which became ISIS) and fellow Salafists as the “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” – and states that “Western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey” were supporting the opposition’s efforts to take control of eastern Syria.

Raising the “possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality”, the Pentagon report goes on, “this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion.”

So American forces bomb one set of rebels while backing another in Syria

Which is pretty well exactly what happened two years later.

A year into the Syrian rebellion, the US and its allies weren’t only supporting and arming an opposition they knew to be dominated by extreme sectarian groups; they were prepared to countenance the creation of some sort of “Islamic state” – despite the “grave danger” to Iraq’s unity – as a Sunni buffer to weaken Syria.

That doesn’t mean the US created ISIS, though some of its Gulf allies certainly played a role in it – as the US vice-president, Joe Biden, acknowledged last year.

In August 2014, The Times of Israel reported that a Free Syrian Army commander, arrested by the Al-Nusra Front, told his captors he collaborated with Israel in return for medical and military support.

Sharif As-Safouri, the commander of the Free Syrian Army’s Al-Haramein Battalion, admitted to having entered Israel five times to meet with Israeli officers who later provided him with Soviet anti-tank weapons and light arms.

Safouri was abducted by the al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front in the Quneitra area, near the Israeli border, in the summer of 2014.

“The opposition factions would receive support and send the injured in to Israel on condition that the Israeli fence area is secured.” Safouri said.

“No person was allowed to come near the fence without prior coordination with Israel authorities.”

Safouri says that at first he met with an Israeli officer named Ashraf at the border and was given an Israeli cellular phone. He later met with another officer named Younis and with the two men’s commander, Abu Daoud.

In total, Safouri said he entered Israel five times for meetings that took place in Tiberias.

Following the meetings, Israel began providing Safouri and his men with “basic medical support and clothes” as well as weapons, which included 30 Russian rifles, 10 RPG launchers with 47 rockets, and 48,000 5.56mm bullets.

Late last year the Jewish Telegraphic Agency – a 97-year old Jewish wire service – reported: A senior employee of the Dutch Justice Ministry said ISIS was created by Zionists seeking to give Islam a bad reputation.

Yasmina Haifi, a project leader at the ministry’s National Cyber Security Center, stated: “ISIS has nothing to do with Islam. It’s part of a plan by Zionists who are deliberately trying to blacken Islam’s name.”

In March, Haaretz reported: “The Syrian opposition is willing to give up claims to the Golan Heights in return for cash and Israeli military aid against President Bashar Assad.”

And to add a further twist, a former high-level al Qaida commander has repeatedly alleged that ISIS works for the CIA. Investment adviser Jim Willie alleged: “The ISIS troops that are working there in Syria and Iraq are Langley (CIA) troops. They’re trained, funded, and armed by Langley.

While we don’t know which of the above-described allegations are true, two things are certain:

  • The US armed Islamic jihadis in Syria, and their weapons ended up in the hands of ISIS

  • Close allies of the US have supported and trained the ISIS terrorists

And the US has certainly exploited the existence of ISIS against other forces in the region as part of a wider drive to maintain western control.

The calculus changed when ISIS started beheading westerners and posting atrocities online, and the Gulf States are now backing other groups in the Syrian war, such as the Nusra Front.

But this is a US and western habit of playing with jihadi groups, which then come back to bite them.

In reality, US and western policy in the conflagration that is now the Middle East is in the classic mould of imperial divide-and-rule.

American forces bomb one set of rebels while backing another in Syria, and mount what are effectively joint military operations with Iran against ISIS in Iraq while supporting Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi forces in Yemen.

However confused US policy may often be, a weak, partitioned Iraq and Syria fit such an approach perfectly.

What’s clear is that ISIS and its monstrosities won’t be defeated by the same powers that brought it to Iraq and Syria in the first place, or whose open and covert war-making has fostered it in the years since.

Endless western military interventions in the Middle East have brought only destruction and division.

Unless we want to see more atrocities like Paris on Friday we must force our governments to leave the Middle East alone.

Stop creating more failed states.

Stop throwing away our freedoms at home on falsehoods.

Stop disenfranchising the Muslims who live with us.

Start with those things and see, even if you won’t give it 14 years to succeed, if things improve. Other than the death tolls scaling up further, I can’t imagine we could be doing anything worse.

I will finish with some words by a journalist hero of mine, John Pilger (his book Distant Voices is a must read): “By most scholarly measure, Bush and Blair’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to the deaths of some 700,000 people – in a country that had no history of jihadism.

“The Kurds had done territorial and political deals; Sunni and Shia had class and sectarian differences, but they were at peace; intermarriage was common.

“Three years before the invasion, I drove the length of Iraq without fear. On the way I met people proud, above all, to be Iraqis, the heirs of a civilization that seemed, for them, a presence.

“Bush and Blair blew all this to bits.

“Iraq is now a nest of jihadism.

“Al-Qaeda – like Pol Pot’s “jihadists” – seized the opportunity provided by the onslaught of Shock and Awe and the civil war that followed.

“Rebel Syria offered even greater rewards, with CIA and Gulf state ratlines of weapons, logistics and money running through Turkey. The arrival of foreign recruits was inevitable.”

A former British ambassador, Oliver Miles, wrote recently: “The Cameron Government seems to be following the example of Tony Blair, who ignored consistent advice from the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6 that our Middle East policy – and in particular our Middle East wars – had been a principal driver in the recruitment of Muslims in Britain for terrorism.”

Acknowledgment: Saumas Milne

Exploding the ISIS myth

“I married ISIS on the fifth day of May

But I could not hold on to her very long

So I cut off my hair and I rode straight away

For the wild unknown country where I could not go wrong.”  

(Bob Dylan)

IT is not often I agree with former Thatcher aide and privileged Tory MP Matthew Parris, but his column in Saturday’s The Times rang resonant chords.

Under a heading ‘We’ve become the Isis Propaganda Machine’, Mr Parris writes at some length why “British jihadists pose little threat to us and are no different to adventurers who went to fight in the Spanish Civil War.”

On the back of last week’s reports about three Muslim women from Bradford fleeing to Syria with their children – supposedly to join the insurgency – the columnist takes apart the ISIS bogeyman ideal and analyses the figures citing: “You can’t stop people going. It’s absurd blaming the airlines – 41 million people visited Turkey last year: the world’s sixth most popular tourist destination.

“And on any scale, the numbers are small. The government thinks that in the past four years maybe about 700 ISIS sympathisers have gone to Syria and Iraq. Many of these have been killed. Others will doubtless have come home disenchanted, sheepish, keeping their heads down.

“I’ve heard no evidence that a flyblown stint with murderous bigots in Syria has radicalised young British Muslims, who return: these are human beings like us, many of whom will have reacted to the reality of that dirty war in the same way you or I would have done – with shock and disillusion.

“Nor have I seen evidence that recruitment is growing, despite the media’s and the government’s unwitting efforts to drum up interest among young British Muslims.”

Later he writes: “It would be hard to argue that the Spanish Civil War was any less barbarous than what is happening in Syria or Iraq, yet it proved impossible to stop young (Christian and Atheist) idealists from Britain piling in.”

Indeed, in the 1930s here in Britain we applauded people who went off to fight in the Spanish Civil War. In the 1940s we turned a blind eye to those that fought on either side in Palestine and Egypt. In the 1950s we encouraged those who joined the resistance in Cuba. In the 1960s and 70s we didn’t stop people fighting in various African conflicts. In the 1980s we allowed people to fight in central America. In the 1990s we again allowed people to join the fight on either side in the Middle East.

Yet, since 2001 our government has determined which side our people should fight on. And those that fight on the wrong side are deemed terrorists.

And if they dare return to Britain they are immediately regarded as a threat to our own country, have their passports withdrawn and are criminalised.

This is particularly alarming with regard to Syria, where our government, and the USA, armed and trained the same rebels which they now regard as “international terrorists”.

I hate ISIS and what its stands for. But who are we to tell British people who to fight for?

The logic is baffling.

So I catch a plane to Tel Aviv to help the IDF murder Palestinians. I would guess that as far as the British government is concerned a blind eye would be turned. The same blind eye that is turned constantly to the terrorism perpetrated in the name of Israel. Or the state terrorism of the Syrian government against its own people.

ISIS remains top of the news because it underscores all the demonization of Islam which this government wants to perpetuate to keep us living in fear and to smokescreen 9/11 and the West’s real intention in the Middle East.

And from a practical point of view this knee jerk so-called counter terrorism won’t stop this latest Jihadist threat.

The roots for this dangerous political stupidity run dep.

After 9/11, many within the US national security establishment worried that, following decades of preparation for confronting conventional enemies such as the Soviet Union, Washington was unready for the challenge posed by an unconventional adversary such as al Qaeda.

So over the next decade, the United States – with the UK hanging on its coat tails – built an elaborate structure to fight the jihadist organization, adapting its military and its intelligence and law enforcement agencies to the tasks of counterterrorism and counter-insurgency.

Now, however, a different group, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), has supplanted al Qaeda as the jihadist threat of greatest concern to the West and our “civilised Christian way of life”.

But ISIS is not al Qaeda.

Although al Qaeda remains dangerous, especially its affiliates in North Africa and Yemen.  ISIS represents the post–al Qaeda jihadist threat.

In a nationally televised speech last September explaining his plan to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS, US President Barack Obama drew a straight line between the group and al Qaeda and claimed that ISIS is “a terrorist organization, pure and simple.”

The same line that is regularly drawn by Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

But ISIS hardly fits that description, and indeed, although it uses terrorism as a tactic, it is not really a terrorist organization at all.

Terrorist networks, such as al Qaeda, generally have only dozens or hundreds of members, attack civilians, do not hold territory, and cannot directly confront military forces.

ISIS, on the other hand, boasts some 30,000 fighters – many trained by the US and CIA operatives – holds territory in both Iraq and Syria, maintains extensive military capabilities, controls lines of communication, commands infrastructure, funds itself, and engages in sophisticated military operations.

If ISIS is purely and simply anything, it is a pseudo-state led by a conventional army.

And that is why the counterterrorism and counterinsurgency strategies that greatly diminished the threat from al Qaeda will not work against ISIS.

And attempts by the Western media and governments to demonise them as terrorists who might arrive on our own doorstep as suicide bombers diverts us from the truth and act as recruiting sergeants for their cause.

Al Qaeda came into being in the aftermath of the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Its leaders’ world views and strategic thinking were shaped by the 10-year war against Soviet occupation, when thousands of Muslim militants, including Osama bin Laden, converged on the country.

As the organization coalesced, it took the form of a global network focused on carrying out spectacular attacks against Western or Western-allied targets, with the goal of rallying Muslims to join a global confrontation with secular powers near and far.

But ISIS came into being thanks to the 2003 US and UK invasion of Iraq. In its earliest incarnation, it was just one of a number of Sunni extremist groups fighting Allied forces and attacking Shiite civilians in an attempt to foment a sectarian civil war.

At that time, it was called al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), and its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had pledged allegiance to bin Laden. Zarqawi was killed by a US air strike in 2006, and soon after, AQI was nearly wiped out when Sunni tribes decided to partner with the Americans to confront the jihadists.

But the defeat was temporary; AQI renewed itself inside US-run prisons in Iraq, where insurgents and terrorist operatives connected and formed networks—and where the group’s current chief and self-proclaimed caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, first distinguished himself as a leader.

In 2011, as a revolt against the Assad regime in Syria expanded into a full-blown civil war, the group took advantage of the chaos, seizing territory in Syria’s northeast, establishing a base of operations, and rebranding itself as ISIS.

In Iraq, the group continued to capitalize on the weakness of the central state and to exploit the country’s sectarian strife, which intensified after US forces withdrew.

With the Allied troops gone, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pursued a hard-line pro-Shiite agenda, further alienating Sunni Arabs throughout the country.

ISIS now counts among its members Iraqi Sunni tribal leaders, former anti-US insurgents, and even secular former Iraqi military officers who seek to regain the power and security they enjoyed during the Saddam Hussein era.

The group’s territorial conquest in Iraq came as a shock. When ISIS captured Fallujah and Ramadi in January 2014, most analysts predicted that the US-trained Iraqi security forces would contain the threat.

But last June, amid mass desertions from the Iraqi army, ISIS moved toward Baghdad, capturing Mosul, Tikrit, al-Qaim, and numerous other Iraqi towns.

By the end of last summer, ISIS had renamed itself the Islamic State and had proclaimed the territory under its control to be a new caliphate. Meanwhile, according to US intelligence estimates, some 15,000 foreign fighters from 80 countries flocked to the region to join ISIS, at the rate of around 1,000 per month.

Although most of these recruits came from Muslim-majority countries, such as Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, some also hailed from Australia, China, Russia, and western European countries (700 from Britain over four years).

As ISIS has grown, its goals and intentions have become clearer.

It seeks to control territory and create a “pure” Sunni Islamist state governed by a brutal interpretation of Sharia; to immediately obliterate the political borders of the Middle East that were created by Western powers in the 20th century; and to position itself as the sole political, religious, and military authority over all of the world’s Muslims.

Holding territory has allowed the group to build a self-sustaining financial model unthinkable for most terrorist groups.

Beginning in 2012, ISIS gradually took over key oil assets in eastern Syria; it now controls an estimated 60 percent of the country’s oil production capacity. Meanwhile, during its push into Iraq last summer, ISIS also seized seven oil-producing operations in that country.

The group manages to sell some of this oil on the black market in Iraq and Syria – including, according to some reports, to the Assad regime itself. ISIS also smuggles oil out of Iraq and Syria into Jordan and Turkey, where it finds plenty of buyers happy to pay below-market prices for illicit crude. All told, ISIS’ revenue from oil is estimated to be between $1 million and $3 million per day.

The group also controls major transportation arteries in western Iraq, allowing it to tax the movement of goods and charge tolls. It even earns revenue from cotton and wheat grown in Raqqa, the breadbasket of Syria.

Of course, like terrorist groups, ISIS also takes hostages, demanding tens of millions of dollars in ransom payments. But more important to the group’s finances is a wide-ranging extortion racket that targets owners and producers in ISIS territory, taxing everything from small family farms to large enterprises such as cell-phone service providers, water delivery companies, and electric utilities.

And ISIS continues to grow helped by anti-Islamic rhetoric pursued by much of the Western media and its political leaders.

That rhetoric is littered with hate against all Muslims and hateful towards those of us who don’t share the antipathy against them.

We are immediately damned as sympathising with extremists, despising our country, ‘living in a bubble’, not understanding how ‘most people’ feel, and being ignorant of what’s happening.

I live in Wolverhampton, in a locality favoured by Muslims and Sikhs, who live and work happily side by side with ethnic white Christians and non believers.

Muslims come in all shapes and sizes and with a very wide range of opinions of matters religious and secular, and that millions of British Muslims are worried about extremism, some of them worried sick.

We collectively realise that under the skin and religion, we are all the same… we are all human beings struggling to make a living and make sense of our lives.

And what is happening regarding our Establishment view of ISIS makes no sense at all.

The face of innate racism

“No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them.”Elie Wiesel

THE subjugation of one human being by another is something which has eaten at me for as long as I can remember, and is the main reason why I am a socialist and a pacifist.

That abuse of power shows itself in so many ways in our ever expanding world and not least by the innate racism that exists in white Western society.

Here in the UK, UKIP and many Conservative politicians seem determined to make the current General Election campaign revolve around the issue of immigration and fear of foreigners.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage has singled out Romanians, and immigrants from other former Warsaw Pact countries, as “scroungers” and “criminals” who are taking “British jobs from British people” and putting pressure on our NHS and housing supply.

It is the sort of racist scapegoating we have witnessed time and again in this country since end of World War 2.

Racism is the belief that characteristics and abilities can be attributed to people simply on the basis of their race and that some racial groups are superior to others.

Racism and discrimination have been used as powerful weapons encouraging fear or hatred of others in times of conflict and during economic downturns.

You only need to look at the rise of Nazi Germany in the 1930s or the atrocities meted out today by Zionist Israel to Palestinians, to see the dire consequences if racism is left unchallenged.

But here I am not talking about the overt racism exhibited by Bibi Netanyahu or Nigel Farage, or even the so-called ‘institutional racism’ within some of our national institutions, such as the police. But I am looking at a deeper racism which exists within almost all of us born white and British.

It exists due to 800 years of our collective history as a colonial and Christian power, hell-bent on exporting our values, religion and control on other nations.

And it exists because our collective media does nothing to challenge it.

In 2001, I was working as chief investigative reporter on The Chronicle – a daily tabloid newspaper in Newcastle upon Tyne. On 11 September, I returned from a routine job in the town to watch in horror – on the newsroom TV – the atrocities of 9/11 unfold in front of our eyes, some 3,000 miles away in New York and Virginia.

The next day, the newspaper’s senior management determined that all employees should stand and observe two minutes silence for the innocent victims of the terror attack.

I refused.

Not because I did not feel pain or sympathy for those victims, but because my company had never observed even one minute’s silence for the hundreds of thousands killed by Allied military action in Iraq in 1991, the one million murdered in Rwanda, or the thousands killed in Bosnia, just a few years earlier.

Instead I went to the newsroom toilet, sat in a cubicle and cried.

The newspaper’s reaction to 9/11 – and the wall to wall media coverage over the ensuing months – typified everything I had witnessed in my previous 16 years in journalism.

Now, almost 14 years later, nothing has changed.

If I take Bosnia, Iraq and Rwanda out of the equation, a few other examples may clarify what I mean:

  • Three French skiers are lost in an avalanche in the Alps. The next day there are lengthy reports in most UK national newspapers. Each of the victims is named and in-depth family stories are written.
  • A lone gunman goes berserk and kills children in a US high school. The next day it is front page news in almost every newspaper in the UK and Europe. In depth analysis of the gunman and tributes to each of the victims and their families ensues.
  • A mad man kills hostages in an Australian restaurant. It is front pages news in every newspaper in the UK, USA and Europe. Extensive coverage about the killer and each of his victims finds itself across western media.
  • An earthquake in Northern Pakistan kills thousands of inhabitants. Over the ensuing weeks there is barely a mention in any UK or western newspapers.
  • Tens of thousands of innocent civilians are murdered by US and UK bombing in Afghanistan. But there are few reports of these atrocities in UK and western newspapers.
  • Flooding in Bangladesh kills thousands of people. Over the following weeks there are just a few lines in UK broadsheet newspapers.
  • Currently we are reading reports about 700 African migrants who drowned when a boat they were in capsized off the Libyan coast. There has been plenty of news about how the accident happened and who is to “blame”, but no attempt by any British newspaper to name the migrants or find out a little about who they were and the grieving families they leave behind.

You don’t need a microscope to see the differences in the reaction and news reporting. It has nothing to do with distance from our shores. It is all to do with white western values.

So our news media – even enlightened newspapers like the Independent and The Guardian – value the life and story of an English speaking suited, white, Western person quite differently to that of an African black or Urdu speaking Asian person.

We give ‘ours’ names, identities and lives, but the ‘others’ just nationality, religion and race. It is so much easier to avoid reporting the lives and deaths of these people if we don’t identify them as human beings the same as us.

This innate racism runs deep and has been entrenched more deeply with the Islamophobia which has perpetuated within Western society since 2001.

The white mass murderer, Norwegian, Anders Brevik is reported simply as a ‘madman killer’ – despite the fact he was a zealot Christian with a white supremacist agenda.

In contrast any killing carried out by a person of even dubious Muslim faith is reported as the act of an Islamist Extremist!

Sorry for the pun, but it is clear black and white racism.

But we have 800 years to overcome.

Britain, France, Spain, Belgium, Holland and Portugal have been colonialists since the so-called Holy Crusades to Jerusalem in the 13th century, the colonial exploitation of the Americas in the 16th and 17th centuries, to the dissection of Africa, South America and Asia in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Our imperialist ancestors conquered peaceful countries, imposed western values and Christianity upon them, murdered millions and took millions more into slavery.

And over the past 100 years we have been joined by our ‘allies’ the USA, which since the end of World War 2 has bombed: China 1945-46, Korea 1950-53, China 1950-53, Guatemala 1954, Indonesia 1958, Cuba 1959-60, Guatemala 1960, Belgian Congo 1964, Guatemala 1964, Dominican Republic 1965-66, Peru 1965, Laos 1964-73, Vietnam 1961-73, Cambodia 1969-70, Guatemala 1967-69, Lebanon 1982-84, Grenada 1983-84, Libya 1986, El Salvador 1981-92, Nicaragua 1981-90, Iran 1987-88, Libya 1989, Panama 1989-90, Iraq 1991, Kuwait 1991, Somalia 1992-94, Bosnia 1995, Iran 1998, Sudan 1998, Afghanistan 1998, Yugoslavia – Serbia 1999, Afghanistan 2001, Iraq 2003, Libya 2011 and Syria 2014.

Our nations have sown war and hatred all over the world – now there is a heavy harvest.

As a white English father I despair for the future for my children and the children of Palestine, Africa, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Yemen and anywhere that is deemed by a Western government to be a target.

At the core of any working definition of racism is the unspoken ingredient of fear.

People around the world all belong to the same human race; they share the same tendencies to fear, domination, and subjugation.

We need to let everyone know, we are the same, no matter what language we speak, whatever the colour of our skin or the religion we follow.

Maybe, I am lucky.

I live in Wolverhampton in the English West Midlands. It is a city which basks in multi-culturism. It was the bed of much Afro Caribbean immigration in the 1950s. This was followed by immigration from Pakistan and India in the 1960s and 1970s.

Now decades later, those with black, brown and coffee coloured skin mix, work, play and even marry those with white skin.

Currently there are 22,000 Sikhs, 11,000 Muslims and 7,000 Hindis in Wolverhampton. But there is no racial or religious tension.

Within a mile of my house there is a Hindi temple, a Buddhist temple, two Sikh temples, a central Mosque and at least seven Christian churches of various denominations.

Most of those with Asian or African ancestry are now third or even fourth generation immigrants and speak English as their first language, often with a thick Wolves’ accent, that Noddy Holder would recognise as his own.

But, I am not pretending it has always been like this.

I live in the parliamentary constituency which was once the seat of overt Conservative racist MP Enoch Powell (1950-74), and there has been a later history of National Front and BNP activity in the area.

But most of their racial fear, or as Powell put it: “the rivers of blood” of immigration, has now passed.

Now most inhabitants of our city realise that under the skin and religion, we are all the same… we are all human beings struggling to make a living and make sense of our lives.

Maybe Mr Farage needs to live in Wolverhampton for a year… he may even grow to like the amazing Asian restaurants and wonderful grocery shops which can be found in many side streets.

But to breakthrough this fear and innate racism we need to start regarding the inhabitants of Asian, African and even Eastern European countries in the same was we view Americans, French people or Italians.

Let’s make a start today.

I will close with one of my favourite passages of text:

“Once upon a time they was two girls,” I say. “One girl had black skin, one girl had white.” Mae Mobley look up at me. She listening. “Little coloured girl say to little white girl, ‘How come your skin be so pale?’ White girl say, ‘I don’t know. How come your skin be so black? What you think that mean?’ “But neither one a them little girls knew. So little white girl say, ‘Well, let’s see. You got hair, I got hair.'”I gives Mae Mobley a little tousle on her head. “Little coloured girl say ‘I got a nose, you got a nose.'”I gives her little snout a tweak. She got to reach up and do the same to me. “Little white girl say, ‘I got toes, you got toes.’ And I do the little thing with her toes, but she can’t get to mine cause I got my white work shoes on. “‘So we’s the same. Just a different colour’, say that little coloured girl. The little white girl she agreed and they was friends. The End.”

Kathryn Stockett

You’re the one that reached me you’re the one that I admired

blog tony benn
THE death of Tony Benn is a watershed in British politics.
He was the last truly great parliamentary socialist, and a man of courtesy, decency, principle, integrity and vision.
And he was a true hero of mine.
During my years as a newspaper journalist I was fortunate enough to interview Tony three times, and each interview was a joy.
Unlike many of his contemporaries – including former chancellor Denis Healey and ex PM Jim Callaghan – he did not waffle over his time in office or make excuses and like younger MPs he did not obscure with sound bites or spin.
Instead he told things as they were and imprinted his vision of equality and fairness in words of insight and candour.
The interviews were all in the 1990s, so during the latter time of his 50 years as a member of parliament, but he was still fresh and relished argument and fought for justice.
After each interview I felt like I had been speaking with a friend.
And I have another reason for loving Tony Benn.
In 1994, 41 MPs signed an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons praising my year-long investigation into the link between the test firing of depleted uranium tank shells and local clusters of cancer.
The same tank shells provided a link to Gulf War Syndrome in the first Gulf War.
Some of my political heroes signed that EDM including Alan Simpson, Ken Livingstone and Dennis Skinner. But the sixth signature on that motion was Tony Benn. His name next to mine was like a personal shield of honour. A treasure I will keep till the grave.
Tony was true fighter for ordinary working people from the moment he was elected an MP in 1950. He was a privileged and educated aristocrat turned man of the people.
From his successful fight to remain in the Commons upon the death of his father Viscount Stansgate – a Viscountcy which Tony was to be forced to inherit – through to the Hovercraft, Concorde, TSR2, nuclear power, special edition postage stamps, tape-recording his own interviews and speeches, he was every inch the dashing, eloquent and unafraid hero.
Tony Benn was one of the few British politicians who became more left-wing after having actually served in government.
When Labour lost power in the 1979 General Election, Tony became the authentic voice of the radical left with the press coining the term Bennite to describe the policies espoused by those resisting attempts to move the Labour Party to the middle ground.
As such, he became a bogeyman for the right in British politics, with delegates to Conservative conferences displaying Ban the Benn badges in the style of CND’s Ban the Bomb logo.
Later in life he became a folk hero as well as a campaigner for a number of causes, particularly opposition to UK military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He was blamed by many for contributing to Labour’s lack of electoral success during the 1980s.
Tony Benn was a totem for those who rejected the shift to the right widely seen as necessary if the party was to regain power.
This shift was eventually completed under Tony Blair, who pushed through the abandonment of clause IV and redefined Labour as a party comfortable with privatisation and free market economics.
Tony Benn was unrepentant in his opposition to the changes saying: “We are not just here to manage capitalism but to change society and to define its finer values.”
With a typically memorable turn of phrase, Tony then signalled the end of his parliamentary career in 1999, when he announced he would not be standing for re-election at the next general election. Asked whether he would be taking his place in the House of Lords, the former Viscount Stansgate replied: “Don’t be silly.”
His final speech to the House of Commons as MP was an appropriately eloquent farewell, in which he talked widely on his view of the role of parliament and the wider question of democracy.
He said: “In the course of my life I have developed five little democratic questions. If one meets a powerful person – Adolf Hitler, Joe Stalin or Bill Gates – ask them five questions: “What power have you got? Where did you get it from? In whose interests do you exercise it? To whom are you accountable? And how can we get rid of you?” If you cannot get rid of the people who govern you, you do not live in a democratic system.
After his retirement from parliament, Tony became the public face of the Stop the War coalition.
In one edition of BBC TV’s Question Time, his exchanges with US Republican John Bolton included this broadside: “I was born about a quarter of a mile from where we are sitting now and I was here in London during the Blitz. And every night I went down into the shelter. 500 people killed, my brother was killed, my friends were killed. And when the Charter of the UN was read to me, I was a pilot coming home in a troop ship: ‘We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.’ That was the pledge my generation gave to the younger generation and you tore it up. And it’s a war crime that’s been committed in Iraq, because there is no moral difference between a stealth bomber and a suicide bomber. Both kill innocent people for political reasons.”
He died and will forever live as the Honorary President of the Stop the War Coalition, leading the greatest mass movement in British history. He was the greatest leader Labour, and Great Britain, never had.
Tony’s legacy must now be a catalyst for the left and working people.
The UK is the sixth richest country on Earth, but now has half a million people dependent on food banks; wages haven’t fallen for so long since the Victorian era; the next generation faces being poorer for the first time in a century.
“The flame of anger against injustice and the flame of hope that you can build a better world” is what drives social change.
Appropriately Tony Benn once said: “Modern Britain does not lack anger, but the left’s real mission is surely hope. Charismatic and inspiring leaders will inevitably be mourned. But the injustices that drove them don’t die, and so neither will the need to continue their fight.”
Rest in Peace Tony, you were a legend in your own time.

I’ve learned to hate Russians all through my whole life

WHEN I was a much younger man, I was a rebel with a cause… so many causes in fact, I actually lost count.
Now in the so-called autumn of my years, my causes are few: to protect my family and fight against injustice.
But, perversely, my canvas is much wider now, because ‘injustice’ is a shopping bag of multiple sins: the machinations of capitalism and state imperialism, the nuclear industry, violence in all its forms and bigoted prejudice of race, creed and sexuality.
And it is the machinations of the capitalist west and its media propaganda which irritates me the most, especially when I look at the injustices and indifference to Israeli atrocities on the West Bank and in Gaza and balance that against the world’s zeal like attention on the Ukraine.
In the days since Vladimir Putin sent Russian troops into the Crimea, it has been amateur hour in Washington and London while the western press seeks to set out an Us versus Them scenario in the crudest terms possible.
In the past 48 hours, Putin has been demonised as “a bully”, “a war monger” and “a dangerous dictator” for his actions in trying to protect Russian citizens living in Russia’s back garden.
When you compare seizing Crimea to the Nazi annexation of Austria in 1938, as Leonid Bershidsky did at Bloomberg View this week, you can see the frightening level to which this political punditry has already grown.
And, as in post 9/11, Britain is hanging on to the coat tails of US foreign policy and acting like a spoilt child because the bigger game of western influence is temporarily out of our control.
Only yesterday, Foreign Secretary William Hague announced that Britain is boycotting the next G8 summit, due to be held in Moscow, in protest at Russia’s activity in the Crimea.
The sea of foreign policy punditry – already shark-infested – has reached new lows in fear-mongering, exaggerated doom-saying and a stunning inability to place global events in any rational context.
Even the most soft-slippered of so-called democrats on both sides of the Atlantic have attacked Putin’s actions as aggressive and “typically Soviet”… pushing us to the brink of a new Cold War.
Do we forget so quickly US aggression in Korea, Vietnam, Libya, Guatemala, Grenada, Nicaragua, Iraq, Afghanistan and its special forces which undermined elected regimes in Chile, the Lebanon, Egypt and now Venezuala?
Putin is acting in Russia’s best interest, albeit in a heavy handed manner. The situation in Crimea is currently none of our concern.
Our interests lie in a stable Europe, and that’s why the US and its European allies created a containment structure that will ensure Russia’s territorial ambitions will remain limited… it’s called NATO. Even if the Russian military wasn’t a hollow shell of the once formidable Soviet Red Army, it’s not about to mess with a NATO country.
Any US problems with Russia are the concerns that affect actual US interests. Concerns like nuclear non-proliferation, or containing the Syrian civil war, or stopping Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Those are all areas where Moscow has played an occasionally useful role.
The territorial integrity of Ukraine is not nothing, but it’s hardly in the top tier of US policy concerns. It is Russia’s back garden far more than Basra, Seoul or Saigon was ever a legitimate concern for the USA.
Putin has initiated a conflict that will, quite obviously, result in greater diplomatic and political isolation as well as the potential for economic sanction.
He’s compounded his loss of a key ally in Kiev by further enflaming Ukrainian nationalism, and his provocations could have a cascading effect in Europe by pushing countries that rely on Russia’s natural gas exports to look elsewhere for their energy needs.
Putin is the leader of a country with a weak military, an under-performing economy and a host of social, environmental and health-related challenges. Seizing the Crimea will only make the problems facing Russia that much greater.
You don’t have to listen to the “do something” western lynch mob. These are the same politicians and pundits convinced that every international problem is a vital interest of the US and the UK; that the maintenance of credibility and strength is essential, and that any demonstration of weakness is a slippery slope to global anarchy.
It’s all about control, and when every western leader from Nixon to Obama or Thatcher to Cameron felt they were losing control, they made it global… and if we haven’t learned anything from Afghanistan or Iraq, that is really frightening.

Now, he’s hell-bent for destruction, he’s afraid and confused
And his brain has been mismanaged with great skill
All he believes are his eyes
And his eyes, they just tell him lies
(Bob Dylan 1983)