Saturday, March 27, 2004

The Empire Demands West Country Blood

"I'm quite excited about going and helping the Iraqi people get their country back.." Says a private to The private is one of 70 from the west country's Territorial Army units going to Iraq: "We are going there to stabilise the country such that the Iraqi people can take over. From what we have heard the people of Basra are quite welcoming."

The day before this interview, four of the 14 British soldiers injured in Basra during riots were flown to a hospital in Selly Oak, in the Midlands. This riot is an omen of what is to come for these west country lads. Basra is smoldering. The riot began as a peaceful demonstration about jobs, but dramatically changed tone when the news that Israel had assassinated Sheikh Yassin filtered through the city. The angry demonstrators turned on the nearest face of the US Empire to vent their fury - a group of British soldiers.

But this is not just about blood. It's also about money. In July the £3.8 billion Iraq war fund is going to run out, and yet we are still sending more bodies into the grinder. How friendly is Basra if we are still sending troops? Sending the 70 West Country privates and the rest of the troops to Iraq is costing us £125 million per month. To put this in perspective, in the time it will take me to research and write this article, the war will have cost a further £100,000. Coincidently, this is the same amount of money Bristol council is intending to reduce its daycare budget to (down from £800,000).

The anger in the Muslim world is rising. From Iran to Turkey, many Muslims are on the streets and are angry. In Baghdad follows of the Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr are shouting, "No, no to Israel. No, no to occupation." They see no difference between the British troops in Iraq and the occupation of Palestine. They see an empire. An empire they, and we, are paying for in blood, gold and oil.

Friday, March 05, 2004

The Fairford Five: It's the State that is on Trail
What is the point? It's not like you can change anything. These are the most common words you hear when talking about the state of the world and its many problems. People who are sympathetic to making the world better: who are interested in righting wrongs, protecting the environment and striving for equality – but faced with the seemingly impassable wall between us and the promised land, are resigned to apathy.

Well, in Bristol there is a lesson in 'making a difference' unfolding. A lesson that will soon become a mass-media storm. The five Bristolians who broke into the US airbase at Fairford to try to stop the bombing are due for trial soon. These five people did not stop the war. They didn't prevent the deaths of thousands by bombing. Thousands more will probably die from unexploded munitions and Depleted Uranium rounds of the next few year: so what is the point? It's not like they changed anything.

But they did. Not in isolation, but they have changed things. You see the system that has invaded Iraq for a variety of geopolitical, economic and oil based reasons wants us to move on. Forget about the war. In this they are backed by a powerful group of media and commercial interests (most notably by the Murdoch press) who want us to focus on debating how fast we want to privatize our social structures while they get on with building the US economic-military base in Iraq. But there is a problem: the war, by all accounts, seems to be illegal. So the plundering of Iraq's oil is...well..nothing more than state sponsored ram-raid. The actions of those five Bristolains have, along side Catherine Gunn and the army of anti-war activists worldwide – held a mirror up to this system.

Now imagine if it was not 5 but 500 or 5000 people who had broken into the airbase?

We are now putting the state on trial: They can't claim to have invaded Iraq for WMDs – because there don't seem to be any and it is looking increasingly apparent they knew this. They can't claim to have invaded Iraq to uphold the law, because it looks like they broke it themselves. They can't claim to have invaded Iraq out of concern for the Iraqi people, because many of the war advocates were the ones to helped Saddam stay in power in the 80s. They are running out of reasons. But they are only running out of reasons because the friction of resistance is wearing each paper-thin excuse away.

So now here is our chance to also do something: support the Fairford Five as they go to trial and beyond. Does it make a difference? Yes. A juror, interviewed after a trial in the US, talked about how people being there helped her to see what was really going on despite the state trying to paint the activist as an extremist: People took time out of their day -- they gave up their income, they were there every day. They were faithful, they were loyal. Who's got friends like that? I've got one or two, but I don't have a hundred and fifty. What does that say about this? That he doesn't have good spirit and good character, to have people such as that? That come every day?

Lets get active. Lets try to support them day after day.

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