Sunday, 11 March 2012

Afghanistan: Time to GO NOW!

A mourner cries over the bodies of Afghan civilians
The latest Massacre of 16 Civilians including 9 Children in Kandahar Province coming just days after 6 British Troops were killed by a massive Taliban bomb underlines the insanity of the War in Afghanistan. Yet many people in England appear frozen in a mindset where questioning the validity of the War is to disrespect the young men who wear British Military Uniforms. Earlier, today I was listening to a BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester morning 'phone in' The question posed was 'Should the UK Withdraw its Troops from Afghanistan? The presenter, Tony Fisher, played a 20 second prerecorded 'inteview'  with Worcester Stop the War Coalition Secretary, Neil Laurenson. Tony referred to my mild mannered mate  Neil as 'vociferous' [crying out noisily; clamorous] then took a call from an elderly ex-serviceman named John who spoke for nearly 10 minutes live on air. To be honest, the contribution of the ex-serviceman [and I mean no disrespect here] was incoherent, reactionary and rubbish however, it was his viewpoint that dominated the 'debate' and was never 'challenged' by the presenter. It is really important for Anti-War voices to be heard, now more than ever, so I urged everyone who reads this to sieze every local opportunity to try to make their voice heard in the local media. A great recent example of how to keep a cool head under fire was the John Rees vs Jon Gaunt battle on the Jeremy Vine Show BBC Radio 2, well worth listening to, especially as Mr Gaunt's attempts to goad were an epic fail. 
Over a decade after the US and UK led Invasion of Afghanistan, the nightmare of the Afghan people continues and after over a decade of Anti-War campaigning many activists are also exhausted. Nearly 5 years ago I organised a petition campaign in Bromsgrove for Military Families Against the War.
May 2007 - Bromsgrove Military Families Against the War
During May 2007, in Bromsgrove High Street, despite the attempt by the District Council to deny us permission, we established petition tables two weekends running.  Our Petition Campaign was also an opportunity for Marianna Fontanelli to get useful 'vox pop' interview footage for a Documentary titled SHADOWS on the issue of UK Troops who suffer PTSD as a result of the Trauma of participating in the War. We got tremendous support from most local people who enthusiastically expressed their opposition to the war. A mother of a son serving in Afghanistan for the Mercian Regiment helped staff the stall and together we collected over 500 signatures in two Saturday sessions lasting about 5 hours in total, even the Local Paper gave the petition campaign favourable coverage.  I had managed to get a ticket as a new member of Bromsgrove Labour Party to attend a Regional Deputy Leadership Hustings event. This event was also doubling up as the unofficial 'Coronation' of Gordon Brown as the new Leader of the Party. I intended to present the petition to the heir apparent of Tony Blair on behalf of the people of Bromsgrove.
Young Afghan Woman with PTSD
When I arrived in Warwick University for the Deputy Leadership Husting on 20th May 2007 the place was crawling with the Media and Security was very tight. I was lucky enough to make friends with people who could protect me. I sat on the right side of the auditorium about 10 rows from the Platform, on my left was Daniel De'Ath [yes that is his name] a tall dual heritage youth from Rugby Labour Party and on my right, a slightly built bespectacled Methodist lay preacher from Bromsgrove Labour Party.
Polly Toynbee, was chairing the Hustings and Gordon Brown was to be making his first keynote speech as the New Labour Leader. Very early on a protester from the Stop the War Coalition attempted to speak and raise a anti-war poster at the rear of the hall.... within seconds about 10 burly private security contractors silenced the protest and bundled the poor woman out, 'her feet did not touch the ground'. About 30 minutes after this incident -  the Chair was asking for 'Questions from the floor to Gordon', most of these 'questions' were clearly scripted the 'questioners' planted in the audience... then suddenly there was a brief silence in the room ... someone wasn't sticking to the 'script' or had just forgot their 'que'. I seized my chance. I put my hand up and said 'Polly... POLLY!... I have a question'. Polly Toynbee, seemed momentarily confused and nodded towards me and said 'Yes'. I stood up and said "Out there, and everybody knows this, the elephant in the room is that this war has gone on too long. Everybody has had enough of the war. We have to take decisive action. When are you going to bring those troops back home?'' Then I produced my petition sheets and held them in the Air "I have over 500 signatures here to present to Gordon from the people of Bromsgrove, many of whom have sons serving in Iraq and Afghanistan...." Already the Security  were moving in but they couldn't get close enough without trampling over more 'loyal' party members. I sat down and Gordon Brown stood up... his reply to me made the evening TV Bulletins but my question to him remained unreported. Strangely, enough the only media outlet to report my comments was The Hindu an Indian Newspaper. The earlier protest by the young woman who was dragged out by security was briefly shown on the TV news bulletins, but typically framed in a way to present Stop the War supporters as some sort of 'Anarchist Thugs'.

Back home in Bromsgrove - 'The Great Helmsman' of Bromsgrove Labour Party Councillor Peter McDonald was a tad upset with me. I was Expelled from the Labour Party AGAIN! [I  joined Bromsgrove and Redditch CLP at 15 years old in August 1977. I was expelled in 1982 from Northfield CLP and expelled again in 1985 from Sparkbrook CLP] While I was waiting patiently to face a Labour Party National Executive Committe Appeal Hearing in October 2007 other people were very busy: General Sir Richard Dannatt Chief of the General Staff of the British Army was involved in the Launch of 'Help For Heroe's' with the willing assistance of Rupert Murdoch via the 'Sun' Newspaper. The new 'Charity' began it's work with massive resources, other long established military charities like Combat Stress established in 1919 who worked without the support of the Tory Party and  Rupert Murdoch were effectively sidelined or turned into client organisations.
Two years after I questioned Gordon Brown at Warwick University, a well loved, liked and respected 18year old lad from Bromsgrove, Robbie Laws, was killed in Afghanistan. Robbie's Funeral was huge and the disgraced local MP, Julie Kirkbride, attended as part of her attempt to rehabilitate herself in the aftermath of the MP's Expenses Scandal. By this time the public activity of charities like  'Help for Heroes' and 'Support Our Soldiers' was becoming really prominent feature of life in Bromsgrove. The local free papers the local Council and all the local Schools seemed to be holding fundraising events. It seemed that participation in this sort of activity 'to support the troops' was far more appealing than participating in campaigning activity to 'Stop the War'. The clever thing was that this huge surge of 'charitable' campaigning 'had nothing whatever to do with politics', the truth, however, was that those who 'set up' 'Help For Heroe's' were very political.  By November 2009 General Sir Richard Dannatt formally 'retired' from the British Army to take up the role of 'Defence Advisor' to the Leader of the Opposition David Cameron. It was becoming clear that powerful forces were determined to undermine widespread Anti-War sentiment via manipulation of 'public opinion'. This was a classic 'Low Intensity Operation', a counter insurgency technique outlined by one of Sir Richard Dannatts mentor's in the Army Frank Kitson

The Following year in the General Election of 2010, I stood as an Independent Candidate for the Bromsgrove Constituency and was the only Candidate with a clear Anti-War Platform. There was a vicious and 'vociferous' campaign launched against me by the local Tory Party and BNP with the active colusion of the Labour Party. The only other Candidates to treat me with any kind of respect were the Lib-Dem and the UKIP Candidate  [I may write about this peculiar campaign in more detail in future] This campaign, in part, focused on presenting me as a 'Traitor' for my Anti-War campaigning. In the video above you will see Dawn Turner [not Dawn Butler as Gary erroneously names her!] talking of her sons who were both serving in Afghanistan. Dawn was heavily involved in the West Midlands 'Help for Hero's' Charity work, she comes from a Labour Movement background and was active in the early opposition to the Iraq War . Well,  Dawn's support for my Electoral Campaign couldn't overcome the huge resources that the established parties put into the Election and I only got 336 votes. But it was interesting that whereas the average increase in the  Tory vote across English Constituencies was about 7% in Bromsgrove Constituency the Tory share of the vote fell by 7.3%. So consistently Anti-War Candidates can have some impact in helping to shake up the local political establishment if they are prepared to take the flack that comes with  stepping on their toes.

What worries and concerns me is that as the War in Afghanistan drags on the most reactionary elements in British Society have been able to pose as the 'champions' of 'our troops'. Even though it is they who continue to pursue the unjustifiable and unwinnable war that sends those troops back home in coffins with increasing regularity.
Welfare Not Warfare! - Don't Attack IRAN!
On February 15th 2003 over 1.5 Million People Marched in London Against War. In the 9 years since then, despite all our efforts, we failed sustain and develop a true mass movement capable of ending the carnage? The opinion polls conducted anonymously may still produce an anti war majority - why does this majority have no voice? Who has silenced them? What psychological processes are at work to keep people placid in response to war atrocities committed in their name? When the issues at stake are so clear that young children understand them - why are so many adults in complete psychological denial of the obvious truth? Was the spectacular growth of  'Help for Heroe's' an 'emotional plague'  deliberately spread by the ruling elite to silence opposition? Meanwhile, the agony of the Afghan people continues and many of the older generation in Kabul long for the largely secular, sense of security, peace and progress of the 1970's. This wishful thinking is a sentiment I share too. What was it that the world had in the 1970's that it doesn't have now?

No! I am not on about the Austin Allegro! One of the things that is missing today is the Soviet Union. The objective of the Regan/Thatcher regimes was to break the back of the Soviet Union, forcing it to compete in an Arms Race it couldn't win. The USA deployed  'first strike' Cruise Missiles in Britain and Thatcher gladly coughed up the money for Trident Nuclear Subs - while Regan spent $Billions on Pretend Star Wars Projects to scare the bureaucrats in the Kremlin. Not content with this escalation which began to cripple the Soviet Economy, they began a proxy war against the Soviet Union. In Afghanistan Regan/Thatcher in Alliance with the House of Saud, funded and armed a reactionary rural rebellion against an essentially socially progressive and secular Kabul Government. In the Tora Bora  Caves Frankenstein's Monster, was brought back to life by the CIA, to lead this proxy war against the Soviet Union - Osama bin Laden.  To capture Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan was supposedly the original purpose of the US and UK led Invasion in 2001. Osama is like the Soviet Union GONE! The USA is already conducting a covert War in Pakistan using unmanned 'Drones' that have killed more people than died in the Twin Tower on 9/11. The same covert war is well underway in Somalia and Yemen, but despite the 'stealth' technology of the US Military, Iranian Defence Forces Shot down and captured a Drone last December.

To legitimise the carnage they carry out in our name the Warmongers LieThey carried out over 30,000 bombing raids on Libya killing 10,000s of Civilians and destroying the infrastructure of the country all in the name of 'protecting civilians'. They gloated as 'so called' Rebels finished their dirty work for them by slaughtering the already wounded Gaddafi. Now they are preparing the way to attack Iran and Syria.  Still they carry on with their Wars and their lies and they will continue.
-WHO ARE THEY? The Answer is simple - the worldwide Occupy Movement nailed that question They are the 1% - We are the 99%
The question we need to come up with a collective answer to is HOW CAN WE STOP THEM?

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