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George Monbiot

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  1. Gordon Brown and the Cold War

    In one short statement to parliament last week the defence secretary, Des Browne, broke the promises of two prime ministers, potentially misled the house, helped bury an international treaty and dragged Britain into a new cold war. Pretty good going for three stodgy paragraphs. You probably missed it, but it's not your fault. In the 48 hours before parliament broke up for the summer, the government made 46 policy announcements. It's a long-standing British tradition: as the MPs and lobby correspondents are packing their bags for the long summer break (they don't return until October), the government rattles out a series of important decisions that cannot be debated. Gordon Brown's promise to respect parliamentary democracy didn't last very long. Thus, without consultation or discussion, the defence secretary announced that Menwith Hill, the listening station on the North York Moors, will be used by the United States for its missile defence system. Having been dragged by the Bush administration into two incipient military defeats, the British government has now embraced another of its global delusions. Des Browne's note asserted that the purpose of the missile defence system is "to address the emerging threat from rogue states". This is a claim that only an idiot or a member of the British government could believe. If, as Browne and Bush maintain, the system is meant to shoot down intercontinental missiles fired by Iran and North Korea (missiles, incidentally, that they do not and might never possess), why are its major components being installed in Poland and the Czech Republic? To bait the Russian bear for fun? In June, Vladimir Putin called Bush's bluff by offering sites for the missile defence programme in Azerbaijan and southern Russia, which are much closer to Iran. Bush turned him down and restated his decision to build the facilities in eastern Europe, making it clear that their real purpose is to shoot down Russian missiles. Nor is it strictly true to call this a defence system. Russia has around 5,700 active nuclear warheads. The silos in Poland will contain just 10 interceptor missiles. The most likely strategic purpose of the missile defence programme is to mop up any Russian or Chinese missiles that had not been destroyed during a pre-emptive US attack. Far from making the world a safer place, its purpose is to make the annihilation of another country a safer proposition. This strategic purpose takes second place to a more immediate interest. Because it doesn't yet work, missile defence is the world's biggest pork barrel. The potential for spending is unlimited. First, a number of massive - and possibly insuperable - technical problems must be overcome. Then it must constantly evolve to respond to the counter-measures Russia and China will deploy: multiple warheads, dummy missiles, radar shields, chaff, balloons and God knows what. For the US arms industry, technical failure means permanent commercial success. But this is not the only respect in which Browne appears to have misled the house. He claimed to have assurances from the US that "the UK and other European allies will be covered by the system elements they [the Americans] propose to deploy to Poland and the Czech Republic". Browne must be aware that this is a United States missile defence programme. It incorporates no plans for defending other nations. The British government has handed over its facilities, truncated parliamentary democracy and put its people at risk solely for the benefit of a foreign power. The diplomatic cost of this idiocy is incalculable. It has already required the abandonment by the US of the anti-ballistic missile treaty, which is the bilateral agreement struck between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1972. The treaty survived both the vicissitudes of the cold war and the collapse of the Soviet Union, but not George Bush. Any hope that it might be revived has now been buried by the facts on the ground in Poland, the Czech Republic and the UK. Two weeks ago Vladimir Putin suspended another long-standing agreement: the conventional armed forces in Europe treaty, which limited the troops and military hardware that Russia could assemble on its borders. In response to the US missile defence programme, Russia has also been testing a new version of its short-range Iskander nuclear missile, and it has been developing a new intercontinental missile with multiple warheads, called the RS-24. Their purpose, according to Sergei Ivanov, Russia's deputy prime minister, is to "overcome any existing or future missile defence systems". The Iskander missiles will be deployed on the European border and aimed at Poland and the Czech Republic. Intermediate-range missiles will be pointed at Menwith Hill. Bush's missile defence programme almost certainly means the end of the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty as well, and the cancellation of any successor to the strategic offensive reductions treaty (which expires in 2012). Asked whether this might be the beginning of a new cold war, Putin replied: "Of course we are returning to those times. It is clear that if a part of the US nuclear capability turns up in Europe, and, in the opinion of our military specialists, will threaten us, then we are forced to take corresponding steps in response ... We are not the ones who are initiating the arms race in Europe." Like the war with Iraq, the US missile defence programme exacerbates the threats it claims to confront. All this, as you would hope, is of some interest to our members of parliament, who have long been demanding a debate. In February, Tony Blair agreed that they would have one. "I am sure that we will have the discussion in the house and, indeed, outside the house ... When we have a proposition to put, we will come back and put it." In April, Des Browne told MPs that "the UK has received no request from the US to use RAF Menwith Hill for missile-defence-related activities". That, until last week, was all that parliament knew. Now we discover that the proposition had been made and accepted before MPs had a chance to discuss it. Browne was in the house on Wednesday, when he made some announcements about aircraft carriers and the military budget. These - because they were delivered in person - could be discussed, though (shamefully) neither of them provoked any opposition. But knowing that the Menwith Hill decision would be furiously opposed, Browne released it in the form of a written statement, which cannot be debated. Like everyone on the left in Britain, I wanted to believe that Gordon Brown's politics would be more progressive than Tony Blair's. But as he grovels before the seat of empire, I realise that those of us who demand even a vaguely sane foreign policy will find ourselves in permanent opposition. With his appointment of Digby Jones as trade minister and his plans for deregulation, Brown demonstrated that the government is still mesmerised by big business. By proposing that suspects be held for up to 56 days without charge, he appears to share Tony Blair's distrust of liberty. Now, in one furtive decision, he reveals both his contempt for parliament and his enthusiasm for the neocon project. What, I wonder, is there left to hope for? http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Colum...2138292,00.html
  2. Tony Blair and BAE Systems

    Never let members of this government complain about corruption abroad. Never let them blame the failure of Tony Blair's mission to rescue Africa on venal dictators and grasping officials. The allegations published in the Guardian yesterday about slush funds used to oil the Al-Yamamah deal suggest that there is nothing that foreign despots can teach us about corruption. In 2003, the Guardian uncovered evidence suggesting that the arms company BAE had been running a £60m slush fund, which it used to provide gifts and prostitutes to Saudi officials to facilitate its massive weapons deal. Prince Turki bin Nasser, the Saudi minister for arms procurement, was alleged to be a beneficiary. But the new allegations are on a different scale altogether. They allege that BAE channelled over £1bn to another Saudi official, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, as payment for ensuring that Al-Yamamah proceeded. Most damagingly for this government, the fees are alleged to have continued, with the authorisation of the Ministry of Defence, after 2002, when the payment of commissions to foreign officials became illegal in the UK. Prince Bandar yesterday denied the payments were secret or backhanders, and said they were within the contracts. The Guardian's initial revelations gave the Serious Fraud Office little choice but to open an investigation. In 2005, the Saudi government informed Blair it would not lodge another order with BAE (for 72 Eurofighters) unless this case was abandoned. Last December, Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, instructed the SFO to drop the case. He and the prime minister cited "national security" as the reason for this surrender. Something was being secured all right: but it was BAE's income and the backsides of the ministers - led by Blair - who put the company's interests ahead of the nation's. This was not the first time Goldsmith intervened to prevent justice from being done. He has come to symbolise everything that is wrong with Blair's government: the cowardice of ministers, lawyers' truths, capitulation to corporations and foreign governments, and the judicial abuses permitted in a nation without a constitution. He represents something very old - the British establishment's closing of ranks - and something new: the corruption of purpose and method that has attended the project of liberal interventionism from its inception. In fairness to our craven attorney general, all this goes back a long way. The Defence Export Services Organisation (Deso), which allegedly oversaw these payments, has channelled money to corrupt officials in foreign governments since it was founded by the government 40 years ago. As documents unearthed by the Guardian show, this was and is its main purpose. Since the Al-Yamamah deal was signed in 1985, Britain has been supporting, financially and militarily, one of the world's most despotic regimes. This makes a mockery of successive governments' claims to be supporting democracy around the world, and ensures our security is now entangled with that of the Saudi princes. Al-Qaida's primary complaint is directed against the Saudi monarchy and the western support it receives. Like the war in Iraq, like Blair's support for Israel's invasion of Lebanon and his uneven treatment of Israel and Palestine, this deal helps ensure Britain is a primary target for terrorism: not because our government acted on principle, but because it acted without it. Blair has invoked all the strategic threats from which he claims to defend us. Close down Deso. Reopen the investigation. Sack the attorney general and the senior civil servants at the Ministry of Defence. Open a public inquiry to determine what Blair knew. Wage war on tax havens and secret offshore accounts. Hold BAE to account. Then lecture the rest of the world on good governance. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/st...2098302,00.html
  3. The Corruption of New Labour: Britain’s Watergate?

    Never let members of this government complain about corruption abroad. Never let them blame the failure of Tony Blair's mission to rescue Africa on venal dictators and grasping officials. The allegations published in the Guardian yesterday about slush funds used to oil the Al-Yamamah deal suggest that there is nothing that foreign despots can teach us about corruption. In 2003, the Guardian uncovered evidence suggesting that the arms company BAE had been running a £60m slush fund, which it used to provide gifts and prostitutes to Saudi officials to facilitate its massive weapons deal. Prince Turki bin Nasser, the Saudi minister for arms procurement, was alleged to be a beneficiary. But the new allegations are on a different scale altogether. They allege that BAE channelled over £1bn to another Saudi official, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, as payment for ensuring that Al-Yamamah proceeded. Most damagingly for this government, the fees are alleged to have continued, with the authorisation of the Ministry of Defence, after 2002, when the payment of commissions to foreign officials became illegal in the UK. Prince Bandar yesterday denied the payments were secret or backhanders, and said they were within the contracts. The Guardian's initial revelations gave the Serious Fraud Office little choice but to open an investigation. In 2005, the Saudi government informed Blair it would not lodge another order with BAE (for 72 Eurofighters) unless this case was abandoned. Last December, Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, instructed the SFO to drop the case. He and the prime minister cited "national security" as the reason for this surrender. Something was being secured all right: but it was BAE's income and the backsides of the ministers - led by Blair - who put the company's interests ahead of the nation's. This was not the first time Goldsmith intervened to prevent justice from being done. He has come to symbolise everything that is wrong with Blair's government: the cowardice of ministers, lawyers' truths, capitulation to corporations and foreign governments, and the judicial abuses permitted in a nation without a constitution. He represents something very old - the British establishment's closing of ranks - and something new: the corruption of purpose and method that has attended the project of liberal interventionism from its inception. In fairness to our craven attorney general, all this goes back a long way. The Defence Export Services Organisation (Deso), which allegedly oversaw these payments, has channelled money to corrupt officials in foreign governments since it was founded by the government 40 years ago. As documents unearthed by the Guardian show, this was and is its main purpose. Since the Al-Yamamah deal was signed in 1985, Britain has been supporting, financially and militarily, one of the world's most despotic regimes. This makes a mockery of successive governments' claims to be supporting democracy around the world, and ensures our security is now entangled with that of the Saudi princes. Al-Qaida's primary complaint is directed against the Saudi monarchy and the western support it receives. Like the war in Iraq, like Blair's support for Israel's invasion of Lebanon and his uneven treatment of Israel and Palestine, this deal helps ensure Britain is a primary target for terrorism: not because our government acted on principle, but because it acted without it. Blair has invoked all the strategic threats from which he claims to defend us. Close down Deso. Reopen the investigation. Sack the attorney general and the senior civil servants at the Ministry of Defence. Open a public inquiry to determine what Blair knew. Wage war on tax havens and secret offshore accounts. Hold BAE to account. Then lecture the rest of the world on good governance. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/st...2098302,00.html
  4. Is anyone interested in Apollo missions...

    'You did this hit piece because your corporate masters instructed you to. You are a controlled asset of the new world order ... bought and paid for." "Everyone has some skeleton in the cupboard. How else would MI5 and special branch recruit agents?" "Shill, traitor, sleeper", "leftwing gatekeeper", "accessory after the fact", "political whore of the biggest conspiracy of them all". These are a few of the measured responses to my article, a fortnight ago, about the film Loose Change, which maintains that the United States government destroyed the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. Having spent years building up my leftwing credibility on behalf of my paymasters in MI5, I've blown it. I overplayed my hand, and have been exposed, like Bush and Cheney, by a bunch of kids with laptops. My handlers are furious. I believe that George Bush is surrounded by some of the most scheming, devious, ruthless men to have found their way into government since the days of the Borgias. I believe that they were criminally negligent in failing to respond to intelligence about a potential attack by al-Qaida, and that they have sought to disguise their incompetence by classifying crucial documents. I believe, too, that the Bush government seized the opportunity provided by the attacks to pursue a longstanding plan to invade Iraq and reshape the Middle East, knowing full well that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. Bush deliberately misled the American people about the links between 9/11 and Iraq and about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. He is responsible for the murder of many tens of thousands of Iraqis. But none of this is sufficient. To qualify as a true opponent of the Bush regime, you must also now believe that it is capable of magic. It could blast the Pentagon with a cruise missile while persuading hundreds of onlookers that they saw a plane. It could wire every floor of the twin towers with explosives without attracting attention and prime the charges (though planes had ploughed through the middle of the sequence) to drop each tower in a perfectly timed collapse. It could make Flight 93 disappear into thin air, and somehow ensure that the relatives of the passengers collaborated with the deception. It could recruit tens of thousands of conspirators to participate in these great crimes and induce them all to have kept their mouths shut, for ever. In other words, you must believe that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their pals are all-knowing, all-seeing and all-powerful, despite the fact that they were incapable of faking either weapons of mass destruction or any evidence at Ground Zero that Saddam Hussein was responsible. You must believe that the impression of cackhandedness and incompetence they have managed to project since taking office is a front. Otherwise you are a traitor and a spy. Why do I bother with these morons? Because they are destroying the movements some of us have spent a long time trying to build. Those of us who believe that the crucial global issues - climate change, the Iraq war, nuclear proliferation, inequality - are insufficiently debated in parliament or congress, that corporate power stands too heavily on democracy, that war criminals, cheats and liars are not being held to account, have invested our efforts in movements outside the mainstream political process. These, we are now discovering, are peculiarly susceptible to this epidemic of gibberish. The obvious corollorary to the belief that the Bush administration is all-powerful is that the rest of us are completely powerless. In fact it seems to me that the purpose of the "9/11 truth movement" is to be powerless. The omnipotence of the Bush regime is the coward's fantasy, an excuse for inaction used by those who don't have the stomach to engage in real political fights. Let me give you an example. The column I wrote about Loose Change two weeks ago generated 777 posts on the Guardian Comment is Free website, which is almost a record. Most of them were furious. The response from a producer of the film, published last week, attracted 467. On the same day the Guardian published my article about a genuine, demonstrable conspiracy: a spy network feeding confidential information from an arms control campaign to Britain's biggest weapons manufacturer, BAE Systems. It drew 60 responses. The members of the 9/11 cult weren't interested. If they had been, they might have had to do something. The great virtue of a fake conspiracy is that it calls on you to do nothing. The 9/11 conspiracy theories are a displacement activity. A displacement activity is something you do because you feel incapable of doing what you ought to do. A squirrel sees a larger squirrel stealing its horde of nuts. Instead of attacking its rival, it sinks its teeth into a tree and starts ripping it to pieces. Faced with the mountainous challenge of the real issues we must confront, the chickens in the "truth" movement focus instead on a fairytale, knowing that nothing they do or say will count, knowing that because the perpetrators don't exist, they can't fight back. They demonstrate their courage by repeatedly bayoneting a scarecrow. Many of those who posted responses on Comment is Free contend that Loose Change (which was neatly demolished in the BBC's film The Conspiracy Files on Sunday night) is a poor representation of the conspiracists' case. They urge us instead to visit websites like 911truth.org, physics911.net and 911scholars.org, and to read articles by the theology professor David Ray Griffin and the physicist Steven E Jones. Concerned that I might have missed something, I have now done all those things, and have come across exactly the same concatenation of ill-attested nonsense as I saw in Loose Change. In all these cases you will find wild supposition raised to the status of incontrovertible fact, rumour and confusion transformed into evidence, selective editing, the citation of fake experts, the dismissal of real ones. Doubtless I will now be told that these are not the true believers: I will need to dive into another vat of tripe to get to the heart of the conspiracy. The 9/11 truthers remind me of nothing so much as the climate change deniers, cherry-picking their evidence, seizing any excuse for ignoring the arguments of their opponents. Witness the respondents to my Loose Change column who maintain that the magazine Popular Mechanics, which has ripped the demolition theories apart, is a government front. They know this because one of its editors, Benjamin Chertoff, is the brother/nephew/first cousin of the US homeland security secretary Michael Chertoff. (They are, as far as Benjamin can discover, unrelated, but what does he know?) Like the millenarian fantasies which helped to destroy the Levellers as a political force in the mid-17th century, this crazy distraction presents a mortal danger to popular oppositional movements. If I were Bush or Blair, nothing would please me more than to see my opponents making idiots of themselves, while devoting their lives to chasing a phantom. But as a controlled asset of the new world order, I would say that, wouldn't I? It's all part of the plot. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/st...2017006,00.html
  5. Conspiracy of Conspiracy

    'You did this hit piece because your corporate masters instructed you to. You are a controlled asset of the new world order ... bought and paid for." "Everyone has some skeleton in the cupboard. How else would MI5 and special branch recruit agents?" "Shill, traitor, sleeper", "leftwing gatekeeper", "accessory after the fact", "political whore of the biggest conspiracy of them all". These are a few of the measured responses to my article, a fortnight ago, about the film Loose Change, which maintains that the United States government destroyed the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. Having spent years building up my leftwing credibility on behalf of my paymasters in MI5, I've blown it. I overplayed my hand, and have been exposed, like Bush and Cheney, by a bunch of kids with laptops. My handlers are furious. I believe that George Bush is surrounded by some of the most scheming, devious, ruthless men to have found their way into government since the days of the Borgias. I believe that they were criminally negligent in failing to respond to intelligence about a potential attack by al-Qaida, and that they have sought to disguise their incompetence by classifying crucial documents. I believe, too, that the Bush government seized the opportunity provided by the attacks to pursue a longstanding plan to invade Iraq and reshape the Middle East, knowing full well that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. Bush deliberately misled the American people about the links between 9/11 and Iraq and about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. He is responsible for the murder of many tens of thousands of Iraqis. But none of this is sufficient. To qualify as a true opponent of the Bush regime, you must also now believe that it is capable of magic. It could blast the Pentagon with a cruise missile while persuading hundreds of onlookers that they saw a plane. It could wire every floor of the twin towers with explosives without attracting attention and prime the charges (though planes had ploughed through the middle of the sequence) to drop each tower in a perfectly timed collapse. It could make Flight 93 disappear into thin air, and somehow ensure that the relatives of the passengers collaborated with the deception. It could recruit tens of thousands of conspirators to participate in these great crimes and induce them all to have kept their mouths shut, for ever. In other words, you must believe that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their pals are all-knowing, all-seeing and all-powerful, despite the fact that they were incapable of faking either weapons of mass destruction or any evidence at Ground Zero that Saddam Hussein was responsible. You must believe that the impression of cackhandedness and incompetence they have managed to project since taking office is a front. Otherwise you are a traitor and a spy. Why do I bother with these morons? Because they are destroying the movements some of us have spent a long time trying to build. Those of us who believe that the crucial global issues - climate change, the Iraq war, nuclear proliferation, inequality - are insufficiently debated in parliament or congress, that corporate power stands too heavily on democracy, that war criminals, cheats and liars are not being held to account, have invested our efforts in movements outside the mainstream political process. These, we are now discovering, are peculiarly susceptible to this epidemic of gibberish. The obvious corollorary to the belief that the Bush administration is all-powerful is that the rest of us are completely powerless. In fact it seems to me that the purpose of the "9/11 truth movement" is to be powerless. The omnipotence of the Bush regime is the coward's fantasy, an excuse for inaction used by those who don't have the stomach to engage in real political fights. Let me give you an example. The column I wrote about Loose Change two weeks ago generated 777 posts on the Guardian Comment is Free website, which is almost a record. Most of them were furious. The response from a producer of the film, published last week, attracted 467. On the same day the Guardian published my article about a genuine, demonstrable conspiracy: a spy network feeding confidential information from an arms control campaign to Britain's biggest weapons manufacturer, BAE Systems. It drew 60 responses. The members of the 9/11 cult weren't interested. If they had been, they might have had to do something. The great virtue of a fake conspiracy is that it calls on you to do nothing. The 9/11 conspiracy theories are a displacement activity. A displacement activity is something you do because you feel incapable of doing what you ought to do. A squirrel sees a larger squirrel stealing its horde of nuts. Instead of attacking its rival, it sinks its teeth into a tree and starts ripping it to pieces. Faced with the mountainous challenge of the real issues we must confront, the chickens in the "truth" movement focus instead on a fairytale, knowing that nothing they do or say will count, knowing that because the perpetrators don't exist, they can't fight back. They demonstrate their courage by repeatedly bayoneting a scarecrow. Many of those who posted responses on Comment is Free contend that Loose Change (which was neatly demolished in the BBC's film The Conspiracy Files on Sunday night) is a poor representation of the conspiracists' case. They urge us instead to visit websites like 911truth.org, physics911.net and 911scholars.org, and to read articles by the theology professor David Ray Griffin and the physicist Steven E Jones. Concerned that I might have missed something, I have now done all those things, and have come across exactly the same concatenation of ill-attested nonsense as I saw in Loose Change. In all these cases you will find wild supposition raised to the status of incontrovertible fact, rumour and confusion transformed into evidence, selective editing, the citation of fake experts, the dismissal of real ones. Doubtless I will now be told that these are not the true believers: I will need to dive into another vat of tripe to get to the heart of the conspiracy. The 9/11 truthers remind me of nothing so much as the climate change deniers, cherry-picking their evidence, seizing any excuse for ignoring the arguments of their opponents. Witness the respondents to my Loose Change column who maintain that the magazine Popular Mechanics, which has ripped the demolition theories apart, is a government front. They know this because one of its editors, Benjamin Chertoff, is the brother/nephew/first cousin of the US homeland security secretary Michael Chertoff. (They are, as far as Benjamin can discover, unrelated, but what does he know?) Like the millenarian fantasies which helped to destroy the Levellers as a political force in the mid-17th century, this crazy distraction presents a mortal danger to popular oppositional movements. If I were Bush or Blair, nothing would please me more than to see my opponents making idiots of themselves, while devoting their lives to chasing a phantom. But as a controlled asset of the new world order, I would say that, wouldn't I? It's all part of the plot. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/st...2017006,00.html
  6. The Corruption of New Labour: Britain’s Watergate?

    There is a state within a state in the United Kingdom, a small but untouchable domain that appears to be subject to a different set of laws. We have heard quite a bit about it over the past two months, but hardly anyone knows just how far its writ runs. The state is BAE Systems, Britain's biggest arms company. It seems, among other advantages, to be able to run its own secret service. This week, Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) hopes to obtain a court order against BAE. The order would allow it to discover how the arms company obtained one of its confidential documents. CAAT instructed its lawyers, Leigh Day & Co, to seek a judicial review of the government's decision to drop the corruption case against BAE, which is alleged to have paid massive bribes to members of the Saudi royal family. Leigh Day sent CAAT an email containing advice on costs and tactics. The email ended up in the hands of the arms company. How? Correspondence between a plaintiff and his lawyers couldn't be more private. The last people you would show it to are the defendants in the case. But somehow the letter found its way to BAE's offices. The arms company argues that it was the unwitting and unwilling recipient of the email. So why does it refuse to tell CAAT who sent it? Why, far from assisting CAAT's attempt to explain this mystery, has it threatened the group with costs for seeking to reveal BAE's source? CAAT has good reason to be suspicious. In 2003, the Sunday Times revealed that BAE had carried out a "widespread spying operation" on its critics. "Bank accounts were accessed, computer files downloaded and private correspondence with members of parliament and ministers secretly copied and passed on." The paper said the arms company made use of a network run by a former consultant for the Ministry of Defence called Evelyn Le Chene. "Le Chene recruited at least half a dozen agents to infiltrate CAAT's headquarters at Finsbury Park, north London, and a number of regional offices." They provided BAE with advanced intelligence on CAAT's campaign against the sale of its Hawk aircraft to the Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia. The arms company also obtained CAAT's membership list, its bank account details, the identity of its donors, its letters to ministers, even the contents of private diaries belonging to its staff. After the story was published, CAAT asked a team of investigators to examine the messages sent from its offices. They found that one of the group's most senior members of staff, the national campaigns and events coordinator, had sent 181 emails to an unfamiliar address. Many of them contained extremely sensitive information. The coordinator, Martin Hogbin, denied that he was an agent of Le Chene's. He claimed that the mysterious email address belonged to a former CAAT volunteer, and that he had been sending him this information because he might find it interesting. The investigators contacted the former volunteer, who told them that he had not received any messages from Hogbin, and did not recognise the address. CAAT took the case to the United Kingdom's Information Commissioner, who found that the email address belonged to "a company with links to Evelyn Le Chene". Both Le Chene and Hogbin refused to assist the investigations. If it was true that Hogbin was working for Le Chene, it would be a tremendous coup for her and her clients. As campaigns and events coordinator, he knew more than anyone else about CAAT's plans. If BAE were to obtain and make use of such intelligence, it could anticipate and outmanoeuvre the Campaign's attempts to expose or embarrass it. BAE's spying operations represent just one way in which the company looks like a parallel state. It also appears to enjoy crown immunity. Last August, this column suggested that the Saudi corruption case might be dropped, in order to protect a new order for 72 BAE jets. It was not a hard prediction to make - Saudi Arabia had made the new deal conditional on the abandonment of the case. But I could not have guessed that both the attorney general and the prime minister would make such a show of squashing the investigation. They seemed to go out of their way to demonstrate to BAE's clients that they would do whatever it took to protect the new order, even if it meant exposing themselves to allegations of collusion. The prime minister has never taken such a risk on behalf of one of his departments, let alone his ministers or officials (witness how Lord Levy and Ruth Turner have been left to swing). There are just two friends for whom he will put his legacy on the line: George Bush and BAE. In 2001, Blair overruled Clare Short and Gordon Brown to grant an export licence for BAE's sale of a military air-traffic control system to one of the world's poorest countries, Tanzania. The World Bank had pointed out that the contract was ridiculously expensive - Tanzania could have bought a better system elsewhere for a quarter of the price. In January the Guardian revealed that BAE Systems allegedly paid a $12m (£6.2m) "commission" to an agent who brokered the deal. In 2005, Blair made a secret visit to Riyadh to expedite BAE's deal with the Saudi princes. He then sent both John Reid and Des Browne to clinch the order. Ministers in the UK have always acted as unpaid salesmen for the arms companies, but seldom has a prime minister muddied his hands this much. Blair pushed the order through by promising the Saudis that they could have the first 24 planes ahead of schedule. How? By selling them the jets already allotted to the RAF. BAE's interests, in other words, trump the requirements of our own armed forces. Blair has also broken his government's pledge to publish the report by the National Audit Office on BAE's dealings in Saudi Arabia. It remains the only NAO report never to have been made public. We can only guess why the prime minister needs to protect it. It could be argued, with some force, that this government has always had a special relationship with big business, rather like its special relationship with George Bush (it gets beaten up and thanks him for it). But the special favours it grants BAE are deeply resented by other corporations. After the suppression of the Saudi case, F&C Asset Management, a very large institutional investor, wrote to the government to complain that its decision undermined the rule of law and the predictability of the investment climate. Hermes, Britain's biggest pension fund, said that it threatened the UK's reputation as a leading financial centre, and the chairman of Anglo-American wrote that the abandonment of the case "damaged the reputation of Britain". At what point does the government conclude that this company has got out of control? That it presents a danger to national interests, to the reputation of the prime minister, to the privacy and civil liberties of its opponents? Why does it appear to be above the law? For how much longer will it be permitted to run what looks like a parallel secret service? Of all the questions we might ask of our ministers, these are the least likely to be answered. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/st...2011751,00.html
  7. Tony Blair and BAE Systems

    There is a state within a state in the United Kingdom, a small but untouchable domain that appears to be subject to a different set of laws. We have heard quite a bit about it over the past two months, but hardly anyone knows just how far its writ runs. The state is BAE Systems, Britain's biggest arms company. It seems, among other advantages, to be able to run its own secret service. This week, Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) hopes to obtain a court order against BAE. The order would allow it to discover how the arms company obtained one of its confidential documents. CAAT instructed its lawyers, Leigh Day & Co, to seek a judicial review of the government's decision to drop the corruption case against BAE, which is alleged to have paid massive bribes to members of the Saudi royal family. Leigh Day sent CAAT an email containing advice on costs and tactics. The email ended up in the hands of the arms company. How? Correspondence between a plaintiff and his lawyers couldn't be more private. The last people you would show it to are the defendants in the case. But somehow the letter found its way to BAE's offices. The arms company argues that it was the unwitting and unwilling recipient of the email. So why does it refuse to tell CAAT who sent it? Why, far from assisting CAAT's attempt to explain this mystery, has it threatened the group with costs for seeking to reveal BAE's source? CAAT has good reason to be suspicious. In 2003, the Sunday Times revealed that BAE had carried out a "widespread spying operation" on its critics. "Bank accounts were accessed, computer files downloaded and private correspondence with members of parliament and ministers secretly copied and passed on." The paper said the arms company made use of a network run by a former consultant for the Ministry of Defence called Evelyn Le Chene. "Le Chene recruited at least half a dozen agents to infiltrate CAAT's headquarters at Finsbury Park, north London, and a number of regional offices." They provided BAE with advanced intelligence on CAAT's campaign against the sale of its Hawk aircraft to the Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia. The arms company also obtained CAAT's membership list, its bank account details, the identity of its donors, its letters to ministers, even the contents of private diaries belonging to its staff. After the story was published, CAAT asked a team of investigators to examine the messages sent from its offices. They found that one of the group's most senior members of staff, the national campaigns and events coordinator, had sent 181 emails to an unfamiliar address. Many of them contained extremely sensitive information. The coordinator, Martin Hogbin, denied that he was an agent of Le Chene's. He claimed that the mysterious email address belonged to a former CAAT volunteer, and that he had been sending him this information because he might find it interesting. The investigators contacted the former volunteer, who told them that he had not received any messages from Hogbin, and did not recognise the address. CAAT took the case to the United Kingdom's Information Commissioner, who found that the email address belonged to "a company with links to Evelyn Le Chene". Both Le Chene and Hogbin refused to assist the investigations. If it was true that Hogbin was working for Le Chene, it would be a tremendous coup for her and her clients. As campaigns and events coordinator, he knew more than anyone else about CAAT's plans. If BAE were to obtain and make use of such intelligence, it could anticipate and outmanoeuvre the Campaign's attempts to expose or embarrass it. BAE's spying operations represent just one way in which the company looks like a parallel state. It also appears to enjoy crown immunity. Last August, this column suggested that the Saudi corruption case might be dropped, in order to protect a new order for 72 BAE jets. It was not a hard prediction to make - Saudi Arabia had made the new deal conditional on the abandonment of the case. But I could not have guessed that both the attorney general and the prime minister would make such a show of squashing the investigation. They seemed to go out of their way to demonstrate to BAE's clients that they would do whatever it took to protect the new order, even if it meant exposing themselves to allegations of collusion. The prime minister has never taken such a risk on behalf of one of his departments, let alone his ministers or officials (witness how Lord Levy and Ruth Turner have been left to swing). There are just two friends for whom he will put his legacy on the line: George Bush and BAE. In 2001, Blair overruled Clare Short and Gordon Brown to grant an export licence for BAE's sale of a military air-traffic control system to one of the world's poorest countries, Tanzania. The World Bank had pointed out that the contract was ridiculously expensive - Tanzania could have bought a better system elsewhere for a quarter of the price. In January the Guardian revealed that BAE Systems allegedly paid a $12m (£6.2m) "commission" to an agent who brokered the deal. In 2005, Blair made a secret visit to Riyadh to expedite BAE's deal with the Saudi princes. He then sent both John Reid and Des Browne to clinch the order. Ministers in the UK have always acted as unpaid salesmen for the arms companies, but seldom has a prime minister muddied his hands this much. Blair pushed the order through by promising the Saudis that they could have the first 24 planes ahead of schedule. How? By selling them the jets already allotted to the RAF. BAE's interests, in other words, trump the requirements of our own armed forces. Blair has also broken his government's pledge to publish the report by the National Audit Office on BAE's dealings in Saudi Arabia. It remains the only NAO report never to have been made public. We can only guess why the prime minister needs to protect it. It could be argued, with some force, that this government has always had a special relationship with big business, rather like its special relationship with George Bush (it gets beaten up and thanks him for it). But the special favours it grants BAE are deeply resented by other corporations. After the suppression of the Saudi case, F&C Asset Management, a very large institutional investor, wrote to the government to complain that its decision undermined the rule of law and the predictability of the investment climate. Hermes, Britain's biggest pension fund, said that it threatened the UK's reputation as a leading financial centre, and the chairman of Anglo-American wrote that the abandonment of the case "damaged the reputation of Britain". At what point does the government conclude that this company has got out of control? That it presents a danger to national interests, to the reputation of the prime minister, to the privacy and civil liberties of its opponents? Why does it appear to be above the law? For how much longer will it be permitted to run what looks like a parallel secret service? Of all the questions we might ask of our ministers, these are the least likely to be answered. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/st...2011751,00.html
  8. Is anyone interested in Apollo missions...

    There is a virus sweeping the world. It infects opponents of the Bush government, sucks their brains out through their eyes and turns them into gibbering idiots. First cultivated in a laboratory in the US, the strain reached these shores a few months ago. In the past fortnight, it has become an epidemic. Scarcely a day now passes without someone possessed by this sickness, eyes rolling, lips flecked with foam, trying to infect me. The disease is called Loose Change. It is a film made by three young men that airs most of the standard conspiracy theories about the attacks of September 11 2001. Unlike the other 9/11 conspiracy films, Loose Change is sharp and swift, with a thumping soundtrack, slick graphics and a calm and authoritative voiceover. Its makers claim that it has now been watched by 100 million people. The Pentagon, the film maintains, was not hit by a commercial airliner. There was "no discernible trace" of a plane found in the wreckage, and the entrance and exit holes in the building were far too small. It was hit by a cruise missile. The twin towers were brought down by means of "a carefully planned controlled demolition". You can see the small puffs of smoke caused by explosives just below the cascading sections. All other hypotheses are implausible: the fire was not hot enough to melt steel and the towers fell too quickly. Building 7 was destroyed by the same means a few hours later. Flight 93 did not crash, but was redirected to Cleveland airport, where the passengers were taken into a Nasa building and never seen again. Their voices had been cloned by the Los Alamos laboratories and used to make fake calls to their relatives. The footage of Osama bin Laden, claiming responsibility for the attacks, was faked. The US government carried out this great crime for four reasons: to help Larry Silverstein, who leased the towers, to collect his insurance money; to assist insider traders betting on falling airline stocks; to steal the gold in the basement; and to grant George Bush new executive powers, so that he could carry out his plans for world domination. Even if you have seen or read no other accounts of 9/11, and your brain has not yet been liquidised, a few problems must occur to you. The first is the complete absence of scientific advice. At one point, the presenter asks: "So what brought down the twin towers? Let's ask the experts." But they don't ask the experts. The film-makers take some old quotes, edit them to remove any contradictions, then denounce all subsequent retractions as further evidence of conspiracy. The only people they interview are a janitor, a group of firemen, and a flight instructor. They let the janitor speak at length, but cut the firemen off in mid-sentence. The flight instructor speaks in short clips, which give the impression that his pupil, the hijacker Hani Hanjour, was incapable of hitting the Pentagon. Elsewhere he has said the opposite: he had "no doubt" that Hanjour could have done it. Where are the structural engineers, the materials scientists, the specialists in ballistics, explosives or fire? The film-makers now say that the third edition of the film will be fact-checked by an expert, but he turns out to be "a theology professor". They don't name him, but I would bet that it's David Ray Griffin, who also happens to be the high priest of the 9/11 conspiracists. The next evident flaw is that the plot they propose must have involved tens of thousands of people. It could not have been executed without the help of demolition experts, the security firms guarding the World Trade Centre, Mayor Giuliani (who hastily disposed of the remains), much of the US air force, the Federal Aviation Administration and the North American Aerospace Defence Command, the relatives of the people "killed" in the plane crashes, the rest of the Pentagon's staff, the Los Alamos laboratories, the FBI, the CIA, and the investigators who picked through the rubble. If there is one universal American characteristic, it is a confessional culture that permits no one with a good story to keep his mouth shut. People appear on the Jerry Springer Show to admit to carnal relations with their tractors. Yet none of the participants in this monumental crime has sought to blow the whistle - before, during or after the attacks. No one has volunteered to tell the greatest story ever told. Read some conflicting accounts, and Loose Change's case crumbles faster than the twin towers. Hundreds of people saw a plane hit the Pentagon. Because it collided with one of the world's best-defended buildings at full speed, the plane was pulverised - even so, plane parts and body parts were in fact recovered. The wings and tail disintegrated when they hit the wall, which is why the holes weren't bigger. The failure of the twin towers has been exhaustively documented by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Far from being impossible, the collapse turns out to have been inevitable. The planes cut some of the support columns and ignited fires sufficient to weaken (but not melt) the remaining steel structures. As the perimeter columns buckled, the weight of the collapsing top stories generated a momentum the rest of the building could not arrest. Puffs of smoke were blown out of the structure by compression as the building fell. Counterpunch, the radical leftwing magazine, commissioned its own expert - an aerospace and mechanical engineer - to test the official findings. He shows that the institute must have been right. He also demonstrates how Building 7 collapsed. Burning debris falling from the twin towers ruptured the oil pipes feeding its emergency generators. The reduction in pressure triggered the automatic pumping system, which poured thousands of gallons of diesel on to the fire. The support trusses weakened and buckled, and the building imploded. Popular Mechanics magazine polled 300 experts and came to the same conclusions. So the critics - even Counterpunch - are labelled co-conspirators, and the plot expands until it comes to involve a substantial part of the world's population. There is no reasoning with this madness. People believe Loose Change because it proposes a closed world: comprehensible, controllable, small. Despite the great evil that runs it, it is more companionable than the chaos that really governs our lives, a world without destination or purpose. This neat story draws campaigners away from real issues - global warming, the Iraq war, nuclear weapons, privatisation, inequality - while permanently wrecking their credibility. Bush did capitalise on the attacks, and he did follow a pre-existing agenda, spelt out, as Loose Change says, by the Project for the New American Century. But by drowning this truth in an ocean of nonsense, the conspiracists ensure that it can never again be taken seriously. The film's greatest flaw is this: the men who made it are still alive. If the US government is running an all-knowing, all-encompassing conspiracy, why did it not snuff them out long ago? There is only one possible explanation. They are in fact agents of the Bush regime, employed to distract people from its real abuses of power. This, if you are inclined to believe such stories, is surely a more plausible theory than the one proposed in Loose Change. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/st...2006831,00.html
  9. Is anyone interested in Apollo missions...

    There is a virus sweeping the world. It infects opponents of the Bush government, sucks their brains out through their eyes and turns them into gibbering idiots. First cultivated in a laboratory in the US, the strain reached these shores a few months ago. In the past fortnight, it has become an epidemic. Scarcely a day now passes without someone possessed by this sickness, eyes rolling, lips flecked with foam, trying to infect me. The disease is called Loose Change. It is a film made by three young men that airs most of the standard conspiracy theories about the attacks of September 11 2001. Unlike the other 9/11 conspiracy films, Loose Change is sharp and swift, with a thumping soundtrack, slick graphics and a calm and authoritative voiceover. Its makers claim that it has now been watched by 100 million people. The Pentagon, the film maintains, was not hit by a commercial airliner. There was "no discernible trace" of a plane found in the wreckage, and the entrance and exit holes in the building were far too small. It was hit by a cruise missile. The twin towers were brought down by means of "a carefully planned controlled demolition". You can see the small puffs of smoke caused by explosives just below the cascading sections. All other hypotheses are implausible: the fire was not hot enough to melt steel and the towers fell too quickly. Building 7 was destroyed by the same means a few hours later. Flight 93 did not crash, but was redirected to Cleveland airport, where the passengers were taken into a Nasa building and never seen again. Their voices had been cloned by the Los Alamos laboratories and used to make fake calls to their relatives. The footage of Osama bin Laden, claiming responsibility for the attacks, was faked. The US government carried out this great crime for four reasons: to help Larry Silverstein, who leased the towers, to collect his insurance money; to assist insider traders betting on falling airline stocks; to steal the gold in the basement; and to grant George Bush new executive powers, so that he could carry out his plans for world domination. Even if you have seen or read no other accounts of 9/11, and your brain has not yet been liquidised, a few problems must occur to you. The first is the complete absence of scientific advice. At one point, the presenter asks: "So what brought down the twin towers? Let's ask the experts." But they don't ask the experts. The film-makers take some old quotes, edit them to remove any contradictions, then denounce all subsequent retractions as further evidence of conspiracy. The only people they interview are a janitor, a group of firemen, and a flight instructor. They let the janitor speak at length, but cut the firemen off in mid-sentence. The flight instructor speaks in short clips, which give the impression that his pupil, the hijacker Hani Hanjour, was incapable of hitting the Pentagon. Elsewhere he has said the opposite: he had "no doubt" that Hanjour could have done it. Where are the structural engineers, the materials scientists, the specialists in ballistics, explosives or fire? The film-makers now say that the third edition of the film will be fact-checked by an expert, but he turns out to be "a theology professor". They don't name him, but I would bet that it's David Ray Griffin, who also happens to be the high priest of the 9/11 conspiracists. The next evident flaw is that the plot they propose must have involved tens of thousands of people. It could not have been executed without the help of demolition experts, the security firms guarding the World Trade Centre, Mayor Giuliani (who hastily disposed of the remains), much of the US air force, the Federal Aviation Administration and the North American Aerospace Defence Command, the relatives of the people "killed" in the plane crashes, the rest of the Pentagon's staff, the Los Alamos laboratories, the FBI, the CIA, and the investigators who picked through the rubble. If there is one universal American characteristic, it is a confessional culture that permits no one with a good story to keep his mouth shut. People appear on the Jerry Springer Show to admit to carnal relations with their tractors. Yet none of the participants in this monumental crime has sought to blow the whistle - before, during or after the attacks. No one has volunteered to tell the greatest story ever told. Read some conflicting accounts, and Loose Change's case crumbles faster than the twin towers. Hundreds of people saw a plane hit the Pentagon. Because it collided with one of the world's best-defended buildings at full speed, the plane was pulverised - even so, plane parts and body parts were in fact recovered. The wings and tail disintegrated when they hit the wall, which is why the holes weren't bigger. The failure of the twin towers has been exhaustively documented by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Far from being impossible, the collapse turns out to have been inevitable. The planes cut some of the support columns and ignited fires sufficient to weaken (but not melt) the remaining steel structures. As the perimeter columns buckled, the weight of the collapsing top stories generated a momentum the rest of the building could not arrest. Puffs of smoke were blown out of the structure by compression as the building fell. Counterpunch, the radical leftwing magazine, commissioned its own expert - an aerospace and mechanical engineer - to test the official findings. He shows that the institute must have been right. He also demonstrates how Building 7 collapsed. Burning debris falling from the twin towers ruptured the oil pipes feeding its emergency generators. The reduction in pressure triggered the automatic pumping system, which poured thousands of gallons of diesel on to the fire. The support trusses weakened and buckled, and the building imploded. Popular Mechanics magazine polled 300 experts and came to the same conclusions. So the critics - even Counterpunch - are labelled co-conspirators, and the plot expands until it comes to involve a substantial part of the world's population. There is no reasoning with this madness. People believe Loose Change because it proposes a closed world: comprehensible, controllable, small. Despite the great evil that runs it, it is more companionable than the chaos that really governs our lives, a world without destination or purpose. This neat story draws campaigners away from real issues - global warming, the Iraq war, nuclear weapons, privatisation, inequality - while permanently wrecking their credibility. Bush did capitalise on the attacks, and he did follow a pre-existing agenda, spelt out, as Loose Change says, by the Project for the New American Century. But by drowning this truth in an ocean of nonsense, the conspiracists ensure that it can never again be taken seriously. The film's greatest flaw is this: the men who made it are still alive. If the US government is running an all-knowing, all-encompassing conspiracy, why did it not snuff them out long ago? There is only one possible explanation. They are in fact agents of the Bush regime, employed to distract people from its real abuses of power. This, if you are inclined to believe such stories, is surely a more plausible theory than the one proposed in Loose Change. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/st...2006831,00.html
  10. George Bush and Global Warming

    It is a testament to the power of money that Nicholas Stern's report should have swung the argument for drastic action, even before anyone has finished reading it. He appears to have demonstrated what many of us suspected: that it would cost much less to prevent runaway climate change than to seek to live with it. Useful as this finding is, I hope it doesn't mean that the debate will now concentrate on money. The principal costs of climate change will be measured in lives, not pounds. As Stern reminded us yesterday, there would be a moral imperative to seek to prevent mass death even if the economic case did not stack up. But at least almost everyone now agrees that we must act, if not at the necessary speed. If we're to have a high chance of preventing global temperatures from rising by 2C (3.6F) above preindustrial levels, we need, in the rich nations, a 90% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2030. The greater part of the cut has to be made at the beginning of this period. To see why, picture two graphs with time on the horizontal axis and the rate of emissions plotted vertically. On one graph the line falls like a ski jump: a steep drop followed by a shallow tail. On the other it falls like the trajectory of a bullet. The area under each line represents the total volume of greenhouse gases produced in that period. They fall to the same point by the same date, but far more gases have been produced in the second case, making runaway climate change more likely. So how do we do it without bringing civilisation crashing down? Here is a plan for drastic but affordable action that the government could take. It goes much further than the proposals discussed by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown yesterday, for the reason that this is what the science demands. 1. Set a target for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions based on the latest science. The government is using outdated figures, aiming for a 60% reduction by 2050. Even the annual 3% cut proposed in the early day motion calling for a new climate change bill does not go far enough. Timescale: immediately. 2. Use that target to set an annual carbon cap, which falls on the ski-jump trajectory. Then use the cap to set a personal carbon ration. Every citizen is given a free annual quota of carbon dioxide. He or she spends it by buying gas and electricity, petrol and train and plane tickets. If they run out, they must buy the rest from someone who has used less than his or her quota. This accounts for about 40% of the carbon dioxide we produce. The remainder is auctioned off to companies. It's a simpler and fairer approach than either green taxation or the EU's emissions trading scheme, and it also provides people with a powerful incentive to demand low-carbon technologies. Timescale: a full scheme in place by January 2009. 3. Introduce a new set of building regulations, with three objectives. A. Imposing strict energy-efficiency requirements on all major refurbishments (costing £3,000 or more). Timescale: in force by June 2007. B. Obliging landlords to bring their houses up to high energy-efficiency standards before they can rent them out. Timescale: to cover all new rentals from January 2008. C. Ensuring that all new homes in the UK are built to the German Passivhaus standard (which requires no heating system). Timescale: in force by 2012. 4. Ban the sale of incandescent lightbulbs, patio heaters, garden floodlights and other wasteful and unnecessary technologies. Introduce a stiff "feebate" system for all electronic goods sold in the UK, with the least efficient taxed heavily and the most efficient receiving tax discounts. Every year the standards in each category rise. Timescale: fully implemented by November 2007. 5. Redeploy money now earmarked for new nuclear missiles towards a massive investment in energy generation and distribution. Two schemes in particular require government support to make them commercially viable: very large wind farms, many miles offshore, connected to the grid with high-voltage direct-current cables; and a hydrogen pipeline network to take over from the natural gas grid as the primary means of delivering fuel for home heating. Timescale: both programmes commence at the end of 2007 and are completed by 2018. 6. Promote the development of a new national coach network. City-centre coach stations are shut down and moved to motorway junctions. Urban public transport networks are extended to meet them. The coaches travel on dedicated lanes and never leave the motorways. Journeys by public transport then become as fast as journeys by car, while saving 90% of emissions. It is self-financing, through the sale of the land now used for coach stations. Timescale: commences in 2008; completed by 2020. 7. Oblige all chains of filling stations to supply leasable electric car batteries. This provides electric cars with unlimited mileage: as the battery runs down, you pull into a forecourt; a crane lifts it out and drops in a fresh one. The batteries are charged overnight with surplus electricity from offshore wind farms. Timescale: fully operational by 2011. 8. Abandon the road-building and road-widening programme, and spend the money on tackling climate change. The government has earmarked £11.4bn for road expansion. It claims to be allocating just £545m a year to "spending policies that tackle climate change". Timescale: immediately. 9. Freeze and then reduce UK airport capacity. While capacity remains high there will be constant upward pressure on any scheme the government introduces to limit flights. We need a freeze on all new airport construction and the introduction of a national quota for landing slots, to be reduced by 90% by 2030. Timescale: immediately. 10. Legislate for the closure of all out-of-town superstores, and their replacement with a warehouse and delivery system. Shops use a staggering amount of energy (six times as much electricity per square metre as factories, for example), and major reductions are hard to achieve: Tesco's "state of the art" energy-saving store at Diss in Norfolk has managed to cut its energy use by only 20%. Warehouses containing the same quantity of goods use roughly 5% of the energy. Out-of-town shops are also hardwired to the car - delivery vehicles use 70% less fuel. Timescale: fully implemented by 2012. These timescales might seem extraordinarily ambitious. They are, by contrast to the current glacial pace of change. But when the US entered the second world war it turned the economy around on a sixpence. Carmakers began producing aircraft and missiles within a year, and amphibious vehicles in 90 days, from a standing start. And that was 65 years ago. If we want this to happen, we can make it happen. It will require more economic intervention than we are used to, and some pretty brutal emergency planning policies (with little time or scope for objections). But if you believe that these are worse than mass death then there is something wrong with your value system. Climate change is not just a moral question: it is the moral question of the 21st century. There is one position even more morally culpable than denial. That is to accept that it's happening and that its results will be catastrophic, but to fail to take the measures needed to prevent it. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/st...1935562,00.html
  11. Providing Public Services: PFI under New Labour

    How much longer can this farce carry on? Everywhere the chickens released by the government's private finance initiative are not so much coming home to roost as crashing into the henhouse and sliding down the wall in a heap of blood and feathers. The prediction made in 2002 by the Banker magazine - that "eventually an Enron-style disaster will be rerun on a sovereign balance sheet" - could be starting to materialise. The private finance initiative (PFI) is the scheme allowing private corporations to build and run our public services and lease them back to the government. The government says that this allows it to commission more schemes than it could with public funds, and offers better value for money. And it doesn't seem to matter how often the story falls apart. Last week, after spending £14m on lawyers, consultants, architects and miscellaneous money-wasting schemes, the NHS ditched its plans for a massive hospital in west London. The projected cost of the Paddington health campus had risen from £360m to £1.1bn, while the number of beds had fallen from 1,000 to 800. This is pretty normal for a PFI scheme; in one case I've studied, beds fell by 20%, while costs rose by 1,100%. What makes this case unusual is that the project was dropped before the money was spent. Last Wednesday, the government admitted that PFI projects for council house repairs had been a costly disaster. This is hardly news to anyone who has watched this programme's seven-year meltdown. But despite the admission, the policy has not been officially scrapped; councils are still told they will receive no new money for refurbishments unless they hand their houses to the private or voluntary sector. On the same day, we discovered that the PFI computer system that is meant to keep a record of MOT test results for cars in the UK has been delayed by another year. It was supposed to have been ready in May 2002. On June 17, Scottish ministers decided it was cheaper to spend £25m buying out the private financiers who built the Inverness airport terminal than to let them carry on. In six years, the corporations had made £8.5m on an investment of just £5.5m. This is a photocopy of the Skye bridge bail-out; it was bought back by the Scottish executive last year for £27m. A bridge that should have cost £15m has hit the public for £93.6m. Two days before the Inverness announcement, the Ministry of Defence quietly dropped a £1bn PFI scheme for military training. It didn't disclose how much money it had spent developing it. On June 14, a leaked government report revealed that so many corners have been cut in the construction of a £47m privately financed mental health unit in Leeds that it might have to be pulled down and rebuilt. On June 10, the National Audit Office published a report showing how the companies that had built the Norfolk and Norwich hospital had, as well as making stupendous profits, legally walked off with an additional payment of £73m by exploiting the gap between the financial risk the government said they had taken on and the risk they had really shouldered. It wasn't as if the government didn't know this was coming: in June 2001, a summary of leaked documents that showed this was going to happen was published in this column. The Treasury sat back and watched. On June 9, the Health Service Journal published an extraordinary admission by a senior civil servant in the Department of Health. PFI deals, Bob Ricketts revealed, were locking the NHS into 30-year contracts for services that might become useless in five. "I've seen some awfully grand PFI schemes," he warned, "that are starting to give us a real problem." So what has the government learned from all this? Nothing. It is ideologically committed to part-privatisation. It won't disclose how much it is planning to spend on PFI schemes - a spokesperson at the Treasury says this is "commercially confidential" - but it is locked into £3.6bn of new deals this year. According to a spokesman for the Department of Health: "The government has no intention of abandoning PFI." The heap of blood and feathers, though brain dead, keeps running. So the government fobs us off with spin, misreporting and lies. PFI, the Treasury tells us, "is a small but important part of the government's strategy for delivering high-quality public services". Small? £42bn has been officially committed so far. This, according to the public-spending specialist Professor Allyson Pollock, is an underestimate, covering only the 43% of PFI contracts classified as "off balance sheet". Less true still is the Treasury's assertion that there is "no bias in favour of any particular procurement route". As people working for NHS trusts and local authorities will testify, the government made it clear that for certain kinds of projects, public funds are not available. But the biggest lie involves the government's claims of value for money. "All PFI projects," the Treasury says, "were delivered within public sector budgets ... no construction cost overruns were borne by the public sector." Well, it's a bit like hospital waiting lists: it depends when you start counting. The genius of PFI is that the overruns take place before the project begins. There are three ways in which this happens. The first is that the schemes are tailored to suit the private sector. Where public money might have been used to renovate a hospital, PFI demands that it is pulled down and rebuilt. But the two costs are not compared; instead we are told we have a choice between rebuilding it with public funds or with private funds. Then the next fiddle kicks in. Civil servants, knowing that, as the former secretary of state for health announced, "it's PFI or bust", must mash the "public sector comparator" figure to show that PFI delivers best value for money. As Jeremy Colman, at the time the UK's assistant auditor-general, said: "If the answer comes out wrong you don't get your project. So the answer doesn't come out wrong very often." The third fiddle is that the concept of "risk transfer" can be used to come up with any figure you want. You simply announce that x million pounds of "financial risk" is being transferred by PFI to the private sector, and hey presto, it's x million pounds more expensive to build the project with public money. As the Norfolk and Norwich hospital fiasco shows, the risk costing bears no relation to any actual hazard taken on by the contractors. Is it an exaggeration to say that we might be facing "an Enron-style disaster" in the public sector? I don't know. But there's something familiar about Colman's warning that the "pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo" behind the private finance initiative's financial modelling "takes over from thinking. It becomes so complicated that no one, not even the experts, understands what is going on". And the record of the past three weeks is hardly reassuring. http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Colum...1516043,00.html
  12. George Bush and Global Warming

    ExxonMobil is the world's most profitable corporation. Its sales now amount to more than $1bn a day. It makes most of this money from oil, and has more to lose than any other company from efforts to tackle climate change. To safeguard its profits, ExxonMobil needs to sow doubt about whether serious action needs to be taken on climate change. But there are difficulties: it must confront a scientific consensus as strong as that which maintains that smoking causes lung cancer or that HIV causes Aids. So what's its strategy? The website Exxonsecrets.org, using data found in the company's official documents, lists 124 organisations that have taken money from the company or work closely with those that have. These organisations take a consistent line on climate change: that the science is contradictory, the scientists are split, environmentalists are charlatans, liars or lunatics, and if governments took action to prevent global warming, they would be endangering the global economy for no good reason. The findings these organisations dislike are labelled "junk science". The findings they welcome are labelled "sound science". Among the organisations that have been funded by Exxon are such well-known websites and lobby groups as TechCentralStation, the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation. Some of those on the list have names that make them look like grassroots citizens' organisations or academic bodies: the Centre for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, for example. One or two of them, such as the Congress of Racial Equality, are citizens' organisations or academic bodies, but the line they take on climate change is very much like that of the other sponsored groups. While all these groups are based in America, their publications are read and cited, and their staff are interviewed and quoted, all over the world. By funding a large number of organisations, Exxon helps to create the impression that doubt about climate change is widespread. For those who do not understand that scientific findings cannot be trusted if they have not appeared in peer-reviewed journals, the names of these institutes help to suggest that serious researchers are challenging the consensus. This is not to claim that all the science these groups champion is bogus. On the whole, they use selection, not invention. They will find one contradictory study - such as the discovery of tropospheric cooling, which, in a garbled form, has been used by Peter Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday - and promote it relentlessly. They will continue to do so long after it has been disproved by further work. So, for example, John Christy, the author of the troposphere paper, admitted in August 2005 that his figures were incorrect, yet his initial findings are still being circulated and championed by many of these groups, as a quick internet search will show you. But they do not stop there. The chairman of a group called the Science and Environmental Policy Project is Frederick Seitz. Seitz is a physicist who in the 1960s was president of the US National Academy of Sciences. In 1998, he wrote a document, known as the Oregon Petition, which has been cited by almost every journalist who claims that climate change is a myth. The document reads as follows: "We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind. There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth." Anyone with a degree was entitled to sign it. It was attached to a letter written by Seitz, entitled Research Review of Global Warming Evidence. The lead author of the "review" that followed Seitz's letter is a Christian fundamentalist called Arthur B Robinson. He is not a professional climate scientist. It was co-published by Robinson's organisation - the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine - and an outfit called the George C Marshall Institute, which has received $630,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998. The other authors were Robinson's 22-year-old son and two employees of the George C Marshall Institute. The chairman of the George C Marshall Institute was Frederick Seitz. The paper maintained that: "We are living in an increasingly lush environment of plants and animals as a result of the carbon dioxide increase. Our children will enjoy an Earth with far more plant and animal life than that with which we now are blessed. This is a wonderful and unexpected gift from the Industrial Revolution." It was printed in the font and format of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: the journal of the organisation of which Seitz - as he had just reminded his correspondents - was once president. Soon after the petition was published, the National Academy of Sciences released this statement: "The NAS Council would like to make it clear that this petition has nothing to do with the National Academy of Sciences and that the manuscript was not published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences or in any other peer-reviewed journal. The petition does not reflect the conclusions of expert reports of the Academy." But it was too late. Seitz, the Oregon Institute and the George C Marshall Institute had already circulated tens of thousands of copies, and the petition had established a major presence on the internet. Some 17,000 graduates signed it, the majority of whom had no background in climate science. It has been repeatedly cited - by global-warming sceptics such as David Bellamy, Melanie Phillips and others - as a petition by climate scientists. It is promoted by the Exxon-sponsored sites as evidence that there is no scientific consensus on climate change. All this is now well known to climate scientists and environmentalists. But what I have discovered while researching this issue is that the corporate funding of lobby groups denying that manmade climate change is taking place was initiated not by Exxon, or by any other firm directly involved in the fossil fuel industry. It was started by the tobacco company Philip Morris. http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,1875587,00.html
  13. Ken Loach: The Wind That Shakes The Barley

    That they have not seen his film is no impediment. That it has won the Palme d'Or at Cannes only quickens their desire for reprisals. Ken Loach has been placed in preventive detention and is having his fingernails pulled out. In the Times, Tim Luckhurst compares him - unfavourably - to Leni Riefenstahl. His new film is a "poisonously anti-British corruption of the history of the war of Irish independence ... The Wind That Shakes the Barley is not just wrong. It infantilises its subject matter and reawakens ancient feuds." I checked with the production company. The film has not yet been released. They can find no record that Luckhurst has attended a screening - and last night he refused to discuss the matter. At least Simon Heffer, writing in the Telegraph, admits he doesn't know what he's talking about. Loach, he says, "hates this country, yet leeches off it, using public funds to make his repulsive films. And no, I haven't seen it, any more than I need to read Mein Kampf to know what a louse Hitler was." The Sun says it's "a brutally anti-British film ... designed to drag the reputation of our nation through the mud". Ruth Dudley Edwards in the Daily Mail pronounced it "old-fashioned propaganda" and "a melange of half-truths". She hasn't seen the film either. Nor, it seems, has Michael Gove, who told his readers in the Times that it helps to "legitimise the actions of gangsters". Are these people claiming that events of the kind Loach portrays did not happen? Reprisals by members of the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Auxiliary division are documented by historians of all political stripes. During the period the film covers (1920-21), policemen visited homes in places such as Thurles, Cork, Upperchurch and Galway and shot or bayoneted their unarmed inhabitants. Nor does any historian deny that they fired into crowds or threw grenades or beat people up in the streets or set fire to homes and businesses in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Bantry, Kilmallock, Balbriggan, Miltown Malbay, Lahinch, Ennistymon, Trim and other towns. Nor can the fact that the constabulary tortured and killed some of its prisoners be seriously disputed. It is also clear that some of these attacks were sanctioned by senior officers and politicians. In June 1920, in the presence of the commander of the Royal Irish Constabulary, the force's divisional commissioner in Munster (Colonel GB Smyth) told his men: "You may make mistakes occasionally and innocent people may be shot but that cannot be helped ... The more you shoot, the better I will like you, and I assure you no policeman will get in trouble for shooting any man." He advised that "when civilians are seen approaching, shout "Hands up!" Should the order be not immediately obeyed, shoot and shoot with effect. If the persons approaching carry their hands in their pockets, or are in any way suspicious looking, shoot them down." Sir Henry Wilson, the director of operations in the War Office, complained that he had warned his minister - Winston Churchill - that "indiscriminate reprisals will play the devil in Ireland, but he won't listen or agree". There was even a policy of "official reprisals": the homes of people who lived close to the scene of an ambush and had failed to warn the authorities could be legally destroyed. Loach's hero, Damien, as many Irishmen were, is radicalised by a raid by the Black and Tans, who were members of the constabulary recruited from outside Ireland. As the film shows, they were responsible for much of the police brutality. The historian Robert Kee, who is a fierce critic of the IRA, remarks that while the police were at first slow to retaliate, their vengeance - exercised against innocent people - "further consolidated national feeling in Ireland. It made the Irish people feel more and more in sympathy with fighting men of their own." The fighter Edward MacLysaght recorded that "what probably drove a peacefully inclined man like myself into rebellion was the British attitude towards us: the assumption that the whole lot of us were a pack of murdering corner boys". There is no question that the IRA also killed ruthlessly - not just police and soldiers but also people they deemed to be informers and collaborators. But Loach shows this too. (I have seen the film.) The press hates him because he admits that the people who committed these acts were not evil automata, but human beings capable of grief, anger, love and pity. So too, of course, were the British forces, whose humanity is always emphasised by the newspapers. Ken's crime is to have told the other side of the story. The other side - whether it concerns Ireland, India, Kenya or Malaya - is always inadmissable. The torture and killing of the colonised is ignored or excused, while their violent responses to occupation are never forgotten. The only aggressors permitted to exist are those who fight back. Does it matter what people say about a conflict that took place 85 years ago? It does. For the same one-sided story is being told about the occupation of Iraq. The execution of 24 civilians in Haditha allegedly carried out by US marines in November is being discussed as a disgraceful anomaly: the work of a few "bad apples" or "rogue elements". Donald Rumsfeld claims "we know that 99.9% of our forces conduct themselves in an exemplary manner", and most of the press seems to agree. But if it chose to look, it would find evidence of scores of such massacres. In March Jody Casey, a US veteran of the war in Iraq, told Newsnight that when insurgents have let off a bomb, "you just zap any farmer that is close to you ... when we first got down there, you could basically kill whoever you wanted, it was that easy". On Sunday another veteran told the Observer that cold-blooded killings by US forces "are widespread. This is the norm. These are not the exceptions." There is powerful evidence to suggest that US soldiers tied up and executed 11 people - again including small children - in Ishaqi in March. Iraqi officers say that US troops executed two women and a mentally handicapped man in a house in Samarra last month. In 2004, US forces are alleged to have bombed a wedding party at Makr al-Deeb and then shot the survivors, killing 42 people. No one has any idea what happened in Falluja, as the destruction of the city and its remaining inhabitants was so thorough. Even the Iraqi prime minister, who depends on coalition troops for his protection, complained last week that their attacks on civilians are a "regular occurrence ... They crush them with their vehicles and kill them just on suspicion." But like the Black and Tans the US troops have little fear of investigation or punishment. Why should we be surprised by these events? This is what happens when one country occupies another. When troops are far away from home, exercising power over people that they don't understand, knowing that the population harbours those who would kill them if they could, their anger and fear and frustration turns into a hatred of all "micks" or "gooks" or "hajjis". Occupations brutalise both the occupiers and the occupied. It is our refusal to learn that lesson which allows new colonial adventures to take place. If we knew more about Ireland, the invasion of Iraq might never have happened. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/st...1791178,00.html
  14. Falluja is our Guernica

    Did US troops use chemical weapons in Falluja? The answer is yes. The proof is not to be found in the documentary broadcast on Italian TV last week, which has generated gigabytes of hype on the internet. It's a turkey, whose evidence that white phosphorus was fired at Iraqi troops is flimsy and circumstantial. But the bloggers debating it found the smoking gun. The first account they unearthed in a magazine published by the US army. In the March 2005 edition of Field Artillery, officers from the 2nd Infantry's fire support element boast about their role in the attack on Falluja in November last year: "White Phosphorous. WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE [high explosive]. We fired 'shake and bake' missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out." The second, in California's North County Times, was by a reporter embedded with the marines in the April 2004 siege of Falluja. "'Gun up!' Millikin yelled ... grabbing a white phosphorus round from a nearby ammo can and holding it over the tube. 'Fire!' Bogert yelled, as Millikin dropped it. The boom kicked dust around the pit as they ran through the drill again and again, sending a mixture of burning white phosphorus and high explosives they call 'shake'n'bake' into... buildings where insurgents have been spotted all week." White phosphorus is not listed in the schedules of the Chemical Weapons Convention. It can be legally used as a flare to illuminate the battlefield, or to produce smoke to hide troop movements from the enemy. Like other unlisted substances, it may be deployed for "Military purposes... not dependent on the use of the toxic properties of chemicals as a method of warfare". But it becomes a chemical weapon as soon as it is used directly against people. A chemical weapon can be "any chemical which through its chemical action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm". White phosphorus is fat-soluble and burns spontaneously on contact with the air. According to globalsecurity.org: "The burns usually are multiple, deep, and variable in size. The solid in the eye produces severe injury. The particles continue to burn unless deprived of atmospheric oxygen... If service members are hit by pieces of white phosphorus, it could burn right down to the bone." As it oxidises, it produces smoke composed of phosphorus pentoxide. According to the standard US industrial safety sheet, the smoke "releases heat on contact with moisture and will burn mucous surfaces... Contact... can cause severe eye burns and permanent damage." Until last week, the US state department maintained that US forces used white phosphorus shells "very sparingly in Fallujah, for illumination purposes". They were fired "to illuminate enemy positions at night, not at enemy fighters". Confronted with the new evidence, on Thursday it changed its position. "We have learned that some of the information we were provided ... is incorrect. White phosphorous shells, which produce smoke, were used in Fallujah not for illumination but for screening purposes, ie obscuring troop movements and, according to... Field Artillery magazine, 'as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes...' The article states that US forces used white phosphorus rounds to flush out enemy fighters so that they could then be killed with high explosive rounds." The US government, in other words, appears to admit that white phosphorus was used in Falluja as a chemical weapon. The invaders have been forced into a similar climbdown over the use of napalm in Iraq. In December 2004, the Labour MP Alice Mahon asked the British armed forces minister Adam Ingram "whether napalm or a similar substance has been used by the coalition in Iraq (1) during and (2) since the war". "No napalm," the minister replied, "has been used by coalition forces in Iraq either during the war-fighting phase or since." This seemed odd to those who had been paying attention. There were widespread reports that in March 2003 US marines had dropped incendiary bombs around the bridges over the Tigris and the Saddam Canal on the way to Baghdad. The commander of Marine Air Group 11 admitted that "We napalmed both those approaches". Embedded journalists reported that napalm was dropped at Safwan Hill on the border with Kuwait. In August 2003 the Pentagon confirmed that the marines had dropped "mark 77 firebombs". Though the substance these contained was not napalm, its function, the Pentagon's information sheet said, was "remarkably similar". While napalm is made from petrol and polystyrene, the gel in the mark 77 is made from kerosene and polystyrene. I doubt it makes much difference to the people it lands on. So in January this year, the MP Harry Cohen refined Mahon's question. He asked "whether mark 77 firebombs have been used by coalition forces". The US, the minister replied, has "confirmed to us that they have not used mark 77 firebombs, which are essentially napalm canisters, in Iraq at any time". The US government had lied to him. Mr Ingram had to retract his statements in a private letter to the MPs in June. We were told that the war with Iraq was necessary for two reasons. Saddam Hussein possessed biological and chemical weapons and might one day use them against another nation. And the Iraqi people needed to be liberated from his oppressive regime, which had, among its other crimes, used chemical weapons to kill them. Tony Blair, Colin Powell, William Shawcross, David Aaronovitch, Nick Cohen, Ann Clwyd and many others referred, in making their case, to Saddam's gassing of the Kurds in Halabja in 1988. They accused those who opposed the war of caring nothing for the welfare of the Iraqis. Given that they care so much, why has none of these hawks spoken out against the use of unconventional weapons by coalition forces? Ann Clwyd, the Labour MP who turned from peace campaigner to chief apologist for an illegal war, is, as far as I can discover, the only one of these armchair warriors to engage with the issue. In May this year, she wrote to the Guardian to assure us that reports that a "modern form of napalm" has been used by US forces "are completely without foundation. Coalition forces have not used napalm - either during operations in Falluja, or at any other time". How did she know? The foreign office minister told her. Before the invasion, Clwyd travelled through Iraq to investigate Saddam's crimes against his people. She told the Commons that what she found moved her to tears. After the invasion, she took the minister's word at face value, when a 30-second search on the internet could have told her it was bunkum. It makes you wonder whether she really gave a damn about the people for whom she claimed to be campaigning. Saddam, facing a possible death sentence, is accused of mass murder, torture, false imprisonment and the use of chemical weapons. He is certainly guilty on all counts. So, it now seems, are those who overthrew him. http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Colum...1642831,00.html
  15. Did US troops use chemical weapons in Falluja? The answer is yes. The proof is not to be found in the documentary broadcast on Italian TV last week, which has generated gigabytes of hype on the internet. It's a turkey, whose evidence that white phosphorus was fired at Iraqi troops is flimsy and circumstantial. But the bloggers debating it found the smoking gun. The first account they unearthed in a magazine published by the US army. In the March 2005 edition of Field Artillery, officers from the 2nd Infantry's fire support element boast about their role in the attack on Falluja in November last year: "White Phosphorous. WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE [high explosive]. We fired 'shake and bake' missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out." The second, in California's North County Times, was by a reporter embedded with the marines in the April 2004 siege of Falluja. "'Gun up!' Millikin yelled ... grabbing a white phosphorus round from a nearby ammo can and holding it over the tube. 'Fire!' Bogert yelled, as Millikin dropped it. The boom kicked dust around the pit as they ran through the drill again and again, sending a mixture of burning white phosphorus and high explosives they call 'shake'n'bake' into... buildings where insurgents have been spotted all week." White phosphorus is not listed in the schedules of the Chemical Weapons Convention. It can be legally used as a flare to illuminate the battlefield, or to produce smoke to hide troop movements from the enemy. Like other unlisted substances, it may be deployed for "Military purposes... not dependent on the use of the toxic properties of chemicals as a method of warfare". But it becomes a chemical weapon as soon as it is used directly against people. A chemical weapon can be "any chemical which through its chemical action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm". White phosphorus is fat-soluble and burns spontaneously on contact with the air. According to globalsecurity.org: "The burns usually are multiple, deep, and variable in size. The solid in the eye produces severe injury. The particles continue to burn unless deprived of atmospheric oxygen... If service members are hit by pieces of white phosphorus, it could burn right down to the bone." As it oxidises, it produces smoke composed of phosphorus pentoxide. According to the standard US industrial safety sheet, the smoke "releases heat on contact with moisture and will burn mucous surfaces... Contact... can cause severe eye burns and permanent damage." Until last week, the US state department maintained that US forces used white phosphorus shells "very sparingly in Fallujah, for illumination purposes". They were fired "to illuminate enemy positions at night, not at enemy fighters". Confronted with the new evidence, on Thursday it changed its position. "We have learned that some of the information we were provided ... is incorrect. White phosphorous shells, which produce smoke, were used in Fallujah not for illumination but for screening purposes, ie obscuring troop movements and, according to... Field Artillery magazine, 'as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes...' The article states that US forces used white phosphorus rounds to flush out enemy fighters so that they could then be killed with high explosive rounds." The US government, in other words, appears to admit that white phosphorus was used in Falluja as a chemical weapon. The invaders have been forced into a similar climbdown over the use of napalm in Iraq. In December 2004, the Labour MP Alice Mahon asked the British armed forces minister Adam Ingram "whether napalm or a similar substance has been used by the coalition in Iraq (1) during and (2) since the war". "No napalm," the minister replied, "has been used by coalition forces in Iraq either during the war-fighting phase or since." This seemed odd to those who had been paying attention. There were widespread reports that in March 2003 US marines had dropped incendiary bombs around the bridges over the Tigris and the Saddam Canal on the way to Baghdad. The commander of Marine Air Group 11 admitted that "We napalmed both those approaches". Embedded journalists reported that napalm was dropped at Safwan Hill on the border with Kuwait. In August 2003 the Pentagon confirmed that the marines had dropped "mark 77 firebombs". Though the substance these contained was not napalm, its function, the Pentagon's information sheet said, was "remarkably similar". While napalm is made from petrol and polystyrene, the gel in the mark 77 is made from kerosene and polystyrene. I doubt it makes much difference to the people it lands on. So in January this year, the MP Harry Cohen refined Mahon's question. He asked "whether mark 77 firebombs have been used by coalition forces". The US, the minister replied, has "confirmed to us that they have not used mark 77 firebombs, which are essentially napalm canisters, in Iraq at any time". The US government had lied to him. Mr Ingram had to retract his statements in a private letter to the MPs in June. We were told that the war with Iraq was necessary for two reasons. Saddam Hussein possessed biological and chemical weapons and might one day use them against another nation. And the Iraqi people needed to be liberated from his oppressive regime, which had, among its other crimes, used chemical weapons to kill them. Tony Blair, Colin Powell, William Shawcross, David Aaronovitch, Nick Cohen, Ann Clwyd and many others referred, in making their case, to Saddam's gassing of the Kurds in Halabja in 1988. They accused those who opposed the war of caring nothing for the welfare of the Iraqis. Given that they care so much, why has none of these hawks spoken out against the use of unconventional weapons by coalition forces? Ann Clwyd, the Labour MP who turned from peace campaigner to chief apologist for an illegal war, is, as far as I can discover, the only one of these armchair warriors to engage with the issue. In May this year, she wrote to the Guardian to assure us that reports that a "modern form of napalm" has been used by US forces "are completely without foundation. Coalition forces have not used napalm - either during operations in Falluja, or at any other time". How did she know? The foreign office minister told her. Before the invasion, Clwyd travelled through Iraq to investigate Saddam's crimes against his people. She told the Commons that what she found moved her to tears. After the invasion, she took the minister's word at face value, when a 30-second search on the internet could have told her it was bunkum. It makes you wonder whether she really gave a damn about the people for whom she claimed to be campaigning. Saddam, facing a possible death sentence, is accused of mass murder, torture, false imprisonment and the use of chemical weapons. He is certainly guilty on all counts. So, it now seems, are those who overthrew him. http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Colum...1642831,00.html
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