Bleeding Afghanistan

It was interesting to hear Tony Blair telling British forces in Afghanistan that they were fighting for the future security of the 21st century. If the results of that US/UK led invasion of that country five years ago are anything to go by then the 21st Century looks set to be a miserable time to live through.

Five years after the invasion of Afghanistan the country is in ruins, the infrastructure in tatters, the Taliban, who Blair and Bush once informed us had been ousted, now as strong as ever and inflicting heavy casualties on UN forces. The cultivation of poppies, which Bush once told us had been halted, is now as strong as it has been in 20 years. Antonio Maria Costa ( the UN anti-drug chief) said recently that this year's opium harvest will be a record 6,100 tons (enough to make 610 tons of heroin) or 92% of the total world supply and 30% more than the amount consumed across the world in one year. Way to go Bush and Blair!! Drug barons across the planet salute you!!

The burqa, once believed gone forever with the arrival of Western forces and the installation of a puppet regime, is being worn through sheer fear everywhere. So, congratulations Mrs Bush and Blair – another glorious foreign policy cock-up of gigantic proportions.

And let’s set the following fresh statistics against the 5 year Western occupation of Afghanistan:

Life expectancy in Afghanistan is 44.5 years – the lowest in the world.

At 161 deaths per 1,000, infant mortality is the highest in the world.

One in five children perish before the age of 5.

Every day 50 women die in childbirth.

45% of those seeking work are unemployed.
50 % of the working population earn a miserly $200 a year. Those involved in the heroin trade – the country’s number one industry – fare a little better and receive an average $300 a year.

Only 25% of Afghans have access to clean water and adequate sanitation.

25% of the population depends on food aid.

500,000 are either homeless, living in appalling conditions or do-it-yourself dwellings..
There is one doctor for every 6,000 people.

Fewer than 6% of Afghans have access to electricity available, and at irregular intervals.

Over 100 are killed or wounded each month by mines.
It is reported that children are being kidnapped and sold into slavery or killed for their organs.
Tens of thousands of woman have turned to prostitution in order to survive.

Neither has U.S public relations helped matters. As in Abu Ghraib in Iraq, so too have there been numerous accounts of the torture of detainees in Afghanistan. Moreover, US troops have openly ridiculed the dominant religion there. In late October, US troops were captured on film burning the bodies of dead Taliban fighters in the village of Gonbaz - forbidden under Islamic law.

The corpses burnt, U.S. psychological operations specialists, in an attempt to lure Taliban followers, used loudspeakers to goad local villagers: "Attention, Taliban, you are all cowardly dogs. You allowed your fighters to be laid down facing west and burned. You are too scared to come down and retrieve their bodies. This just proves you are the lady boys we always believed you to be...You attack and run away like women. You call yourself Talibs, but you are a disgrace to the Muslim religion, and you bring shame upon your family. Come and fight like men instead of the cowardly dogs you are."

Just the way to go on when you’re trying to win the hearts and minds of the people. Operation Eduring Freedom turns into Operation Who Fancies Their Chances?

In Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence (Seven Stories, 2006) by Sonali Kolhatkar and James Ingalls., The authors argue that the continuing plunge into brutality is directly related to US policies over the past 5 years. The US would not allow the UN to stabilise the country outside of Kabul and allowed the Northtern Alliance and other war mongers to take control and to continue their violent suppression of the population. This, along with a hated US policy for the country, has turned people to support the Taliban.

The authors write:

“As warlords have carved out chunks of Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, the lawlessness that gave rise to the strict Islamic movement in the mid-1990’s has begun to spread, once again, across this country. The United States-led military campaign… has returned to power nearly all of the same warlords who had misruled the country in the days before the Taliban.

“…One thing is certain: having warlord armies as the only non-U.S. forces in the bulk of Afghanistan ensures little international accountability for U.S. troop operations in the countryside. ISAF [the United Nations established International Security Assistance Force] expansion would have interfered with the U.S. hunt for al-Qa’eda and bin Laden. According to Al Ahram Weekly columnist Fahmi Howeidi, the ‘primary function of [ISAF] is to divert attention away from the military operations being conducted by U.S. forces in the Afghan countryside. In fact, as much as the hands of the international force are tied in Kabul, the Americans have a free hand elsewhere.’ The absence of peacekeeping troops, deliberately maintained by the Bush administration, ensured that the United States, rather than an international body, had control over most of Afghanistan.

“The official U.S. policy on Afghanistan’s security, according to Rumsfeld, was ‘helping [Afghans] develop a national army so that they can look out for themselves over time.’ Since developing a national army and police force in a country flush with weapons and decimated by war is a time- and money-consuming effort, Rumsfeld privately ‘wondered why they couldn’t just let the Afghan warlords create an army.’ In some areas of the country, this is indeed what has happened. While the national army is still in its infancy, local and regional warlords, many of whose private militias are well funded by drug revenues, easily filled the military vacuum left by the Taliban, but this didn’t

It now seems that the US is reaping the bitter harvest of its foreign policy which used Islamic fundamentalism as a puppet in its perennial game of globo-political profit-making. For years it courted some of the most dangerous, conservative and fanatical followers of Islam and is now paying the price. The globalisation process, which the US has pursued obsessively, has only served to make political Islam more reactionary in defence of its own culture and strategic interests.

The Islamic zealots the US are prepared to annihilate, in Afghanistan were once afforded most favoured status during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Under the Carter administration and beginning in 1980, they were trained in their thousands (sources quote 20,000) at the CIA’s Camp Peary and at the ex-army base at Harvey Point in Carolina; by the Green Berets at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and indeed by the SAS in Scotland. They would go on to be trained at Fort A.P. Hill, just off the Washington-Richmond interstate highway, and at Camp Picket in Virginia by Green Berets and US Navy SEALS. This was not simply ‘basic’ training. They were trained in over 60 deadly skills, including the use of sophisticated fuses, timers and explosives, remote control devices for land mines, incendiary devices and the use of automatic weapons with armour piercing shells. Thus the US went about supporting a ten-year long jihad in the hope Soviet state capitalism would not encroach upon its central Asian markets and that the military cost of the operation would cripple the Soviet economy.

Blair’s comments on securing the 21st Century beg the question “on whose behalf?” Would Western forces rewaly be there if the smel of oil was not in the air? The oil reserves of Central Asia ( $12 trillion worth by some estimates) are large enough to attract any oil-crazed president and his lackeys and as Afghanistan is geographically located between the Caspian basin and the markets of China and the Indian sub-continent, we can well see the country’s strategic importance to foreign policy planners wishing to dictate the way in which the region’s oil and gas reserves are utilised to the benefit of the US dollar.

To be sure, Afghanistan is not the first war of the 21st Century as Bush claimed back in 2001, but just one battle in a larger war that began in 1945 with the US determined to control the world’s resources, and there is more than ample evidence to prove this. More importantly, though, the entire Afghanistan/Iraq episode serves to show the insanity of the system we live in, and the desperate need to wrest control of our planet away from the madmen before it is indeed too late. In the 20th century, some 220 million lost their lives in wars, in conflicts over trade routes, areas of influence, foreign markets, mineral wealth and the strategic points from which the same can be defended or in other words, in the name of profit.

As socialists, as observers of international affairs and commentators on the way they impinge upon the lives of our fellow workers, we are well attuned to the machinations of the elites of powerful countries as they seek to promote the interests of their corporate backers. Though it is no easy task for the uninitiated, we urge our fellow workers to be as vigilant as ever. To believe the arguments of the likes of Bush and Blair is to disarm yourself intellectually - for it is at times like the present, when the media is dancing to the tunes of governments, when the trumpets of jingoism, patriotism and reaction are sounding, that we need to be fighting the war of ideas with a little more gusto.

The solution to the ongoing insanity, we insist, remains the same. There is one world and we exist as one people in need of each other and with the same basic needs. There is far more that unites us than can ever divide us along cultural, nationalistic or religious lines. Together we can create a civilisation worth living in, but before that happens we need the conscious cooperation of ordinary people across the world, united in one common cause – to create a world in which each person has free access to the benefits of civilisation, a world without borders or frontiers, social classes or leaders and a world in which production is at last freed from the artificial constraints of profit and used for the good of humanity – socialism.



Tony Blair - Iraq is a disaster

Only those suffering from selective amnesia will not recall the nauseating lengths to which Tony Blair went in promoting the case for the invasion of Iraq, how he used 10-year-old information gleaned from the internet, and some student’ dissertation, to argue that Saddam Hussein was quite capable of lobbing a missile at Britain within 45 minutes.

Prior to the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, well over a million people took part in a mass protest in London - people fully aware at the time that the events of 9/11 had no link to Saddam Hussein (something George Bush promoted and later denied) and that he posed no military threat to the West. Likewise, the many who marched to Hyde Park that day were right in believing that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction—a fact that was proved within months—and that any war in Iraq would fully destabilise the country (ex-president George Bush Snr. in fact cautioned Dubya that invasion would lead to destabilisation). And you would have been in a minority had you not realised the link between the intended war and the fact that beneath the sands of Iraq lay huge oil resources.

Three years after the invasion, with 650,000 Iraqis dead, the country’s infrastructure in total tatters, the country racked by a civil-war that threatens the lives of hundreds of thousands more Iraqis, global terrorism far more of a reality than before the invasion, Blair has admitted that the whole damned episode is a ginormous cock-up.

Interviewed by David Frost on Al-Jazeera on Friday night, Blair sent a shock-wave through Westminster when, responding to Frost’s querying whether the Western invasion of the country had "so far been pretty much of a disaster", Mr Blair said, firmly: "It has."

However, rather than locating the problem in the invasion, the toppling of Saddam, the setting up of a stooge pro-Western government, Blair continued: "You see what I say to people is why is it difficult in Iraq? It's not difficult because of some accident in planning, it's difficult because there's a deliberate strategy - al Qaeda with Sunni insurgents on one hand, Iranian-backed elements with Shia militias on the other - to create a situation in which the will of the majority for peace is displaced by the will of the minority for war."

And who trained Al-Qaeda? British and US special forces, Mr Blair. And what has always been the will of the majority in Iraq, Mr Blair? That the Western occupying armies get the hell out of Iraq.

Notwithstanding the carnage engulfing Baghdad and British-controlled Basra, Blair maintained that British troops were not ready to cut and run.

"We are not walking away from Iraq," he said. "We will stay for as long as the government needs us to stay.” Or rather British and American forces will stay until the country’s oil wealth is secured for Western interests.

"And the reason for that is that what is happening in Iraq, as in Afghanistan, as elsewhere in parts of the Middle East, is a struggle between the decent majority of people, who want to live in peace together, and those who have an extreme and perverted and warped view of Islam, who want to create war.”

One wonders whether Blair gets his political weltanschauung from the same sources as his war-mongering counterpart across the pond. Nowhere do the politics of oil enter the equation – the real reason for the invasion.

Jut one day after the Frost interview and Blair was back-pedalling – for sure his telephone hotline buzzing all night with concerned messages from the jingoistic fraternity in Washington and the oil cartel at home – and his spokesman adamant that his apparent concession was a "straightforward slip of the tongue" – perhaps the kind is slip Mr Bush is so famous for! Blair’s spokesman continued: "He doesn't think that a democratically-elected government in Iraq is a disaster; he doesn't think that getting rid of Saddam was a disaster, but he does acknowledge there are difficulties, and he doesn't try to downplay those."

We wonder just what “difficulties” Mr Blair is thinking of. That in securing the ‘world’s richest prize’ people have to be killed and democratic elections – as in Iraq – have to be subverted. What, the elections were democratic, Mr Blair? Then why did all candidates first have to be cleared by the White House?

How can an election be construed as legitimate when it is carried out under foreign military occupation and when the country is apparently ruled by, and the election will be officially run by, a stooge government installed and kept in power by the army of occupation? Where the democracy in holding an election that is to be orchestrated from the US Embassy and which will be under the ultimate control of US forces? Where the democracy and freedom of expression when a raging civil war prevents large sections of the population casting a vote and when the election is so tailored as to bring into being a new assembly responsible for drafting a Washington–vetted constitution and selecting a government that will be allowed to exist only so long as it functions under the conditions of military occupation?

Toppling Saddam was not a disaster? The very reason Saddam was not toppled in the wake of the first Gulf War - when the US prompted northern Kurds and the southern Marsh Arabs to rebel against Baghdad, offering they would come to their aid, and then sat back as Saddam annihilated them – was exactly because it was recognised an unstable Iraq was not in US interests, that it was safer to keep Saddam in power. Saddam might have been an utter bastard, but as far as Washington was concerned in 1991 he was holding the country together. This is not to say that we, as socialists, believe Saddam should have been left in power, but it is instructive to point to glaring changes in US policy.

As socialists we do maintain that it is dangerous to listen to leaders of any party and from any country, regardless of their flower cant, and insist that anything they say is taken with a pinch of salt and that workers should organise against them and in their ilk and in our own interests. The concept of leadership has emerged with class society and will end when we abolish class society, when we abolish the profit system and all that goes with it. The master class have been allowed to lead because of their control over the means of living and by virtue of their control of the education system and their monopoly of the media and other information processes.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The greatest weapons we posses are our class unity, our intelligence, our ability to question every corrupt word that is uttered by politicians, and to imagine a world fashioned in our own interests. Leaders perceive all of this to be a threat and so will do anything to keep us in a state of oblivion, dejection and dependency – not least of these methods is to further lie to us at every opportunity. Our apathy is the victory they celebrate each day. Our unwillingness question everything they say, to unite as a globally exploited majority and to confront them on the battlefield of ideas is the subject of their champagne toasts.

When it comes to commenting on Iraq, on would have thought that Blair would have learnt his lesson and kept his ill-informed mouth shut. For over 3 years he has lied incessantly about Iraq. It is staggering that anyone in Britain still finds anything he says believable. Just to remind visitors to this blog of some of his untruths we’re listing a sample few of his Iraq-related porkies. If you think anything Blair says is trustworthy, consider the following:

1) "The assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt … that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons" (Tony Blair’s foreword to the dossier on Iraq, 24 September 2002)

Fact: After over three months of inspections, the UN weapons inspectors reported on 6 March that "No proscribed activities, or the result of such activities from the period of 1998-2002 have, so far, been detected through inspections”.

2) "There is no doubt about the chemical programme, the biological programme, indeed the nuclear weapons programme. All that is well documented by the United Nations." (Tony Blair, 30 May 2003)

Fact: The UN had found no evidence of any on-going programmes since the mid-1990s. Dr Hans Blix said on 23 May that "I am obviously very interested in the question of whether or not there were weapons of mass destruction and I am beginning to suspect there possibly were not."

3) "The reason why the inspectors couldn't do their job in the end was that Saddam wouldn't co-operate." (Tony Blair, interview on 4 April 2003)
Fact: Hans Blix told the Security Council on 7 March 2003 that "the numerous initiatives, which are now taken by the Iraqi side with a view to resolving some long-standing open disarmament issues, can be seen as 'active', or even 'proactive'".

4) "the UN has tried unsuccessfully for 12 years to get Saddam to disarm peacefully." (Tony Blair, interview in the Independent on Sunday, 2 March 2003)

Fact: In 1999, the Security Council set up a panel to assess the UN's achievements in the peaceful disarmament of Iraq. It concluded that: "Although important elements still have to be resolved, the bulk of Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes has been eliminated."

5) "We have already found two trailers, both of which we believe were used for the production of biological weapons" (Tony Blair, press conference in Poland on 30 May 2003)

Fact: Government experts believed that the trailers were used for the production of hydrogen for artillery guidance balloons - a system, incidentally, sold by the UK to Iraq in the 1980s.

6) “There is some intelligence evidence about linkages between members of al-Qaeda and people in Iraq." (Tony Blair to the House of Commons Liaison Committee, 21 January 2003)

Fact: In early February, a classified British intelligence report, written by defence intelligence staff in mid-January and presented to Tony Blair just prior to his 21 January presentation at the Liaison Committee, stated that there were no current links between the two, and that Bin Laden's "aims are in ideological conflict with present day Iraq".

7) "As the Foreign Secretary has pointed out, resolution 1441 gives the legal basis for this [war]" (Tony Blair to the House of Commons, 12 March 2003)

Fact: Resolution 1441 was secured on the British assurance that it did not authorise military action, even if the UK or US believed it was being violated by Iraq. Britain's UN ambassador Jeremy Greenstock informed the Security Council on 8 November 2002 that "There is no 'automaticity' in this Resolution. If there is a further Iraqi breach of its disarmament obligations, the matter will return to the Council for discussion".

8) "On Monday night, France said it would veto a second Resolution whatever the circumstances." (Tony Blair to the House of Commons, 18 March 2003)

Fact: President Chirac said that France would vote against any resolution that authorised force whilst inspections were still working. Chirac said that he "considers this evening that there are no grounds for waging war in order to ... disarm Iraq.
9) "The oil revenues, which people falsely claim that we want to seize, should be put in a trust fund for the Iraqi people administered through the UN." (Tony Blair to the House of Commons, 18 March 2003)

Fact: Britain co-sponsored a resolution to the Security Council, which was passed in May as Resolution 1483, that gave the US and UK control over Iraq's oil revenues.

10) "Our aim has not been regime change; our aim has been the elimination of weapons of mass destruction" (Tony Blair, press conference, 25 March 2003 )

Fact: UN weapons inspectors were reporting Iraq's "proactive" cooperation, and were offering that Iraq could be confirmed as fully disarmed within three months if that assistance continued. If Mr Blair's aim was the elimination of prohibited weapons, why terminate the inspection process just when it was most effective?

Today, meanwhile, Gordon Brown is in Iraq and no doubt the trip will be used as a damage limitation exercise in the wake of Blair’s unwitting confession. Brown’s remit? To visit and placate British troops who may have thought this was Blair saying they were going home, and announce at least £100 million in new aid for reconstruction. For what it’s worth, the figure is peanuts. On July 18th of this year US government's top auditor told Congress that the new Iraqi government would require at least $50 billion in aid just to rebuild the country's oil facilities and electrical grids to pre-invasion levels. Brown’s £100 million would not cover the damage that is done to Iraq as a direct result of the ongoing civil war each week.
This piece is also posted here.

Climatic Change

Sent to the Shields Gazette

The threat of global warming is clearly a global problem that can only be dealt with by co-ordinated action at world level. But this is not going to happen under capitalism. As a system involving competition between profit-seeking corporations backed up by their protecting states, it is inherently incapable of world-wide cooperation. There never has been such cooperation. Just the opposite, in fact. The inevitable clashing interests between different states, each seeking to pursue the interests of its profit-seeking corporations, breeds war rather than cooperation. Look what happened last century. Look at the invasion of Iraq this century.
So it’s not going to happen. There is not going to be any coordinated world action to deal with global warming as long as capitalism is allowed to continue. Something will be done but it is bound to be too little, too late.

It’s certainly going to be too little. These days, when private corporations have governments under their thumb much more than in the recent past, what is being proposed is not even state intervention to force carbon-polluting corporations to limit their emissions in the overall capitalist interest. It’s to try to use the mechanisms of the market to solve the problem: fiddling about with the tax system to make investment in anti-pollution measures more profitable; establishing an artificial world market and price for carbon. Anybody can see that this is not going to work.
Governments are also proposing that individuals play their part, as if individuals rather than the system were to blame. They want us to drive smaller cars, even cycle to work, turn off the lights when we leave a room, not leave our TV on standby, not fly to our holiday destination. That’s all very well but unless they want us to reduce our standard of living that will just mean we would have money to spend on something else. As the capitalist class are always wanting us to reduce our standard of living since this means more for them as profits - and provoke strikes and impose austerity to try to do so - , socialists are naturally suspicious of the motives behind the government propaganda here.

In any event since the great bulk of carbon emissions come from energy generated for industry, offices and commercial transport, as well as from deforestation, even if we did all the things they want - and we’re not saying we shouldn’t, that’s an individual life-style choice - it wouldn’t make much difference. Changing life-styles is no more a solution to global warming than letting the invisible hand of the market have a go.

Having said this, individuals do have some responsibility in the matter. Capitalism - the cause of the problem - only continues in the end because people put up with it. Most people don’t see any alternative to working for wages, producing for profit, using money, the world divided into states, the existence of armies. These attitudes both reflect and sustain capitalism. And every time people get a chance to vote, a majority back politicians committed to maintaining the capitalist system as the way of organising the production and distribution of wealth. So capitalism continues. As do its problems, including the threat of global over-warming. Maybe as this gets nearer people will be driven to consider an alternative.

Global warming can only be tackled by global action. And effective global action will only be possible within the framework of a united world. A united world is only possible on the basis of the Earth’s natural and industrial resources being the common heritage of all humanity.


Let the BNP have their communion

Today’s Guardian reports on a speech made to church leaders by Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, in which he states that BNP policies demand a forceful response from established churches and that BNP supporters be excluded from holy communion.

The Methodist Chuch has joined the fray, creating a website called Countering Political Extremism, seemingly a response to the BNP front organization Christian Council of Britain .
Said Mr Phillips: “I feel rage that my church might expect me to be in communion with such as Nick Griffin. This is where Christ puts us to the test.”

Revolutionary Act, ever striving to tell it like it is, ever ready to challenge the god myth promoters, wonders why Mr Phillips singles out those with racist policies. Surely any ‘true’ Christian – are there any? I’ve personally only ever met one – would be prepared to forgive the bone-headed transgressors of the BNP. The more fundamentalist god-botherers would take a stern biblical line and refuse communion to anyone who cocked a snook at the teachings of the “good book”.

Every religion has its doctrinal code of right and wrong. In Christianity this manifests as the Ten Commandments. If adherence to these Christian imperatives was the benchmark by which believers received or were refused communion then not only would churches be abiotic places but the entire capitalist class and their executive in government would be forbidden forever from partaking of the host.

Politicians are fond of starting wars on behalf of their capitalist cronies, either over trade routes, foreign markets, areas of influence etc. Bang goes the 6th Commandment: Thou shall not kill.
Politicians, as the tabloids are so wont to report, are the most polygamous bunch of reprobates in existence. Bang goes the 7th Commandment: Though shall not commit adultery.

Assisting with the robbery of the working class aside, on behalf of their capitalist cronies, politicians also commence wars with a view to securing the interests of their respective capitalist class – i.e. stealing Middle Eastern oil, not to mention small countries and islands ( Diego Garcia springs instantly to mind). In other words they are complicit in thievery. Bang goes the 8th Commandment: Thou shall not steal.Politicians are notoriously unforthcoming with the truth.
They lie and utter distortions at every opportunity for political gain. Bang goes the 9th Commandment - the one about telling porkies.

And breaching the 8th, above, goes hand-in-glove with the 10th Commandment - the one about coveting your neighbour’s goods.

So, straight off the cuff, there are five major biblical Commandments transgressed by politicians and sticky-fingered capitalists every day of the week. Indeed their entire raison d’etre lies in breaching the same at every opportunity. The crimes they enact each day could fill many volumes, yet Mr Phillips sees no wrong in their ways. They are welcome to share the body and blood of Christ.

It is instructive that Mr Phillips does not cite any objection to sharing communion with the likes of Blair and Bush and every other blood-drenched reprobate currently strutting their arrogance across the world stage, leaving in their wake mayhem, misery and disaster. His venom is reserved for a handful of degenerate pitiables in the BNP, who openly promote the politics of race. Since when has the Labour or Conservative parties or, in the US the Democrats and Repukes, been whistle-clean of the charge of racism?

Considering religion has been used as a tool for hoodwinking the masses for millennia, to mask the worst exigencies of the reign of the powerful for hundreds of years, to lend them a veil of respectability to help conceal the filth of corruption that oozes from each of their collective pores, I can think of no better place for a rotten politician than in a church munching on the host.Let the BNP share the mystery of transubstantiation!


Police Brutality - UCLA Student gets tazered

An Iranian-American UCLA student was shot by UCLA'S UCPD November 14th 2006, because he could not show his Student ID. He was shot 5 times with a taser gun. Trigger-happy cops threatened to shoot students who got too close. The Student yelled out that he had a medical condition, but to no avail - zap!

"This is a long-standing library policy to ensure the safety of students during the late-night hours," said UCLA Police Department spokeswoman Nancy Greenstein.
She said police tried to escort Mostafa Tabatabainejad, 23, out of the library after he refused to provide ID and would not leave. Tabatabainejad, who was arrested for resisting and obstructing a police officer, was later released on his own recognizance."
Lessons to ber learned?

1) Carry your student ID card.
2) Join the World Socialist Movement


The Pet Goat

I've waited a while to post this video (note - link now dead, video removed from original location).

Just after 9 am on 11 September 2001, the second airplane hit the South Tower of the World Trade Centre. President Bush was in Florida, at the Emma T. Booker Elementary School, listening to children read. Prior to entering the classroom he had been informed that a plane had hit one of the twin towers. Chief of Staff Andrew Card comes over and whisperes in Bush's ear, "A second plane has hit the second tower. America is under attack."

What does the Commander in Chief do? Absolutely nothing. He sat there in full knowledge that two planes, within miutes of each other, had hit the twin toweres - the symbol of US capitalism - that his country was under attack - but found it more important to read a kid's book, The Pet Goat. He sat for well over 5 minutes, doing nothing while 3,000 people were dying and the attacks were still in progress.

That expression on Bush's face says a lot.

And as an aside - where the hell did they get this teacher? What an appalling method of teaching. If that's how they teach kids in US schools then no wonder Dubya is so damned dumb.


Book Review

THE CORPORATION THAT CHANGED THE WORLD: How the East India Company Shaped the Modern Multinational.
By Nick Robins, Pluto Press, 2006,
224 pages ISBN: 0745325238 Paperback. £15.99
I often gauge how much I have enjoyed a book by the amount of highlighting and marginal notes I make in pencil. This book, like many on my shelves, will horrify those who prize pristine, unmarked first editions.

On the 31st December 1600 a precursor of the modern translational corporation came into existence. Its pioneering techniques in the field of trade and commerce, and downright murder and corruption, preceded by centuries the noxious business practices that we associate with today’s all-powerful corporations, many of whom have a higher turn over than small countries.
This book presents as a meticulous account of perhaps the most powerful corporation that ever lived, tracing how it came into existence, how it operated, its inner structure, the role of its own armies in its rise to supremacy, its part in the Bengal Famine when 10 million died as a result of the Company’s market manipulation, its militaristic role in the Opium Wars, its part in the Indian Mutiny and the Boston Tea Party and how, for the last twenty years of its existence, it ruled India as an agent of the British Empire. When it comes to downright exploitation, corruption, slaughter and sheer negligence and indifference to the suffering of others, perhaps no company that ever existed comes near the East India Company in its ruthless pursuit of profit, whilst refashioning the world commercial order in the interests of privilege and power for hundreds of years to come.

In its time the company had many critics, most notably Edmund Burke, “the real champion of India’s identity”, Adam Smith and Karl Marx. Burke fought long and hard to impeach the Company’s Governor General Warren Hastings for the devastation wrought on India in its endless search for profit.

Commencing his opening speech at Westminster Hall in February 1788, Burke said:

“I impeach him in the name of the people of India, whose laws, rights and liberties, he has subverted, whose properties he has destroyed, whose country he has laid waste and desolate…I impeach him in the name of human nature itself, which he has cruelly outraged, injured and oppressed, in both sexes, in very age, rank, situation and conditions of life.” (p. 135)

Despite Burke’s opening four day tirade against Hastings - one of the longest opening speeches in history - during which women were carried out fainting, at which the Speaker was “rendered speechless” and at which spectators were willing to pay £50 for a seat, despite an ensuing trial that lasted from February 1778 to April 1795, Hastings was acquitted.

Considering the Company’s operations for the New York Daily Tribune in the summer of 1853, Marx noted five characteristics:

“…a permanent financial deficit, a regular over-supply of wars, and no supply at all of public works, an abominable system of taxation, and a no less abominable system, of justice and law..” (p.159)

Satirising the Company’s administrative system, he commented how there existed “no government by which so much is written and so little done.”(p.159).

Marx furthermore viewed the company as a tool of British capitalism plc in India, observing how “the aristocracy wanted to conquer it, the moneyocracy wanted to plunder it and the millocracy to undersell it” (ibid).

Commenting on the Second Opium War, in Marx’s view attributable to the Company’s operations in the East and its insistence that it had the right to swamp China with drugs in the name of profit, regardless of the addiction-induced misery its trade created or how the Chinese authorities felt, he wrote:

“While openly preaching free trade in poison, it secretly defends the monopoly of its manufacture. Whenever we look closely into the nature of British free trade, monopoly is pretty generally found to, lie at the bottom of its’freedom’”.

In eight carefully researched chapters, Robins traces the Company’s operations from its inception as a trader in spices to its role in running the Indian sub-continent on behalf of the British crown, withholding, one imagines, very little regardless how gruesome, and there indeed are some stomach-churning passages.

In the final chapter, his analysis masterly done, Robins, contemplating the state of corporate play today, reflects how the Company’s legacy reveals the importance of taking on the mega-corporations who presently rampage across the planet unhindered, and this, for socialists, is the book’s one failing.

Robins’ remedy for curbing corporate power is simple:

“First of all, its market power and political influence must be limited…Next, stringent rules are needed to ensure that management and investors do not use the corporation as a tool for their short-term interests…And, finally, clear and forcible systems of justice have to be in place to hold the corporation to account for damage to society and the environment.” (p.181)

Thus, a brilliant attack on unchecked power in the pursuit of profit is marred by the simple request that the capitalist class behaves and shows a little more respect when carrying out its obscene business, and that the executive arm of capitalism – government – hurries to the rescue of society and the natural environment. Smiley-faced capitalism is, for Robins, the only remedy. Warren Hastings laughs in his grave.

All said, if you’re into the study of corporate power gone mad, read this