The Iraq war – a fading memory?

bombing-baghdad-iraq-shock-and-aweI don’t know, I haven’t looked at the issues

Rhodri Morgan, first minister, Welsh assembly government, when asked if he supported the Iraq war.

 

 

At the start of the Iraq war, I suppose I could be considered a veteran of many direct action protests. But it had been a while since I’d got involved in anything like that. I’d heard some of the anarchists planned to go into Cardiff city centre when war was declared and blockade the road. So I headed down, determined to see what was happening but slightly uneasy about getting stuck in. When I got there, it was late afternoon but still sunny. Protesters had  shut down Duke Street by the side of the castle. They had handcuffed themselves to each other, spread across the road and covered their arms with plastic guttering – more difficult to separate them! The cops were completely baffled. The Red Choir sung away in solidarity. Cars beeped their horns, and it was like the general public hadn’t seen anything like it. I sat down with the people who had locked themselves down and chatted. We were surrounded by crowds of people on the road. We joked and I passed them water. They were in good spirits. Later, when night came down, the blockade ended and lots of people just anarchist-demo-iraqran amok in the city centre with the cops chasing them. There was a right mixed bag of people: “ordinary-looking” folk,  anarchists, Muslims, people who were pissed off with the fact the war started…..The baton had been passed over to another generation and a completely different set of people. It was the start of a whole different focus for the protest movement.

 

My whole life changed when my husband was killed during the events of 2004. He was returning home after work, when fighting broke out between armed groups and coalition forces. A stray bullet killed him instantly. I ran out of the house followed by my children, and I will never forget the sight of my husband lying dead in our street. I had been a happy wife, taking care of our 5 children at home; my husband had always cared for us. Suddenly everything became my responsibility. I felt lost, I had no support, and I did not know how to face the outside world alone. crying_iraqi_womanMy 16-year-old son had to leave school to earn a living as a cleaner, there was no other choice. One day as my son worked, there was shooting and because he was just a child, he became scared and ran to the street. A sniper shot him in the head and killed him.

Um Mohammed, Falluja

 

To date 1,320,110 Iraqis have died as a result of the war, according to Just Foreign Policy. The figure is based on the 2006 Lancet report.

I have asked you to meet me many times – Sedgefield council in particular at the start of this campaign. I have asked you for a full, open and public debate between us about the war on Iraq.

Now I understand a little more easily why you refuse – not Sedgefield Election Countonly because you are vulnerable on so many counts about the legality of the war, not only because, maybe, your conscience troubles you, not only because you are the Prime Minister and I am merely a retired paramedic of little consequence.

No, you refuse to meet me because to you, the dead are not people; the dead are not names; the dead are not even numbers.

Reg Keys to Tony Blair. Reg Keys’ son, Tom, was a soldier who died in the Iraq war, aged 20.

Total number of countries who participated in “Coalition for the Immediate Disarmament of Iraq” at the start of the war: 31, including the United States.

Current number in coalition: 4 – United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Romania.

I’ve got no difficulty with the conflict in Iraq being a major part of what I’ve done.

Tony Blair during an interview in May 2007

 

glascoedThe strongest memory for me was when we went to carry out a ‘weapons inspection’ at the BAE bomb factory in Glascoed in the run up to the war. A group of us approached the site only to be met with a security guard standing behind the fence. We stood there for a few minutes then turned away. But as we were leaving something happened. Some sort of realisation spread through the group that we weren’t going to let one guard get the better of us. We stopped, turned round and walked back to the fence. Then we climbed over it and spread out over the site and carried out our ‘inspection’ until the cops turned up. We’d won and it felt fantastic.

 

As of November 2008, 2.8 million Iraqis were displaced inside Iraq.

 

Days before the invasion a few of us decided to disrupt the Welsh assembly. We had to sit in the visitors’ gallery for 45 minutes listening to assembly members going on about carrots or something before our time came. My legs turned to jelly as I sat there waiting. Then, at exactly 2.45, we got up and jumped over the barrier into the chamber shouting at the politicians, telling them to do something to stop this war happening. It was one of the most exhilerating moments of my life. We demonstrated until guards pushed us to the ground and dragged us away…no doubt to the relief of the assembly members who could get back to talking about important issues of the day…

 

We are against all wars. All wars are against us

  

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Who killed Nikkita Walters and Katie-Jo Davies?

The movers and shakers of the Welsh weapons industry will gather on Tuesday 7 April 2009 for the annual Aerolink Wales arms fair. Organisers promise ‘a host of new opportunities for our attendees’ plus a very pleasant stay – at the taxpayers’ expense, of course – in the 4 star Vale of Glamorgan Hotel and Spa.

But just who are the people intent on putting Wales at the forefront of the global arms trade?

Here's to more death and destruction!

Here's to more death and destruction!

First minister, Rhodri Morgan, makes no bones of his support for the Welsh war machine. In early February 2009 he was in north Wales offering support to Saygrove Electronics Ltd, which produces missile systems. Two weeks before that he visited Hawker Beechcraft in Broughton, which makes the spy planes that patrol the skies above Afghanistan and Iraq.

And when the announcement of the new military academy at St Athan was made on the steps of the Senedd in 2007, Rhodri and Welsh politicians from all parties were queuing in front of the TV cameras to express their delight at the £14 billion project, hailed as the saviour of the south Wales economy.

Ieuan Wyn Jones, country lawyer turned arms dealer

Ieuan Wyn Jones, country lawyer turned government arms dealer

Now that the academy looks doomed to fail, Rhodri and Ieuan ‘deputy dawg’ Wyn Jones, his Plaid Cymru sidekick and minister for enterprise, innovation and networks, will no doubt be using Aerolink 2009 to push for companies to set up at the ParcAberporth UAV technology park near Aberystwyth, where unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), such as the Hermes 450 made by Israeli firm Elbit Systems, are tested. According to the technology park’s website a ‘generous and comprehensive support structure [is] available to occupiers’. By May 2008 £8.7 million of our money had gone towards making Parc Aberporth one of Europe’s leading military testing centres, attracting not just Israeli UAV manufacturers but many others from around the world.

Mark Norris, head of aerospace and defence, IBW; director of AWF

Mark Norris, head of aerospace and defence, IBW; director of AWF

Making sure Rhodri and Ieuan’s pledges are turned into action is the job of Mark Norris, head of aerospace and defence at International Business Wales (IBW), a government department under the direct supervision of Wyn Jones which offers ‘an unrivalled package of skills, sites and support’ to the arms industry. IBW is a main sponsor of Aerolink 2009 so Mr Norris will, no doubt, be courted by representatives of arms manufacturers from around the world eager for handouts. Yet far from providing the ‘unbiased’ eye of a civil servant out to get the best deal for the taxpayer, Norris is indisputably on the side of the arms industry, demonstrated by the fact that he just happens to be a director of Aerospace Wales Forum Ltd (AWF), a private lobbying company – yet in receipt of public money – run by CEO John Whalley, whose thirty years of experience at BAE Systems, the UK’s premier arms manufacturer, put him and his lobbying outfit at the heart of the Welsh arms industry.

John Whalley, ex-BAE Systems and CEO of Aerospace Wales Forum

John Whalley, ex-BAE Systems and CEO of Aerospace Wales Forum

Politicians and manufacturers would be lost without the research and development (R&D) expertise of Wales’ top universities. Cardiff and Swansea universities have received at least £7 million of public money to help private companies develop their weapons capability. In addition, Bangor and Aberystwyth universities (along with Swansea) got £17 million of taxpayers’ money last year to work on the Tyciant project which aims to develop further UAV technologies.

Getting our children involved in the war effort is the task of John Steele, University of Glamorgan academic, director of AWF and representative of the Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC). At a Welsh assembly science policy review meeting in 2005 Mr Steele, in his role as ‘coordinating and implementing a Welsh academic and skills aerospace strategy,’ declared the national curriculum as ‘too prescriptive and too soft’. His solution?  ‘Mathematics, Science and Innovative skills must underpin any future education system’. Fellow AWF director John Whalley’s former employer, BAE Systems, has taken Steele’s words to heart by opening an ‘education’ centre at its Glascoed bomb-making factory where primary school children are promised ‘a unique learning experience to bring the subject of World War 2 to life’.

military academic, AWF director, representative of SBAC

John Steele, military academic, AWF director, SBAC people and management board

Luckily the children can leave the bomb factory and go home at the end of the day. Not so fortunate were air cadets Nikkita Walters and Katie-Jo Davies, the teenage cousins from Gilfach Goch, killed above the skies of St Athan during one of the RAF’s ‘First Flight experiences‘.

            As Rhodri Morgan, Ieuan Wyn Jones, Mark Norris, John Whalley and John Steele cut deals over wine and canapés at Aerolink Wales 2009, dreaming of the world’s biggest and brashest training camp, serving the armies and airforces of the world, we wonder if any of them will pause to remember Nikkita and Katie-Jo…

Huw ‘gravy train’ Lewis makes the news

Huw Lewis: knight in shining armour?

Huw Lewis: knight in shining armour or hypocrite?

Huw ‘gravy train’ Lewis, labour arsembly member for Merthyr Tydfil (even though he lives in Penarth with fellow Labour AM Lynne Neagle) has recently been heard criticising US firm Covanta over plans to build a huge waste incinerator in his constituency. Lewis is right to express his concerns. Covanta was found guilty of violating employment laws in the US and has been fined hundreds of thousands of pounds after exceeding emission levels of carcinogenic chemicals from its American incinerators.

‘Frankly, I find it a little surprising that the assembly government has been courting a company that has a string of environmental breaches and seems to also engage in union-bashing,’ said a perturbed Lewis.

Perhaps Huw might like to respond to South Wales Anarchists’ revelations last month that taxpayers’ money, set aside to provide for his generous pension, is being invested by Baillie Gifford Life Ltd in companies that, er, destroy the environment and abuse workers’ rights!

Alun 'greasy wops' Cairns

Alun 'greasy wops' Cairns

And whilst we’re on the subject of our arsembly members’ pension fund scam, we’re wondering why Alun ‘greasy wops’ Cairns hasn’t quite managed to remove an entry in the Welsh assembly register of members’ interests which still has him as chair of the pension fund trustees even though he was forced to resign from the post on 16 January 2009. Could we remind the diminutive tory that, according to section 36 of the Government of Wales act 2006, standing order 31 requires members to register within 4 weeks any changes to those interests. Oh dear, it looks like Alun has screwed up yet again…

From Glascoed to Gaza: Welsh Assembly government implicated in Israeli war crimes

The aftermath of Israeli attacks in Gaza

The aftermath of Israeli attacks in Gaza

As Palestinian survivors of the Israeli onslaught in Gaza huddle in the ruins of their devastated communities, it will be cold comfort to them to know that the weapons used against them have been developed – in part – in a country proud to be committed to a sustainable future: Wales. While the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) talks of having “a real part to play in influencing change at home and on the international stage”, the truth is that Welsh taxpayers’ money is being used to subsidize the arms industry in Wales – an arms industry that is deeply implicated in Israeli war crimes in Gaza.

Israeli Hermes 450

Israeli Hermes 450

The Israeli military employ UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) to target Palestinian homes, schools and hospitals. These are the Hermes 450, made by the Israeli firm Elbit Systems, using engines built in Birmingham. The pilotless drones are then brought to Parc Aberporth in west Wales for testing. This facility has been supported by £8.7m in grants from the WAG.

Israeli Apache attack helicopter

Once the “targets” have been identified, next come the bombs. The Israeli military use Apache attack helicopters, which Palestinian human rights activists have described as “a symbol of indiscriminate military violence.” The Apaches rely on transformers made by Penny & Giles Controls of Cwmfelinfach, Gwent. Then there are the F-16 fighter jets, using components made by BAE Systems, which operates a munitions factory in Glascoed and runs a military training school in Cwmbran. These same jets bombed the Shij’ia Family Health Care Centre in Gaza , which runs a mobile dental clinic wholly funded by the people of Wales through the Near East Council of Churches.

The ruins of the health care centre

The ruins of the health care centre

Incredibly, the health care centre was telephoned 15 minutes in advance by the Israelis to warn them that they would be attacked – no case of “collateral damage” there then.

Of course the Welsh arms industry doesn’t end there. With over 180 companies in the aerospace sector in Wales, we are now home to the likes of General Dynamics and Raytheon, makers of tanks, submarines, bombs, rockets and much much human misery. If only these companies would get together in one room so outraged Welsh taxpayers could show what they think of them… Well, quit dreaming. All of these murderous scum and more will be attending the Aerolink Wales 2009 exhibition, to be held at the Vale Hotel in Cardiff, on 7th April this year. The South Wales Anarchists will be there. Will you?

 

UAV Engines Ltd, Lynn Lane, Shenstone, Lichfield, WS14 0DT. Tel: 01543 481819. uav@uavenginesltd.co.uk

Penny & Giles Controls, 36 Nine Mile Point Ind. Est., Cwmfelinfach, Gwent NP11 7HZ Tel: 01495 202000. sales@pennyandgiles.com

BAE Systems Land Systems Munitions, Usk, Monmouthshire, NP15 1XL. Tel: 01291 672211.

BAE Systems: Cwmbran Training College, Beacon House, William Brown Close, Llantarnam Park, Cwmbran, Gwent. Tel: 01633 835123. trainingcollege@baesystems.com www.cwmbrancollege.com/

www.aerolinkwales.co.uk  The Vale Hotel, Hensol Park, Hensol, Vale of Glamorgan, CF72 8JY. Tel: 01443 667800. www.vale-hotel.com