News in brief

MPs vs war

A new cross-party group of British parliamentarians has been launched to press for British withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan Withdrawal Group has LibDem, Tory, Labour and Plaid Cymru members and is co-chaired by Green MP Caroline Lucas. The group will be holding regular public briefings in the House of Commons.

Obama's harvest

Residents of Pakistan’s border areas with Afghanistan (the “Federally Administered Tribal Areas” or FATA) are overwhelmingly opposed to both US military action in their region (87%) and the presence of al-Qa’eda in the FATA (77%), according to a poll conducted on behalf of the New American Foundation and Terror Free Tomorrow this July.
A huge majority, 77%, said that their opinion of the US would improve either “a great deal” (57%) or “somewhat” (20%) if the US withdrew from Afghanistan.

Obama's revenge

Excerpts from legendary investigative journalist Bob Woodward’s latest book Obama at War have appeared across the mainstream press.
Revelations that you may have missed include:

  • The Obama administration has a “retribution” plan calling for “bombing about 150 identified terrorist camps in a brutal, punishing attack inside Pakistan” in the event of a successful future terrorist attack in the US.
  • The CIA has recruited a 3,000-strong army of Afghans, known as “Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams”, some of whom are now conducting cross-border operations in Pakistan.
  • The commander of US/NATO forces in Afghanistan, general David Petraeus, believes that the war in Afghanistan “is the kind of fight we’re in for the rest of our lives, and probably our kid’s lives.”

Anna persisted

We now have the prison address of Swedish peace activist Anna Alvine Andersson, from the resistance group Ofog. Anna began a three-month prison sentence on 15 September for helping disarm 14 grenade launchers at the Saab Bofors Dynamics factory in October 2008 as part of series of coordinated actions against Swedish weapons exports.
Anna’s address for postcards: Anstalten, Hinseberg, Box 1005, 71892 Frövi, Sweden.

Catholics resisted

On 8 October, five US Ploughshares peace activists appeared in court on charges arising from their entry into the US navy’s nuclear weapons storage depot in Washington state last November. Fathers Bill Bichsel, 82, and Stephen Kelly, 61, Sr Anne Montgomery, 83, Sr Lynne Greenwald, 61, and Sr Susan Crane, 65, all pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, trespass, destruction of property on a naval installation, and depredation of government property. These charges carry sentences of up to 10 years.
The trial begins on 7 December.

BAE booted

Edinburgh students shut down their university’s career fair for 30 minutes on 6 October during protests against the presence of leading arms dealer BAE Systems.
Student pressure led the university to divest from BAE Systems in 2005, but the company – which is known to have supplied parts for the F-16 aircraft used by Israel to bomb both Lebanon and Palestine – continues to be invited to the fair.
A Ban BAE Campaign Pack – including an “Action Guide to Disrupting arms company recruitment” is available on request from Campaign Against Arms Trade:

SOCPA flouted

London CND continue to resist police attempts to halt their monthly vigil outside parliament. We reported last issue (PN 2526) that the Metropolitan police had given up their efforts to halt the anti-Trident vigil in Parliament Square, after the police phoned London CND worker (and PN news editor) David Polden, authorising future vigils.
Just after going to press, the same officer phoned to tell David the vigil had been disallowed because it wasn’t safe. It could only be held in nearby Old Palace Yard.
London CND decided to continue holding their vigil in Parliament Square, opposite Big Ben. At the October event the police decided to take no action. The anti-Trident vigil is held on the first Tuesday of each month, 5pm-7pm.

Activists suited

20 climate change activists are facing trial on 22 November, after being arrested in a night-time police raid in on the eve of their attempt to shut down E.ON’s Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal power station on 13 April. The activists, who are pleading not guilty on a necessity defence, face up to three months in prison for aggravated trespass.
114 campaigners were arrested in the pre-emptive April raid. In January another six of the 114 go on trial for the same “offence”; they are pleading not guilty on the basis that they had not yet decided to take action when arrested.

Israel refuted

Israel’s military “demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence” in its 31 May raid on the humanitarian aid flotilla bound for Gaza, according to a report by the UN Human Rights Council.
The report also concluded that Israel’s interception of the Mavi Marmara ship “was clearly unlawful”, that there is “clear evidence” to support prosecutions for the crimes of wilful killing, torture and inhuman treatment, and that Israel’s confiscation of video and photographic footage represented “a deliberate attempt by the Israeli authorities to suppress or destroy evidence”.

Nepal crisis

As PN went to press, the Nepali parliament was drifting into its fifth month without a government largely because of the obstinacy of the Nepali Congress party. The political deadlock is causing a financial crisis because a caretaker government cannot legally pass a budget.
On 19 October, the Maoists announced that they would only agree to the passing of the budget once the formation of a new government had been agreed with the other parties.
However, they indicated that they would be willing to allow the passing of a “technical budget”, “only to pay for day to day expenditure sans allocation for policy, programme or new projects,” in the words of Maoist leader Dev Gurung.
The Maoists have also made progress on the crucial issue of integrating Maoist ex-guerrillas into the Nepali security forces dependent on progress on the formation of a new government – and the drafting of a new constitution. On this at least there has been some progress.
On 19 October, it was announced that the parties had agreed nine of 11 key issues. The two remaining questions were: the form of a new electoral system; and whether to adopt the presidential or the Westminster model of leadership.
The Maoists want a presidential system; the other parties want a prime minister with a ceremonial head of state.
On 18 October, Nepali Congress leader Ramchandra Poudyal, stated that a new constitution should be promulgated only after the integration of Maoist ex-guerrillas with the security forces. The drifting continues.