Veolia collects rubbish from streets and dustbins around the world. The company also provides transport. One of its contracts is in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank where the company is enabling illegal Israeli colonization and is profiting from it. The Israeli colonization effectively prevents any peace deal with the Palestinians. This endangers Israelis, Palestinians and many others worldwide. Most readers know that the colonization is remorseless and unashamedly racist, cruel, ruthlessly and brutally enforced, contrary to any acceptable notions of fairness. Mary Holmes and I have been valiantly pursuing the issue of Veolia’s collusion in this colonization process and the company’s eligibility, or ineligibility, to tender for our local authority rubbish collections.
Our argument is that, although under EU regulations there must be open and fair competition for local authority contracts, companies guilty of gross misconduct are ineligible to tender. Through contracted obligations to provide services facilitating current and projected further Israeli settlement, and profiting from these contracts, Veolia (Israel) is, under the Geneva Conventions, guilty of gross misconduct.
British local authorities, fearing possible litigation, are using the “Veolia-GB-is-nothing-to-do-with-Veolia-Israel” argument. It seems even Veolia doesn’t believe this but we are out of our depth in the murky waters of EU law and multi-national corporations. We are wary of accusations of malicious interference despite our good intentions. We can’t prove Veolia is “legally one entity”, which therefore should be barred from emptying European dustbins. However I have suggested to local authorities that it could be wrong not to exclude from tendering, contractors guilty of gross misconduct as this might be viewed as favouring a guilty contractor. A response is awaited.
Since we began thinking of challenging the use of Veolia a number of groups have shown interest and are urging further action, including legal challenges, leafleting, picketing town halls, petitions and demonstrations, but local authorities are unlikely to exclude Veolia unless they know it is lawful to do so. We shall watch developments but have no plans to escalate our campaigning. We think it was an important issue to have raised locally but KPC is not equipped nor mandated to mount legal challenges against local authorities, for example. Also, we are wary of any possibility that KPC could be accused of ‘interference’ in competitive tendering processes.
Anyone interested can read my latest submission to local authorities on our website (web page / Microsoft Word), and if you wish to pursue this further you are welcome to contact me or Mary Holmes. Locally, Palestine Solidartity Campaign groups are campaigning - contact Harold Molgard or Ben Jamal for Kingston & Richmond PSC, or Daphne Hussein for Merton PSC (email addresses removed to avoid spam -- contact us via the Contact us page if necessary). A recent recruit to the campaign who has set things alight is Samrina Mir from Croydon.
Noel Hamel October 1, 2010.
CND’s annual conference was held in London on 9th and 10th October. The first day was billed as an International Conference, looking at prospects for nuclear disarmament following on from the modest progress made at the Non-Proliferation Review Conference in May*. Speakers included representatives of the peace movements in USA, Germany, France and Japan, and there were plenary sessions and workshops discussing global nuclear disarmament, missile defence, nuclear power expansion (subsidised by the taxpayer), NATO and Afghanistan. A common theme emerged from all these discussions, which was that the US policy, through NATO, is aimed at maintaining US global power, over land, sea and air, and now space - the US missile defence system (“Star Wars”) covers Europe, but is also being exported across the Middle East, Japan, and Australia.
The second day was taken up with elections of officers and Council, the financial report and debates on resolutions – none of which resulted in any significant changes in policy. Dave Webb was elected Chair of CND, taking over the role from Kate Hudson, who has been appointed General Secretary – a post created to provide a professional element to the management team.
*The final agreement of the NPT Review Conference committed the nuclear weapon states to ‘accelerate concrete progress on the steps leading to nuclear disarmament’ and to ‘rapidly move towards an overall reduction in the global stockpile of nuclear weapons [and] further diminish the role and significance of nuclear weapons in all military and security concepts, doctrines and policies’. Also, it was agreed that the UN General Secretary would convene a conference in 2012, to be attended by all countries of the Middle East, to discuss a WMD-free Middle East.
UKTI DSO (UK Trade & Investment’s Defence & Security Organisation), the government department which exists solely to promote and support at taxpayers’ expense the sale of weapons worldwide (including to regions of conflict, to human rights abusers and to countries with significant development needs), is now part of the remit of Business Secretary and Twickenham MP Vincent Cable. Also included in Dr Cable’s responsibilities is the Export Credit Guarantee Department (ECGD) which underwrites losses when foreign buyers default on payments and which is at present overseen by Edward Davey, MP for Kingston and Surbiton.
As part of the ongoing campaign to close down UKTI DSO, Anne-Marie and Sarah from Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) attended KPC/CND’s October monthly meeting. They started by saying how delighted they are to have received a critique from Vince Cable on the CAAT report Private Gain, Public Pain. They are convinced that this was achieved because members of KPC in the Twickenham constituency went to discuss the issues with him and asked for his comments on the report. It has to be said though that Dr Cable was also besieged on the matter from other quarters: 450 MPs wrote to him at the request of their CAAT supporting constituents during Stop the Arms Trade Week in June.
CAAT has taken issue with or asked for clarification on some of Vince Cable’s comments such as numbers of jobs involved, arms subsidy figures and rules and regulations which are not applied in practice. They have also organised a meeting between a cross-party delegation of MPs and Vince Cable, and his special adviser will shortly be meeting with Ann Feltham of CAAT.
At the local level, our visitors emphasised how important it is to keep up pressure within the constituencies and it was decided that we should do the following:
Following the vote by delegates at the recent LibDem annual conference to close UKTI DSO and to end the granting of export credit guarantees for military goods (I have emailed both Vince Cable and Ed Davey on behalf of KPC/CND to say how heartened we were to hear this news), this is a crucial time to get the message across that instead of pushing arms sales around the globe and fuelling insecurity, abuse and destruction, taxpayers’ money would be better spent on tackling the real threats to our security such as climate change.
Back in 2001, we were promised (almost) that the US/UK bountiful offensive on Afghanistan would make the lame to walk, the blind to see and the illiterate to read. That picture of Arcadia would have breached every clause of the trade descriptions act.
Inspired by the rhetoric of Osama bin Laden, some Egyptian and Saudi students had hatched a plot in bed-sits in Hamburg to fly planes into the World Trade Centre and, since the US government was incompetent, they did so on 11 September 2001. Now the US, with others, began to regret having provided the seed-corn for and the propagation facilities for radical Islam in Afghanistan and Pakistan years before – and certainly the progeny of their effort was unappealing. The ruthless misogynistic Taliban administration was an open invitation for intervention by armchair crusaders everywhere. Wiser heads cautioned that invasion and occupation, however briefly, heralded unintended consequences, and that reordering other people’s countries is a virtual impossibility. But the gung-ho ambitions of Blair & Bush were not dampened.
In Afghanistan there have existed for centuries tensions between the Pashtuns and Tajiks and other groups of various ethnic origin. The British had carved up the area and drawn the Afghan/Pakistan border through the Pashtuns when Queen Victoria ruled the world. The Pashtuns formed an alliance with radical Islam in the 1990s and the Taliban rule was born. For years the Taliban Pashtuns and the Northern Alliance of Tajiks and others fought ruthlessly for control of the whole country. Everyone was too preoccupied with their civil war to care about New York and the World Trade Centre – but the attack of 9/11 was to bring the world crashing down on everyone. The invasion-generated chaos triggered the collapse of the hated Taliban regime. The Invaders bought the Northern Alliance Chieftains and Warlords and, installing them in power, gave preference to Tajiks and others, to the dismay of the Pashtuns who have continued resistance ever since. “Taliban” is now a generic term liberally applied to anyone resisting the government and/or the occupation. NATO soldiers are being killed by them. Resistance is partly fuelled by the brutality of the US forces who have routinely bombed villagers, caused wholesale slaughter and have rounded up unknown thousands of men and subjected them to murderous Medieval treatment in ‘black holes’.
The US flagship project is slipping backwards. It is a killing field for thousands of Afghans, and NATO soldier deaths are doubling year-on-year too. Malnutrition and poverty are increasing. Child and mother deaths are amongst the world’s worst and corruption is too. Money is liberally spent on the instruments of death with a pittance on aid and refurbishment – and much aid is stolen. None of the aims of the war are within site of being achieved after 9 years. In the face of evidence of a worsening situation British MPs voted overwhelmingly for more of the same on 9 September.
I understand the argument that the coalition government is not intent on pursuing policies aimed deliberately to cause death and destruction and we have all been tutored in the mantra about British soldiers dieing in the hills of Afghanistan so that we don’t die on London’s streets. Another view is that NATO’s continued presence is fuelling violence and hatred which may provoke some into contemplating attacks on European and American soil. An argument that NATO will leave when the Afghans take responsibility for internal security is questionable. No doubt, however, minds must be focused on bringing troops home sooner rather than later. Stop the War is urging us to join a demonstration on 20 November, 12 noon, central London. Anyone who believes the troops should NOT continue to stay in Afghanistan a day longer than necessary ought to be there. I shall be.
Noel Hamel, 10 October, 2010
I recently attended a study-day held at Oxford University’s Department of Continuing Education on ‘Asia and the World today’. It was divided into four parts, each part focusing on a different part of Asia. The areas covered were Korea, Japan, China and Afghanistan/Pakistan - this latter being the most interesting from my perspective.
Dr Chaudhuri explained very coherently the current US policy in the region - the US of course not having had any policy during the Bush administration - and went some way towards persuading me that it was a policy with some chance of success. Of course the main problem now is that almost all support for the AfPak programme has been lost in Western capitals, and, as a result, countries are looking to cut, not increase their commitments, troops, expenditure etc.
Obama’s strategy is basically regional and he perceives the key to making real progress to be an improvement in relations between India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan have both been heavily involved in Afghanistan, jockeying for position, so to speak, in order to protect their status for when the West leaves. Of course they are also at loggerheads over Kashmir.
A more depressing assessment of the current situation comes from Georges Lefeuvre in October’s ‘Le Monde Diplomatique’. I think his article is well worth struggling through, but it is a bit dense! To summarize massively - he believes that the situation will never be resolved unless the Pashtuns are given real recognition and the Durand Line is not allowed to divide them, in the way that it does now. Negotiating with the Taliban is not the answer and if some answer is not found soon by the international community, the whole region will descend into chaos.
The following is a news release by the Fellowship of Reconciliation:
Arms companies including BAE Systems are facing sharp criticism for the growth of robotic weapons that allow operators to kill people thousands of miles away.
At the Drone Wars conference which took place on Saturday 18th September at the University of London Union, a gathering of academics, activists and concerned individuals discussed the robotic arms race triggered by the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, known as drones.
Professor Dave Webb of Leeds Metropolitan University warned that arms companies are competing to develop ever more independent drones with less input from armed forces. Webb suggested that technology could lead to armed forces based mostly in control rooms, whose physical fitness is irrelevant and who are removed from the consequences of their actions. The British government deploys drones in Afghanistan and has ordered more from BAE. UK drones in Afghanistan are operated from a US Air Force base near Las Vegas.
Speakers at the conference included Professor Noel Sharkey of the University of Sheffield, familiar to viewers of TV's Robot Wars, and Chris Cole, former director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FoR), a Christian NGO.
FoR launched their new report, entitled Convenient Killing: Armed drones and the playstation mentality (which can be downloaded from their website www.for.org.uk). It states:
"A... serious ethical question is the extent to which armed drones will become autonomous in the future. While politicians and defence officials issue assurances that armed drones will always have a 'man-in-the-loop' to give the go-ahead before an attack, the military industry seem to be researching and exploring the development of drones that have the capacity to launch weapons autonomously...
"Drones are the latest in a long line of 'super' new weapons developed and used in the mistaken belief that they will provide a clean and tidy solution to human conflict. Time and again history has proved that this is a myth."
A conservative estimate suggests that US drone attacks in Pakistan have killed one civilian for every two combatants. FoR is pressing the Ministry of Defence to reveal details of civilian casualties caused by the UK's own drone attacks. The British reaper drone had been fired 97 times in Afghanistan by July 2010*. The US budget allocation for drones increased from $1.7bn in 2006 to $4.2bn in 2010. Eyewitness reports suggest that drones were used extensively by Israeli forces in Gaza in 2009.
*Revealed in leaked documents as reported in the Guardian on 25th July 2010.
While the majority of drones are used for surveillance, armed forces are increasingly using drones to launch missiles and bombs, often at distances of many thousands of miles. Armed drones have been used by the US in Afghanistan (since 2001), Iraq (since 2002), Pakistan (since 2004) and Yemen (since 2002), by the UK in Afghanistan (since 2007) and by Israel in Gaza (since 2008). It is estimated that drones are being used or developed by over forty countries.
The UK government has deployed three Reaper drones in Afghanistan, while other drones intended for UK forces are in development by BAE Systems. UK forces also rent Hermes 450 drones from Israel on a "pay-by-the-hour" basis.
A conservative estimate from the New America Foundation suggests that one third of the deaths resulting from drone attacks in Pakistan are civilian while Pakistan Body Count's assessment is much higher at 50 civilians for every combatant killed.
Further info: www.for.org.uk.
As everyone knows, the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, in Sarejevo on 28th June 1914 was the incident that sparked the First World War. The assassin, Gavrielo Princip, was a Serb nationalist who thought that Bosnia should really belong to a Greater Serbia. The Austro-Hungarian occupiers disagreed, sent a famous Ultimatum to Belgrade, and when it was not fully accepted within the two-day period granted, declared war on Serbia. The Germans, who had a military alliance with Austro-Hungary, were drawn in, and the rest is history of a very sorry kind. That’s the simple, generally-accepted, misleading story.
In fact, no one wanted a war. The First World War was not a war of conquest, in the manner of Alexander the Great. All those nations involved in decision-taking were aware of the potential for escalation to a world war, given the network of military alliances that would be activated. No one wanted that. Here’s how it really started. (For the sake of convenience we will use the convention widely employed, and refer to those in the Cabinet or military responsible for taking decisions of war and peace as if they were the whole country they represented. E.g., when we say Germany decided something, we really mean the top brass. The people are never even aware of what is happening in the secret corridors of power until it happens, and sometimes not even then.)
Germany was uneasy concerning military developments in Russia, a country it perceived as an enemy. When the Anglo-Russian Alliance was signed in 1907 Germany became even more alarmed. They felt encircled by foes. Russia started to develop its military capability after its embarrassing defeat by Japan, with a completion date expected of around 1917. Germany did not want a war, but if one were to be inevitable, then the sooner, the better, while Russia was still relatively weak.
So Germany pounced on the Sarejevo incident, and insisted that the Ultimatum sent to Serbia by their ally should be such that it would be rejected. There was a pro-war faction in Austria that agreed. Whilst it was hoped that any war between Serbia and Austria/Germany would remain local, it was realised even then that the conflict might well spread to become a world war, with the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey pitted against Russia and its allies, France and Britain. Germany hoped that Britain would remain aloof with its empire, and not be bothered with a merely European quarrel.
However, this did not happen. When Germany marched through neutral Belgium despite a British warning, Britain kept faith with its allies and joined the war.
Everyone was aware of the likely disastrous scale of the coming conflict. This was apparent in the diplomatic exchanges before war stared. But there were no mechanisms in place to guarantee the peace, except for military alliances, which on this occasion as on others, ended up magnifying the problem, making matters worse. Military alliances have a long history, and no doubt even a pre-history. It was the only insurance available. But after the end of the First World War an attempt was made to arrange an alternative security mechanism, a recruiting of many nations together to guarantee each other’s security. This was quite different from a military alliance, entered into often in secret, to afford protection against other military alliances. The new system was to be law-based, open, and offering immense strength through a united purpose of a multitude of nations. The League of Nations, the first ever attempt at cooperative security, did not work, in the end. It failed to prevent another world war, as powerful nations ignored it and came to bilateral and trilateral agreements after the old fashion.
To be continued next month.
Newsletter Editor for this issue was Gill Hurle.
Disclaimer: It is the nature of a newsletter like KPN that views cannot be sought on everything that appears herein, so views expressed are almost never the agreed opinion of the group.