Condoleezza Rice visits Jack Straw’s constituency of Blackburn – 31st March 2006 – and gets a warm reception from BAE systems

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Tactical Errors and Strategic Decisions

We don't tolerate torture

A warm welcome for some delighted customers

The threat of Invasion

Imagine

Tactical Errors and Strategic Decisions

Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State for the Bush administration (and former director of Chevron oil) has arrived in British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw MP’s constituency of Blackburn in Lancashire in the North of England today for a three-day visit

Secretary Rice claims the Bush administration made thousands of 'tactical errors' on Iraq but the right 'strategic decisions'. So invading Iraq, undermining the authority of the UN, causing many thousands of deaths and increasing Al Qa'ida support worldwide was a minor 'tactical error' was it? Or good strategy maybe?


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“We don't tolerate torture”

At a lecture at Chatham house the Secretary of State repeated the administration’s usual line that “we do not tolerate any American, at home or abroad, engaging in acts of torture”. Amnesty International say different.They report that torture continues in iraq and in US and allied military and CIA prisons worldwide.

Human Rights Watch report that “torture and mistreatment have been a deliberate part of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism strategy”. People are still being disappeared by the CIA and US military. New evidence of torture being ordered or approved by US officers and the Bush administration is coming out all the time from Human rights organisations from journalists from those who say were tortured and from US soldiers like Sergeant Samuel Provance and Captain Ian Fishback of the 82nd Airborne. Both have been punished by their superiors for acting “against the national interest”.

Amnesty International and Human Rights watch say torture - as shown above at Abu Ghraib - is still going on

Some people claim the Secretary of State is making a distinction between torture and methods such as humiliation, beatings, stress positions and sleep deprivation which supposedly don’t constitute torture.

Others point out that the US has ratified the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment under which all forms of mistreatment of prisoners are banned – and that Amnesty and Human Rights Watch reports show methods used by the US military and the CIA go all the way to torture – and sometimes death.

To be fair and balanced we should bear in mind the other side of the argument which is that there’s a global liberal media conspiracy to stop people hearing the truth about how great the Bush administration’s policies are for everyone around the world – and a few thousand handfuls of people keep getting out of hand a few thousand times in what are all isolated incidents which their officers and the government never knew a thing about - and they were frankly very, very shocked every time they found out. Decide for yourself.

Ms. Rice also emphasised that people have the right to protest (she probably meant unless they've been gagged and are on their way to Guantanamo, Bagram, Abu Ghraib or wherever).

Ms Rice's administration got their good friend Jack Straw MP to sack one Foreign Office official who did speak out against torture. The British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray was first suspended and then sacked for speaking out against torture. Murray was criticising torture by the regime of Uzbekistan's dictator Islam Karimov - who was then valued as a supposed ally in the 'war on terror'.

After Karimov had hundreds of people massacred in events reported by the world's media in Andjian Rice merely said there was a need for 'reform' in Uzbekistan.Straw , to his credit for once, finally stated the obvious but the Bush administration's use of torture and the British government's unofficial policy of turning a blind eye to torture remain unchanged.

President Bush meeting Islam Karimov, dictator of Uzbekistan

In the end Karimov told US forces to leave Uzbekisan and invited the Russians in. Britain and America had supplied military and financial aid , training and arms to Karimov to torture his people for supposed 'Al Qa'ida' intelligence which turned out to be worthless. As Craig Murray said we had “sold our souls for dross”.

Craig Murray - the British ambassador sacked for criticising torture


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A warm welcome for some delighted customers

Secretary of State Rice was struck by the warm welcome she received at a BAE systems factory in Salmesbury – part of Straw’s constituency. After the end of the Cold War BAE were struggling to get enough orders for arms and military technology. In early 2001 things were looking grim.

The War on Terror changed all that. After September 11th President Bush and Prime Minister Blair announced massively increased defence spending. The logic behind this seems to be that you can defeat terrorist groups using military force rather than the kind of namby pamby combination of good police work and diplomacy the Brits eventually succeeded with in Northern Ireland after decades of SAS hit squads and British military intelligence collusion in loyalist terrorist murders had failed. President Bush perhaps thinks launching repeated full-scale military assaults and air-strikes on Belfast would have brought the kind of 'peace' they have in Fallujah , Samarra and the other cities of Iraq.

Rice and Straw at the BAE Systems factory in Salmesbury


Just as the Blair government are in partnership with the Bush administration BAE looked for a partner company in the US – and found Lockheed-Martin who are based in Texas. BAE now announce they have £52 billion of contracts on their order books. BAE Systems have ‘vision and values’ and their website makes the proud claim that “We will delight all our customers”. .

Anyway in an amazing co-incidence BAE donated money to a Mr. Blair and Mr. Straw’s party. New Labour. According to the Centre for Responsive Politics both Lockheed-Martin and BAE Systems made donations of hundreds of thousands of dollars to Ms.Rice’s Republican Party in 2000 and again in 2004 (and most other years).

I don’t know if Blair, Straw, Bush or Rice were delighted – though the way the British and American governments kept giving BAE new contracts worth billions suggests they weren’t un-delighted. Some Labour party members and voters expressed little delight– I wasn't that delighted myself - but then none of us were BAE customers.

Lockheed-Martin and BAE Systems have contracts to build the US-UK Joint Strike Fighter and the resurrected ‘Star Wars’ or Strategic Defense Initiative or ‘missile shield’ ; as well asRAF jets, aircraft carriers etc..

The British government has also shown great warmth towards BAE by under-writing many of its deals with Export Credit Guarantees and even offering to pay the company another £1 billion of public money if the lovely monarchy of Saudi Arabia ( which hardly ever tortures British citizens ) is overthrown and loses them a customer. How surprising that they welcomed Jack and Condi so warmly.

There’s a bit of a row over the details of the Joint Strike Fighter deal – maybe that’s another reason Ms Rice is visiting Mr Straw – other than making sure that the Iranians get the benefits of the order, peace, security and prosperity which they’ve provided to the people of Iraq, who perhaps aren’t quite as grateful to Straw and Rice as the pair hoped they’d be. Few of the surviving Iraqis have so far expressed delight regarding BAE products as used in Iraq - but then BAE never claimed they would be - only customers.

The lovely, warm folks at BAE systems also provided jets to Indonesia to bomb the East Timorese and to Mugabe to keep the civil war in the Congo going – with the full support of the Thatcher and Major governments. The ‘New Labour’ government warmly let them keep doing so - supplying Indonesia with more hawk jets and spare parts which were used to bomb East Timor in the 1999 massacres. They also let BAE sell spare parts to Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

True they did impose the EU ban on arms sales to Indonesia for a couple of months at the height of the September 1999 when the media were focusing on the massacres there – but nobody’s perfect – and sales began again in November so the Indonesian military could kill the people of Aceh with British made weapons the same way they’d bombed East Timor with BAE Hawk jets.

The Blair government also let BAE sell a £28 mn air traffic control system to Tanzania which might otherwise have wasted its foreign aid money on welfare, health services or food subsidies for its own people. The warmth of BAE, Tony Blair, Jack Straw and friends made sure that didn’t happen.

Then there was the risk that the South African government would foolishly throw away its money on its citizens who had little money and many of whom already had AIDs - and as a result were offering low initial returns on any investment wasted on them. Thanks to New Labour and BAES systems the South African government were persuaded to invest sensibly in BAE products instead – and also got a large dividend for themselves.

When BAE have sold arms to the Saudis through the Al Yamamah and Al Yamamah 2 deals some of their executives got some warm dividends too. Some very very warm dividends. (Some cold and heartless people suggested that these were bribes or slush funds). The Labour Party’s pension fund also holds over 30,000 shares in BAE – cold , cynical people might go on about this or that being a ‘conflict of interest’ but the warm people among us know better.

Some former customers were obviously so delighted at BAE’s excellent services that they joined the company. The British arm of BAE has a former British Defence Minister – Michael Portillo MP on its board of Directors while their American arm’s board of directors is top-heavy with former Pentagon generals and ex- CIA and NSA.


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The threat of Invasion

Protesters' placards at Blackburn

The rest of Britain isn’t nearly so welcoming. She had to cancel her visit to a mosque in Blackburn because most people don’t want her here - possibly something to do with some strategic decisions on Iraq and torture? The BBC reported that the visit had been cancelled due to fears that protesters would ‘invade’ the building. You can see their point – Ms. Rice could never be involved in anyone invading anything. That would be a breach of the UN Charter which prohibits aggressive warfare. In fact friends in Blackburn inform me the majority of the Muslim community there agreed to ban Ms.Rice from all mosques.


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Imagine

Ms. Rice landed in Britain at John Lennon airport. She watched Liverpool Philarmonic Orchestra perform John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ for her. They told Guardian reporters they chose it specifically to highlight their opposition to Rice’s politics. We can only hope she’ll take the hint. .

The mood – other than among arms manufacturers and their governmental customers like one Jack Straw - was generally ‘Go home Ms. Rice’. For some reason starting un-necessary wars and allowing torture just isn’t popular here. We must be a very cold and unfriendly country. It’s just a pity she won’t be taking Jack Straw back with her to the White House where people have so much more warmth. Let’s hope she has a better flight home than all the people her administration has kidnapped , tortured or disappeared on CIA chartered planes re-fuelling at British airports and at Irish airports as part of the kidnapping and torture process - or ‘extra-ordinary rendition’as warm people call it. Meanwhile Mr. Straw and friends turn a blind eye.


'Imagine' by John Lennon

Imagine there's no heaven, It's easy if you try, No hell below us, Above us only sky, Imagine all the people living for today... Imagine there's no countries, It isn't hard to do, Nothing to kill or die for, No religion too, Imagine all the people living life in peace...

Imagine no possesions, I wonder if you can, No need for greed or hunger, A brotherhood of man, Imagine all the people Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one, I hope some day you'll join us, And the world will live as one.



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