Thursday, August 31, 2006

Prison isn’t working

One statistic New Labour is no doubt proud of is the record number of people in prison. On August 29, the prison population in England and Wales reached 79,247, an all-time high. The absolute maximum the system can hold is 79,000. The total in jail represents a staggering 33% rise since 1997, when New Labour first came into office.

Even prison officers are worried about what they describe as critical levels of overcrowding and the increased risk of violence. Brian Caton, the head of the Prison Officers Association, said: "Prison officers know about violence and have seen it escalate in the last 12 months. I think we are in danger of all sorts of disruption. You can feel it in the air."

The sharp rise in the prison population is in part driven by the harsher action against ex-prisoners who breach their release terms. Home Office figures show that the number of offenders who have been recalled to custody has risen by 350% in four years and now accounts for 11% of the prison population in England and Wales.

All these brutal statistics confirm that locking people up in Britain is simply a form of state retribution. The penal system has little in common with ideas of rehabilitation which prison reformers have advocated for more than a century. In any case, rehabilitation is not possible when prisons are full to bursting and offenders are locked in their cells for long periods.

New Labour’s answer? Well, it has introduced at least 300 new criminal offence. Now the charming Home Secretary, John Reid, is planning to build 8,000 new prison places! When you build a new road to ease traffic, it too quickly becomes congested. Build new prisons and they will fill up as quickly as they come on stream.

What is self-evident is that the prison and criminal justice systems actually produce criminals rather than addressing or tackling the causes of criminality. The government would rather spend an average of £40,000 a year keeping someone locked up than face up to the root causes. New Labour has reduced the issue to one of "crime management", adopting an authoritarian law-and-order mantra. But in practice, the government’s crime and punishment approach is simply not working.

Paul Feldman, communications editor

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Another week in the prison known as Palestine

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
Weekly Report: On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory No. 33/2006 17 - 23 August 2006

  • 8 Palestinians were killed by IOF [Israeli Occupation Forces]
  • A woman from Rafah died from a previous wound she has sustained when IOF attacked her and her two children, who were killed in the attack.
  • Two of the victims were extra-judicially executed by IOF.
  • 26 Palestinian civilians, including 8 children and a woman, were wounded by the IOF gunfire.
  • IOF launched a series of air strikes on a number of houses in the Gaza Strip.
  • Two houses were destroyed in Rafah and Jabalya.
  • IOF conducted 44 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank, and two others into the Gaza Strip.
  • IOF arrested 64 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, including 5 children and 4 women.
  • IOF arrested the Deputy Prime Minister and the Secretary of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
  • IOF raided offices of 3 charitable societies in Hebron.
  • IOF razed at least 30 donums[1] of agricultural land and arrested 5 Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.

IOF have continued to impose a total siege on the OPT; IOF have imposed a tightened siege on the Gaza Strip and there have been shortages of foodstuffs and fuels; and IOF positioned at a various checkpoints in the West Bank arrested 9 Palestinian civilians, including two children.

IOF have continued to construct the Annexation Wall in the West Bank; they confiscated more areas of land in Tulkarm; they resumed the construction of a section of the Wall near "Shavi Shomron" settlement in the northern West Bank; and they used force to disperse a peaceful demonstration protesting the construction of the Wall in Bal’ein village, west of Ramallah.

As the international community has remained silent, IOF have continued to wage a full scale offensive on the Palestinian people, especially in the Gaza Strip. During the reported period, IOF have continued their attacks on Palestinian civilians and property.

PCHR, monitoring with utmost concern the developments of this offensive, calls upon the international community, particularly the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and United Nations, to immediately intervene to force IOF to stop this offensive and lift the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

US housing market in free fall

More than one year ago the Economist warned that "the total value of residential property in developed economies rose by more than $30 trillion over the past five years, to over $70 trillion, an increase equivalent to 100% of those countries' combined GDPs. Not only does this dwarf any previous house-price boom, it is larger than the global stock market bubble in the late 1990s… or America's stock market bubble in the late 1920s.In other words, it looks like the biggest bubble in history".

Bubbles always burst, and it’s happening in the United States right now, producing recession, slump and bust. Official figures show that the number of new homes sold in July was 22 per cent lower than a year earlier. "Things do seem to be getting worse very quickly. Freefall is a strong word, but I think it's the right one to use here," says Paul Ashworth, chief US economist at Capital Economics. Ashworth reckons 30 per cent of all the jobs since 2001 - 1.4 million - have been in sectors related to the housing market boom, from construction to DIY stores. As the boom runs out of steam, Capital calculates that 73,000 jobs a month will be lost.

The speculative house-building boom produced the biggest glut in new homes for decades. Sales of consumer durables, like furniture and washing machines will tumble. Over the next several months the long consumer boom will melt away as millions of home-owners are overwhelmed by growing mountains of debt. Buyers have been taking up mortgages of as much as 105 % of the price of the property without any proof of income or other security on the false expectation that prices would continue to rise. Many are tied into schemes that progressively raise the repayments.

The bursting of the bubble in the 1990s ruined many of those who held shares or worked in the companies concerned. The collapse of the US housing market will damage every home-owning family and many more besides. The global impact will be severe. The speculative housing boom in the US as well as in Britain, Australia, France, Spain and China and elsewhere was made possible by the rapid growth of easy credit. Restrictions were eased to fuel the growth in consumption needed by the expanding corporations as they racked up production during the recent phase of globalisation. Now banks are faced with a rising tide of bad debts and they will turn the screws on the same people they once forced easy credit on.

Gerry Gold, economics editor

Friday, August 25, 2006

Using the NHS to launder public money

The revelation that iSoft, a key but deeply troubled software supplier to the huge NHS IT project Connecting for Health (CfH), is being investigated for "accounting irregularities" by including revenue it had not yet received – is symptomatic of a wider malaise. The debacle at iSoft, whose three founders made £81m by selling shares before the story broke, highlights the irreconcilable tension between the bottom-line concerns of private sector companies and the not-for-profit, healthcare for all, free at the point of delivery ethos which has been enshrined in the NHS for more than half-a-century.

The cost of the hugely complex CfH is claimed by some to be likely to reach £20 billion or even £30 billion. This is money raised through taxes, and like many New Labour projects, is channelled through the public sector into the pockets of their share-holding profit-seeking friends and sponsors. And all the evidence points to the expectation that, like much smaller-scale projects including those in the Ministry of Defence, the BBC and the Inland Revenue, this one will yield little or no benefit, or even inflict major damage on the services provided by the 1.3 million NHS staff.

Some of the features of the CfH programme – electronic transmission of prescriptions, the storage and transmission of digital images, and not least provision of an electronic record for every patient, would do much to bring the NHS’s use of information and communications technologies into line with other major enterprises. But others, like the Choose and Book flagship, are intended to further open the NHS to the use of private hospitals.

Connecting for Health is headed up by a former partner from consultancy Deloitte, helicoptered in to become the UK’s highest paid civil servant. The project has been steered through the complexities of public sector procurement by Kellog, Brown and Root, a company with long experience in such matters. Until last month, KBR, a part of Halliburton, the giant American oil and engineering company, and US vice-president Dick Cheney's former employer, was the US military's biggest contractor in Iraq. But it too has been under investigation for a range of accounting irregularities said to involve massive fraud and waste.

Just like the PFI hospital building programme, CfH is part of New Labour’s huge money-laundering operation using public sector workers to "add value’" for the shareholders of corrupt global corporations.

Gerry Gold, economics editor

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Priced out of the market

The housing crisis only gets worse. A new survey shows that couples who want to buy their first home must first save the equivalent of three-quarters of their joint take-home pay. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors calculates it would take a couple nearly seven-and-a-half years to save up the £29,200 needed to cover the deposit and associated costs if they put aside 10% of their income each year. This has soared since its low of two-and-a-half years in early 1996. So it’s no surprise that first-time buyers, who made up half the market a decade ago, now represent just a third of all transactions.

In early 1996, the average price of a British home was £51,000, according to building society Nationwide. Last month, that figure was £168,000. In London, the prices are probably double the UK average, making it impossible for anyone new to get into the housing market – unless they are very rich. According to building society Halifax, the average London house costs over 11 times the annual wage of ambulance staff and 9.5 times a nurse's salary - more than double the 3 to 4 times ratios considered by most lenders.

The desperate position that average wage earners face can be traced directly to the actions of the Tory governments of 1978-1997 and New Labour since then. Under the Tories, all the best council housing was sold off for a nominal sum and only the older, poorer stock remained. Councils were forbidden to build new homes as replacements. New Labour continued these policies - and made matters worse.

Investment in new affordable homes for rent built by housing association was cut back in favour of building for sale. The government would rather loan nurses money to take on a massive mortgage rather than offer them somewhere decent to live. So if you can’t get on the “property ladder”, then you either share or become homeless. If you are homeless, the local council will rent a property in the private sector because they have few of their own to spare. Last year, councils in London gave £600m in housing benefit to private landlords to house the capital’s 60,000 homeless households. As for those who think they are sitting pretty now, many are in serious difficulties after borrowing against the inflated value of their homes. When prices fall and interest rates rise, as is certain to happen, many will face debts greater than their asset and be unable to pay their mortgage. It doesn’t take a genius to see that the market “solution” New Labour has encouraged has benefited a few at the expense of the vast majority. No news there.

Paul Feldman, communications editor

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Hitting the climate change target

Put 9 October in your diary. That’s the day when Britain faces exceptionally high autumn high tides. If these coincide with heavy storms, many parts of England, including the East Coast, the Thames Valley and London, will face the danger of serious flooding. That’s the stark warning from leading scientists, who have taken the opportunity to slam New Labour for cutting national funding for flood defences just as climate change begins to bite.

Last month the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) told the Environment Agency to cut its £400m flood protection budget by £15m, which will affect future mapping for floods and improved warning systems. No less a person than Professor Edmund Penning-Rowsell, head of the Flood Hazard Research Centre at Middlesex University, commenting on the cuts, said on Tuesday: "People enjoying the beach this summer are probably not aware that our coast is in crisis. It is where the risks and dangers of flooding are increasing. We're playing catch-up to a certain extent and the trends to the distant future don't look at all promising. There is unease in the profession as to whether we are spending enough money to deal with the kind of problems climate change will create in 20 or 30 years."

Jean Venables, vice-president of the Institution of Civil Engineers and former chairman of a regional flood defence committee, said that three years ago the government pledgetto increase flood defence investment. "It's extremely disappointing for the government to be reducing the budget for flood-risk management," Dr Venables said. "We need to look very hard at doing proper maintenance of flood defences. I'm very concerned that Defra has gone in the wrong direction."

New Labour’s "green" credentials are clearly not worth the paper they are written on. Carbon emissions have increased under this government, which is infatuated with cars and driven entirely by the considerations of the corporate sector. Demonstrations, like the one planned for 4 November by the Campaign Against Climate Change, need to focus on much more than simply trying to get the US to sign up to Kyoto and putting pressure on New Labour. That’s far too limited an aim and actually a waste of effort. There is also a real danger of reinforcing the illusion that governments respond to rational argument and can even alter the way corporations function. Why beat about the bush? What’s actually wrong with saying that global capitalism itself, with its need to churn out more goods at the expense of the planet, is actually the source of the problem, and that it can always count on its chums in governments around the world? At least this would get to the heart of the climate change crisis and show that outside of transforming our economic and political framework there are no quick-fix solutions.

Paul Feldman, communications editor

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

New Labour is now beyond belief

Opinion surveys often reflect no more than the social mood of a particular moment, but the Guardian/ICM poll published today will nevertheless come as a bit of a shock to New Labour. The polls shows support for the Conservatives climbing to a lead that could give them a narrow majority in the Commons, while Labour has plunged to a 19-year low.

Significantly, 72% also say that government policies are at least partly responsible for the increased terror threat in Britain. A mere 1% of voters think the government’s foreign policies – such as the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan - have made Britain safer. Furthermore, only one in five believes that government accounts of the alleged terror threats are true while more than 20% think they are actually exaggerated.

Overall, you could say, New Labour is now viewed as an untrustworthy, lying bunch of self-seeking politicians. What a state of affairs after nine years in office with thumping great majorities! And what an indictment of the New Labour "project" which aspired to replace the Tories as the favoured party of the establishment and capitalist class.

New Labour took people’s desires for change and trashed them into the ground. Picking up where the Tories left off in 1997, the Blair regime quickly showed themselves, in Oscar Wilde’s immortal words, as cynics "who know the price of everything and the value of nothing". Now they’ve been found out, and as a result there is a real possibility of the once-discredited Tories returning to power.

Desperate governments often do desperate things. We should be on our guard against some joint New Labour-state provocation/war aimed at shoring up authority and credibility. One thing seems certain, however. We are drawing to the end of the New Labour era and the time is ripe for developing an alternative that goes beyond the tweedledum-tweedledee of parliamentary politics.

Paul Feldman, communications editor

Monday, August 21, 2006

A new offence: ‘Travelling while Asian’

The removal of two men of "Middle Eastern or Asian appearance" from a holiday flight because other passengers feared they were terrorists, reinforces two points: the government’s populist policies are counter-productive and dangerous, while terrorism itself divides communities and strengthens the state.

Two young men were removed from a flight to Manchester from Malaga, Spain, after passengers became suspicious of their behaviour. Other passengers refused to fly unless the two were removed on Monarch Airlines flight ZB613. Muslim MP Khalid Mahmood described the incident as "hugely irrational". "People need to get their senses back into order. You can't just accuse anybody who's of Asian appearance and treat them like a terrorist," said the Labour MP for Birmingham. "If somebody is threatening anybody it's understandable, but when they are just travelling for their own needs it's not. People just need to calm down."

What the MP omitted to do was to hold his own government responsible for the hue and cry against Muslims. New Labour has demonised the Muslim community in its "war on terror". Ministers hold the Muslim community as a whole responsible for any would-be suicide bombers in their midst. They refuse to acknowledge any linkage between their invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and the targeting of Britain by Islamic-inspired terrorists.

The hysteria whipped up at airports following the alleged thwarting of a "terror plot" has heightened the tension between communities. Now there is open talk of racial profiling to identify potential terrorists at airports, or as one senior Asian policeman called it, a new offence of "travelling while Asian". How much longer before British-born Muslims have to wear armbands? In this fevered atmosphere, is anyone surprised by the panic on the Monarch flight?
Terrorism, whether inspired by Islam or not, plays into the hands of governments like New Labour. The state assumes new powers, divides communities and thrives in a state of artificially-heightened tension. Secret spy agencies like MI5 vastly increase their budgets and spy on whole communities. Uniting communities against the government and the state means that we need a secular alternative – both to the New Labour regime and the path of terror.

Paul Feldman, communications editor

Friday, August 18, 2006

PFI - a licence to print money

One of the functions of the modern, market state is invite capitalist firms to make guaranteed profits out of public sector activities. New Labour, acting as the managing agents for the corporations, has used the state to enrich firms through the "private finance initiative" or PFI. At the same time, PFI has stripped the public sector, especially the National Health Service, of urgent resources. Quite some achievement! Today Britain PLC – otherwise known as the New Labour government – announced that a £1.5bn new wave of hospitals will be built under PFI. Under PFI, hospitals are built, owned and run by private companies, with NHS trusts repaying them over a period of around 25 or 30 years. Reports in 2002 by the National Audit Office (NAO) and the Commons public accounts committee exposed companies' ability to make significant sums by refinancing debts to take advantage of improved interest rates. The NAO this year said that private investors made more than £80m out of a refinancing deal at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital but the hospital was only handed £34m. In December, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich also cited PFI when admitting it had become technically insolvent. PFI is costing the hospital an additional £9m a year compared with traditional ways of financing hospital projects.

Mike Jackson, senior national officer at Unison, said: "Government claims that these schemes have been subject to extra scrutiny don't stack up, because PFI is fundamentally flawed. We don't want to risk waiting another five years to find out they were wrong again and more of our money has gone down the drain. These new schemes tie hospitals into 30-year plus contracts for services such as cleaning, catering and portering. They allow PFI companies to sweat even more money from the contracts. Time and time again PFI companies milk these projects through overcharging and lucrative refinancing deals. These new hospital schemes could and should be paid for by much cheaper public sector borrowing." Unfortunately, Unison’s fine words have never been followed up with action. The union’s leaders have sat on their hands and watched New Labour parcel out the NHS to the private sector.

What Unison can’t acknowledge is that New Labour is a capitalist government through and through, which has helped create a market state and turned the public sector into an investment opportunity. Unison’s leaders should either put up or shut up. They should either organise some action against New Labour or stop moaning about policies New Labour has had since it came to office in 1997.

Paul Feldman, communications editor

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A tale of two Britains

Two contrasting sets of figures graphically illustrate growing inequalities in Britain. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Wednesday published figures that showed a rise of 92,000 in the number of people registered as unemployed in the three months to June, to give a 5.5% jobless rate, the highest since spring 2000. The claimant count measure rose by 2,000 to 957,000, a four-year high and the 16th rise in the past 17 months, the ONS said. These statistics exclude hundreds of thousands who do not register because they are not eligible for benefits.

At the same time, the ONS released its estimate of the scale of bonuses paid to City financiers and dealers. They showed a jump of 16% this year to a record £19 billion, or about ten times the government’s annual housing budget. These bonuses go to handful of people who are involved in mergers and acquisitions – often leading to job losses - or large-scale speculation. Either way, their activities drain funds away from what could be socially-useful investment. Meanwhile, the high street banks, made a record £33 billion in profits in 2005 – despite soaring levels of bad debts and personal bankruptcies.

The wealth of the super-rich has more than doubled since New Labour came to power. Nearly 600,000 individuals in the top 1% of the UK wealth league owned assets worth £355 billion in 1996, the last full year of Conservative rule. By 2002 that had increased to £797 billion. The top 1% also increased their share of national wealth from 20% to 23% in the first six years of the Blair government. Soaring City bonuses have no doubt increased these inequalities and are another reason for getting shot of the Blair government.

Paul Feldman, communications editor

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Terror 'plots' and the state within the state

There is deep scepticism about the government/police claims that they foiled a major terror plot last week. Message boards are full of people doubting the credibility of the alleged ‘plot’ and the decision to arrest more than 20 young Muslims in different parts of Britain. The cynicism is well founded. Iraq was invaded on the basis of disinformation and outright lies. It is clear that the state knew that Iraq possessed no ‘weapons of mass destruction’. The US and Britain had, however, made up their minds to overthrow Saddam Hussein beforehand and didn’t let the truth spoil an opportunity for war. The execution of Jean Charles De Menezes by London police who mistakenly identified him as a suicide bomber is still fresh in people’s minds. So too is the bungled armed raid in Forest Gate recently, apparently on the tip-off of a person with substantial learning difficulties.

The state is not beyond framing people for offences they never committed and for concocting incidents to suit political ends. Many Irish republican sympathisers, including the Birmingham 6, were jailed on the basis of false evidence. The state’s use of agent provocateurs is long established. They penetrate target groups and can, for example, encourage the preparation of terror acts. The trap is then sprung and the people concerned are arrested for conspiring to commit an offence which they may have never considered if left to their own devices. One Sunday newspaper reported that the intelligence agencies had penetrated the circle that was eventually arrested last week. What role did their agents play in subsequent events? We’ll probably never know. But the existence of a secret state within the state, operating in the service of the political and economic status quo, is a real threat to our human rights. These shadowy groups, who destabilise organisations and provoke events as a matter of course, are the real enemy within.

Paul Feldman, communications editor

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

“Instant justice” – another step towards a police state

There are reports today that the police want the government to give them new powers to dispense "instant justice" in town centres. What they would like to do, for example, is issue on-the-spot bans against young people to stop them entering town centres and crush cars if drivers have no insurance. All this would happen on the say-so of a police officer. These ideas are the brainchild of Surrey’s assistant chief constable, Mark Rowley, speaking for the Association of Chief Police Officers. Rowley is sure to get a sympathetic hearing from New Labour and its new Gauleiter, John Reid, who is also known as the Home Secretary. Reid and his boss, Tony Blair, are in the midst of "rebalancing the justice system" in favour of the victim. Their answer is to take away more rights of an accused person and accelerate the trend to "instant justice". We have already seen this with ASBOs, or the notorious anti-social behaviour orders. Most of these are aimed at young, working class children and are granted by a court without proper process. Eighty-one children were given custodial sentences as a result of breaching ASBOs between June 2000 and December 2002. Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child requires that custody should only be used for children as a matter of last resort. The Children’s Rights Alliance for England says: "ASBOs bring no guarantee that a child will get effective support; the ASBO process, especially ‘naming and shaming’, violates children's human rights; and there are growing concerns that the policy is creating greater tensions between young and old, and ‘demonising’ young people." New Labour’s whole "law and order" agenda violates everyone’s human rights and is part of the slippery slope to a police state, where the men in blue act as judge, jury and executioner.

Paul Feldman, communications editor

Monday, August 14, 2006

Terrorism and the failure of leadership

The rise of Islamic-inspired terrorism, and its ability to attract groups of educated young people in countries like Britain, is not simply a response to the imperial policies and actions of the Washington-London axis. That is certainly the driving force for radicalising opponents of the new, globalised corporate world that Bush and Blair are seeking to impose on other countries in the name of 'civilised values'. The flourishing of theocratic terrorism is also, it has to be said, a reflection of the absence - as well as past failures and betrayals - of secular leadership, in both the developed capitalist world as well as poorer countries.

Countries like Egypt, for example, became pawns in the rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States. The USSR, whose Stalinist leadership was duplicitous and bureaucratic, dominated and distorted the political process in Egypt when Nasser was in power during the 1950s. Moscow had short-term interests in achieving a balance of nuclear terror with Washington and was opposed to full-scale revolution in Egypt in favour of peaceful co-existence.

This policy was inevitably doomed. The nationalist fervour which inspired Nasser to nationalise the Suez canal 50 years ago, could not develop beyond itself. Alternative, socialist viewpoints were repressed or fell prey to Moscow's influence which made them subordinate to the nationalist movement. Egypt eventually succumbed to a series of brutal dictatorships which embraced Western capitalism. It is no surprise, therefore, that the Muslim Brotherhood - which inspired the formation of Al Qaeda - has such a strong base in Egypt. Similar stories of political degeneration, corruption and dictatorship can be found in countries like Iraq, Algeria, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Syria.

In Britain, the secular leadership remains largely in the hands of bureaucratic, narrow-minded trade union leaders and a Labour Party that has been transformed into a capitalist party by the march of corporate globalisation. In addition, the political process offers very little to anyone, let alone minority communities. That is why the challenge posed by modern terrorism does, in the end, come down to creating a secular leadership that has a revolutionary perspective of going beyond the status quo.

Paul Feldman, communications editor

Sunday, August 13, 2006

New Labour's attack on Muslim leaders

The New Labour government is desperate to avoid a connection between its policies and actions and the fact that Britain is now a prime target for terror attacks. Muslim leaders published an open letter on Saturday suggesting that British foreign policy had helped radical Islamic groups in their recruitment drive. Within hours, ministers were queuing up to denounce the very idea. The Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett told the BBC that drawing a link between government policy and the terror threat would be the 'gravest possible error'. She said such suggestions were 'part of a distorted view of the world, a distorted view of life. Let's put the blame where it belongs: with people who wantonly want to take innocent lives.'

Of course, terrorists have to take responsibility for their actions. And you can't excuse or justify the killing of innocent people by reference to a political grievance, however legitimate that may be. But only a blinkered fool - and New Labour is stuffed full of them - would try to deny the connection between their actions and the terror response. The fact is, Britain was not threatened by Islamic-inspired terrorism until recently, even while it was being practised in other countries. So what is the reason for the change? You only have to visit any web discussion site to find out what people think. The overwhelming view is that New Labour's policies and actions have helped to drive more people towards terrorism. As for the state's response, well shutting down airports and filling the streets with armed police doesn't make anyone feel safer. But it certainly creates the impression of a state of siege. Which is just what this discredited government wants.
Paul Feldman, communications editor

Friday, August 11, 2006

UN fiddles while Lebanon burns

The United Nations has once again proved itself to be the plaything of the strategic, essentially oil/corporate, interests of the major powers. While Lebanon burns, the UN fiddles, giving the Israeli government time to finish what it started. The resolution before the UN demands the disarming of Hezbollah but not of Israel, which has the fifth largest military force on the planet. There is not even a demand for Israel to quit attacking Lebanon.

As for UN resolutions about Israel, they remain a dead letter. The General Assembly has passed over 60 resolutions since 1955, including the famous 242 which demands that Israel pulls out of the West Bank and Gaza. Where are the Security Council sanctions against Israel for failing to comply? Where are the calls for the scrapping of Israel’s weapons of mass destruction? Israel has nuclear missiles, although it will never say so. Why is Israel allowed to have a nuclear device and not Iran, for example?

How different it was over Iraq. Sanctions led to the deaths of thousands of children and an UN resolution was used as a cover by the US and Britain to invade that country. Having a UN is a fine idea. Having the major powers use the Security Council to rubber stamp their imperial ambitions makes the current set up a waste of space.