Friday, November 24, 2006

Putting New Labour's MPs to shame

While overpaid and overfed New Labour MPs plan their extensive and expensive Christmas break from swanning around the bars at Westminster, a lone campaigner faces jail for challenging the legality of the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. Chris Coverdale, a development consultant, will appear in the High Court today for refusing to pay a bankruptcy order of £3,500. A week later, he is due to appear in court again for refusing to pay £250 costs imposed on him for an unauthorised protest in Parliament Square. Thanks to New Labour, the right to protest in the area is now illegal unless you have prior police authorisation. Coverdale is refusing to hand over his money because for him paying fines and taxes are "complicity in waging a war of aggression" - a crime under the Nuremberg Principles - and "conduct ancillary to genocide", a crime under the International Criminal Court Act 2001.

He says: "Under no circumstances will I agree to hand over any money to any agency of government whilst it uses the money to pay for the murder of innocent women, children and men. In all conscience I cannot take part in the genocide of Iraqi people. At least 15,000 of the victims are children, yet Tony Blair tells us that attacking them with Cruise missiles, rockets, cluster bombs and depleted uranium artillery shells is the ‘right’ thing to do. How can anyone believe that this massacre of children is right or lawful? I am totally bemused that so many British citizens, such as MPs, police officers, crown prosecutors and judges are supporting the criminal actions of the British government. Didn’t we learn anything from the Second World War? George Bush, Tony Blair and hundreds of our leaders are committing the same crimes for which Hitler’s henchmen were tried, convicted and hanged at Nuremberg in 1946."

Coverdale’s defiance puts to shame the all but 12 of New Labour’s 354 MPs who in October voted against a motion calling for a parliamentary inquiry into the conduct of the war in Iraq. These MPs are indeed complicit in the destruction of Iraq over the last three years in a war launched to make the region safe for oil extraction and global corporate investment. Coverdale should not be bemused, however, by the illegal and lying actions of the British state. The state we live under is neither democratic nor accountable for its actions in any meaningful way. When it was drawn into World War II, it was not on the basis of defending democracy either but to protect its own economic and political interests. The British state, it should never be forgotten, knew full well about Hitler’s tyranny after 1933 and during the war itself did nothing to halt the murder of millions of Jews. Ultimately the British state’s power rests on maintaining the capitalist status quo through force. It has a long history of "criminal actions" in this regard, including the slave trade and the enforced colonisation of whole continents. Coverdale’s brave challenge by itself cannot be expected to alter the nature of this iniquitous and increasingly authoritarian state. But it could and should inspire others to create a mass movement to replace Blair’s warfare state with a truly democratic, responsive and representative political system.

Paul Feldman, communications editor

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