The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 9th June 2006

The Land Beneath Our Feet (Part1)

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by Daphne Liddle

of violence from United States and British occupation forces against unarmed Iraqi civilians is now so high that even the puppet Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has felt it necessary to complain.

 Last week he said: “They run them over, or kill anyone suspicious. This cannot be accepted.” This man depends on the 130,000 US occupation troops for his survival but recent revelations about Haditha and other massacres have been too much even for him to stomach.

 An internal US army investigation is being conducted into the death of Hashim Ibrahim Awad. His family say that US marines took him from his home in the town of Hamandia middle of the night in April and killed him.

 After that, the family says, the marines planted evidence to imply he was preparing to plant a roadside bomb, including a shovel, explosives and an AK-47 rifle.

 Very soon the results of an investigation into the fatal shooting of 24 Iraqi civilians, including children in November last year in the town of Haditha in north-western Iraq are expected.

 This massacre is claimed to have been an act of revenge by US marines after one of their number was killed by a bomb.

 Two investigations into this incident are underway. The second one, by the Navy Criminal Investigation Service, could lead to charges of premeditated murder and dereliction of duty by several marines.

 But current statistics indicate that no US personnel are likely to face any serious penalty. If any do, it is likely to be confined to the lower ranks – as happened with the Abu Ghraib abuse scandals.
rounded up

In a third incident, puppet Iraqi police say that US soldiers rounded up and murdered 11 civilians in Ishaqi, near Baghdad on 15th March.

 These claims were backed up by BBC video footage. But a Pentagon investigation has ruled that only four civilians died and it exonerated the US forces involved.

 There are claims that these cases are just the tip of a huge iceberg. Journalist Robert Fisk, reporting from Baghdad, wrote: “I remember the first suspicions I had that murder most foul might be taking place in our name in Iraq.

 “I was in the Baghdad mortuary, counting corpses, when one of the city’s senior medical officials – an old friend – told me of his fears. ‘Everyone brings bodies here,’ he said. ‘But when the Americans bring bodies in, we are instructed that under no circumstances are we ever to do post mortems. We were given to understand that this had already been done. Sometimes we’d get a piece of paper like this one with a body.’

 “And here the man handed me an American military document showing the hand-drawn outline of a man’s body and the words ‘trauma wounds’.”

 Things are no better in the British occupied zone. Earlier this year British troops were cleared of killing Abu Mousa, an Iraqi hotel clerk, who was held in British custody for over 24 hours before he died. During his interrogation, fellow prisoners in the next door room say they heard him screaming.

 And last Tuesday two Coldstream Guardsmen were acquitted of manslaughter after a youth drowned in 2003. He was one of a group of youths caught looting by British troops and flung into a canal “to make them feel uncomfortable”.

Ahmed Jabar Karheem, aged 15, could not swim and he died while, it is claimed, troops watched.
‘blood money’

In both these cases, the defence lawyers for the soldiers claimed that local witnesses were lying in order to get “blood money”.

 But Phil Shiner, a human rights lawyer who represented Karheem’s family, said: “There are huge structural problems with the military system of investigating itself.”

 He accused the Royal Military Police of a number of failings. “It lacks independence”, he said, “It lacks rigour. It lacks a strong rationale to get to the bottom of this type of incident.”

 Last November seven British paratroopers were cleared of murdering an Iraqi teenage after the military investigation against accused witnesses of seek

 Iraqi civilians must be wondering if there is any outrage or atrocity that American or British troops could commit that would actually result in them being held to account.

 It must be terrifying to live under a military occupation where you know that you and your children are fair game to kill without fear of redress.

 But these sorts of killings and atrocities go with any imperialist military occupation. They inevitably lead to hostility and suspicion between the occupying troops and the civilian population, which deepen with every death and every incident.

 The military and intelligence services knew this. They warned Bush and Blair before the invasion that this would be the outcome. They are the ones who decided to put our troops into this impossible position. They are the ones who are ultimately guilty of all these deaths. 


Chains of debt

THE BBC last week ran a series of three programmes Britain’s Streets of Debt which exposed the tactics of the major high street banks and loan companies to target vulnerable people and pressure them into borrowing so much money they cannot possibly pay it back. Then the lenders make a fortune imposing penalty charges or repossessing homes while their victims are thrown out on the streets.

 The programmes told horror stories of people deep in debt committing suicide because they do not know how to escape the nightmare. We saw finance companies known as “sub-prime” lenders, who deliberately target those who have had credit problems in the past – those with County Court judgements against them or who are juggling multiple debts. These companies pose as a friend to the desperate, offering consolidation loans that will be easy to pay off, helping those who have been turned down by banks and other lenders. Sometimes they call themselves debt counsellors. Their adverts fill the airwaves and to people with severe debt problems, they seem like a lifeline. They are anything but.

 They charge significantly higher than average interest rates. They know that these borrowers will probably have difficulty managing regular repayments and then they can really be milked with penalty charges. When the threats of repossession start to come, legal costs are added to the borrower’s growing bills.

 We saw one elderly couple who borrowed just £2,500 18 years ago from a “sub prime” lender who paid £10,000 in interest over 12 years and still ended up owing the company £100,000 and with a threat of repossession of their home. When that threat came to court the judge wiped out the debt completely and threw out the repossession order.

 But by then the stress of debt and living in absolute poverty had taken a heavy toll on the health and happiness of the whole family.

 This is an extreme horror story. But millions of people in Britain are now living permanently under the shadow of debt. The people of Britain now owe over £1 trillion in credit card and other personal debt and almost an equal sum in mortgages, including second mortgages. Students are now beginning their working lives owing tens of thousands of pounds. We are becoming accustomed to deep debt from a very early age, with the fear of painful penalty charges if we don’t keep up the payments and the bailiff on the doorstep if we stumble and fall. No wonder stress-related mental illness is soaring.

 But living with permanent debt has deep ramifications for our whole way of life. We dread missing the payments – so we are afraid of losing our jobs, or even losing a few days’ pay, so we become compliant workers. The bosses of course welcome this effect.

 When we get into trouble and the sums just don’t add up, we seek to increase our income by extending our working hours, either through overtime or through a second job. The pressure for long hours working does not only come from the bosses – it also comes from those workers who are effectively enslaved to the loan companies.

 When our earnings rise a little, suddenly our credit rating goes up, whether we’ve asked for it or not. The loan company is making sure it gets the benefits of those extra hours of labour. And we’re too tired to think rationally about how we’re being fleeced.
 We’re too busy working to see much of our families but we make it up to them by buying them expensive presents and holidays with the extra credit we’re allowed. And get steadily deeper and deeper in debt.

 But what do we expect? The banks and loans companies are the essence of capitalism. They exist to make profits, not to make people happy. Why should we be surprised when capitalists behave like capitalists?

 Most slaves quickly learn to hate the slave driver. But the problem with the slaves of the banks and loan companies is that too many of them feel a little bit guilty and embarrassed about letting themselves get into a financial mess.

 It’s time to stop being embarrassed about being ripped off and get together and get angry. This is an issue that should be taken up by the whole labour movement but especially the trade unions.

 In the long term it is the best possible argument in favour of a socialist revolution, after which this sort of predatory capitalism would be outlawed and its practitioners sent to jail.

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