To justify its plan, the US asserts that there is "an emerging ballistic-missile threat that must be addressed". Where does this "threat" come from? According to the White House the danger comes from a number of countries it describes as "rogue states".
The countries on the "rogue" list seems to vary. But the latest
candidates appear to be: Iran, Iraq and People's Korea. Presumably we are
supposed to imagine these countries as uncontrolled, dangerous beasts --
like some rogue elephant in one of Kipling's tales of the Raj that has
to be dispatched by hunters with a well-aimed elephant
This lying propaganda is breathtakingly outrageous. It is the insult of an aggressor, the perverse accusation of an oppressor. For in each case it is the United States and its imperialist allies which pose the threats of war.
People's Korea is said to be on the list because it has launched a satellite into space, showing that it has missile technology. Apparently this is a "threat" when the achievement is made by a socialist country but perfectly OK when done by the United States.
But the biggest hypocrisy of all is that the United States maintains troops and weapons, including nuclear weapons, in the south of Korea at all times and carries out regular military exercises on Korean soil.
And even as Clinton pours out his slanders against Iraq his government is busy murdering thousands of Iraqis by bombing raids and sanctions. The US and Britain have committed terrible crimes against the people of Iraq -- they have proved beyond doubt that it is imperialism which should be condemned and vilified for being the real cause of war and suffering.
The real reason these so-called "rogue" states are singled out is because they have not bowed down to the hegemony and various demands of the imperialist powers.
The American and Russian governments both know that the US is not really afraid of supposed "rogue" states. They both know that the US is mainly concerned with extending its nuclear dominance of the world.
That it wants a pretext to feed its own militaty industrial complex and that if any state causes it a feeling of unease for the future it is Russia itself -- a nuclear power (though not as militarily strong as it once was) which has many internal problems. From the US view it is unstable and therefore unsafe.
The Russian leadership know their country is still the most likely target, and, to mollify the US President, they have pretended to play along with all the claptrap about "rogue" states and, through gritted teeth, have joined in the chorus.
The Russians have not welcomed Clinton's plan for a US missile defence system. Instead they have suggested a joint defensive venture in which they would be an insider. They know too that if the Republicans were to win the US election the plan would be even bigger and the dangers arising from an amendment to the ABM Treaty even greater.
This terrible grand design being spread out by the US ruling class, and supported by both political parties, is a serious threat to world peace. Any undermining of the ABM Treaty by the US would open the way to a new arms race and give impetus to nuclear proliferation.
On top of that the working class and the poor of the world will be the ones to pay the bill in increased exploitation and damage to the environment.
In the United States itself the working class can expect hard times ahead. The rich are fighting to keep their taxes low and argue for cuts in social spending. A growth in military hardware will waste billions of dollars and we can be sure these dollars will come from the poor and not the rich!
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WEEKS of campaigning to ensure the Patten policing reforms in the Irish peace process are fully implemented, finally forced Secretary of State Peter Mandelson's hand earlier this week when he confirmed that the "spirit as well as the letter" of the new policing principles will be implemented.
Proposed legislation currently contained in the Police Bill before Parliament effectively tears up the Patten Report. It had already fell short of nationalist and republican hopes, and Mandelson now appeals to have considerably modified his position. But as Sinn Fein's chief whip Alex Maskey had said in Belfast, they will not endorse the Bill until they see the completed legislation.
The present Bill drawn up in Whitehall has provoked outrage and condemnation across the political spectrum, from the Irish government, Sinn Fein, the SDLP, the Womens' Coalition, the Alliance Party, and even the Catholic Church. Once again, the Unionists and the British government found themselves alone and out on a limb.
Responses ranged from Sinn Fein negotiator Gerry Kelly, "This is not the Patten Report -- this is the Peter Mandelson Report," to the SDLP's Seamus Mallon, who said the Patten Report had been "gutted."
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams pointed to the role of those within the British system, with a more strategic view than Unionist politicians: "I am referring to the RUC insiders, to the securocrats, and to the Northern Ireland Office officials who have succeeded, at this stage, in subverting the establishment of a civic policing service."
Tony Blair had earlier been rebuffed by US president Bill Clinton for making endless concessions to the Unionists reform of the RUC. While House officials explained that "to bow to Unionist demands on the RUC would be like leaving Alabama and Georgia under all-white cops.
A group of MPs led by former shadow Labour spokesman for Northern Ireland Kevin MacNamara is attempting to have the bill sent back to the drafting stage. MacNamara told a meeting at the house of Commons organised by the Friends of Ireland that it would result in the new police service "being asked to police themselves."
At the meeting Pat Docherty, vice-president of Sinn Fein and an Assembly Member, warned that "if we get Peter Mandelson's policing service we are heading for a disaster. If we do not get this right, we are going to move backwards rather than forwards, and nobody wants that."
Docherty said that nationalists and republicans throughout Ireland would judge the potential of the peace process to remove the causes of conflict on how issues like policing were dealt with. He revealed that a member of the Patten Commission itself had told him of his "outrage" at the Patten Report's "emasculation".
He pointed out that the Good Friday Agreement had been voted on by the people through out the island of Ireland, and that the British and Irish governtnents had committed themselves to implementing the Patten Report in their joint statement on May 5, which led in turn to the IRA's most far-reaching statement to date on putting weapons beyond use.
"The key and the core of this," said Docherly, "is Tony Blair. The responsibility lies with him he has the power and the responsibility to resolve this. All of catholic and nationalist Ireland is watching the British government to do the right thing".
If the issue was not resolved, he spelt out, "the whole process will begin to unravel" -- a messa ge which Blair and Mandelson would do well to heed.
It remains to be seen how Mandelson proceeds with his view that the Bill, after all, "may not yet be perfect". An understatement which Gerry Adams highlighted when he launched a document detailing 75 adverse changes the Bill makes to the Patten Report.
In effect the Bill, as it stands, re-writes the Patten Report from start to finish, giving the Secretary of State and Chief Constable enormous powers while down grading the Policing Board -- earning even the condemnation of the outgoing board!
The Secretary of State is empowered to halt inquiries by, and remove members of, the Policing Board, and to take decisions or. the deployment of public order equipment. Responsibility for the new Code of Ethics, meanwhile, goes to none other than the Chief Constable!
Patten's proposed minimum 10 years recruitment to the new service of a 50/50 protestant/catholic mix is reduced to 3 years, and there is no mention of an independent recruitment agency.
The District Policing Partnerships envisaged in Patten have been downgraded, in a shift from community-based policing to centralised control.
The commitment to equal respect for traditions and beliefs proposed by Patten in the new human rights oath has been altered, and existing RUC officers are not even required to swear to this.
Even the Patten Report did not include -- as republicans and others had hoped -- dropping the use of plastic bullets, an unarmed police force, the scrapping of emergency legislation, or banning members of the RUC guilty of human rights abuses from the new force.
Campaigners present at the Friends of Ireland meeting were asked to lobby MPs and ministers to re-draft the legislation in line with Patten and in the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement, and specifically to write to MPs asking them to express their concerns to ministers.
The lesson behind this blatant flouting of hard-won agreement and the all-Ireland referendum is that the struggle for real change in the north of Ireland, and not least to reduce Britain's role, is a difficult and ongoing one.
The Labour government's tactic may be to eventually end up at a half-way house between the Patten Report and Peter Mandelson's colonial re-write. The campaign must continue until a genuine new beginning is made in policing the north of Ireland, one which can sustain the peace process into the future.
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by Caroline Colebrook
THE PERFORMANCE of more than half of Britain's 25 passenger rail services have deteriorated significantly during the last six months, according to a report published by the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority.
This is based on new methods of calculating rail timekeeping and reliability which gives a more accurate picture of what commuters have to put up with. The main difference in the calculations is thatall the train performances are now taken into account instead of just the peak hour performances.
The report also found that London's commuter train services are among the worst performers.
The report showed that the performance of most passenger train companies was worse in the six months up to last March than it was during the same period the previous year and that 60 per cent of passengers believe they are not getting value for the fares they pay.
South West Trains -- owned by Stagecoach -- was fined a record £4 million for its poor performance in the year up to last March.
Connex South East and Connex South Central were fined £3.2 million for poor performance. This included £l million imposed on Connex South East for running trains without enough carriages, resulting in severe over-crowding.
The train companies are claiming they are not to blame for poor time keeping and say the figures are inaccurate.
A spokesperson for Conner commented that if things were so bad, they could only get better.
Sir Alan Greengross, who chairs the London Regional Passengers' Committee, said the figures were "enormously disappointing".
He added: "After all the recriminations, the exaltations, the promises, the assurances, to say nothing of the billions of pounds spent, the situation on much of the railways is not getting any betterbutactually getting worse."
SRA chief executive Mike Grant said he could not offer commuters much hope of any improvement but the new reporting of performance statistics which give "a much more accurate performance measure of what the passenger actually experiences".
Excuses given for bad time keeping included: the Paddington rail crash (extra services diverted elsewhere), leaves on the line, defective rolling stock, unofficial strike action by drivers, and track and signal breakdowns.
Currently Connex South East are cancelling a number of services every day from lack of rolling stock. Faults were found in some trains and they are having to be withdrawn for checks.
Meanwhile Railtrack, which owns and controls the tracks, signailing and stations, is demanding an extra £1 billion, mainly from taxpayers, to finance its commitments for rail repairs and new projects.
Already it has more or Iess backed out of three major commitments: upgrading the west coast mainline to Scotland so it can take high-speed trains; building the high speed link with the Channel tunnel, and building the cross link service across London.
Chief executive Gerald Corbett told the Government: "You can either have a railway in which public subsidy continues to dedine or you can have a bigger, better railway. That way means increased subsidies."
His comments came in the wake of a first-ever fall in Railtrack annual profits -- from £428 million to around £360 million. This is still nearly £l million a day -- and shows up the rail regulator's fines for the flea bites they are. The company has also run up a total debt burden of over £2.5 billion.
Railtrack's total income is around £4 billion a year, including £1.3 billion Government subsidy. Railtrack wants this nearly doubled. The rest of its income comes from the charges it imposes on the train companies and from various franchises and retail activity at stations.
It is high time the Labour leadership admitted that it got things right back in 1995 when it opposed the privatisation of out railways and predicted this would lead to disaster for the travelling public and profits for the fat cats.
It is high time the whole thing was reunited and brought back into public ownership.
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by Zdenek Stefek of the Czech Republic Communist union of Youth
THE "velvet" counter-revolution in Czechoslovakia began on November 17 1989. It was the signal for the restoration of capitalism -- "wildcat" capitalism.
In l990 a witchunt against everything progressive, and especially the communists, was launched. Discriminatory laws were passed which represented the onset of creeping fascism.
Ultra-right organisations were in the forefront of the onslaught against the communists and democrats, and they have been supported by a repressive state apparatus and other institutions and individuals using illegal methods -- like the late Pinochet loving Senator Vaclav Benda, a Charter 77 "human rights" signatory and former boss of the interior ministry's unconstitutional "Office for the Documentation and Investigation of Conmunist Crimes".
The Lustration Law imposed mandatory security checks on people applying for certain kinds of jobs. Those who had held ranking posts in the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia or been members of the People's Militia or the State Security organisation (StB), or allegedly cooperated with it, had their applications automatically disqualified.
A law was passed declaring the socialist regime which existed in Czechoslovakia from 1948 to 1989 illegal and retrospectively legitimising all forms of resistance to it, including, for example, the murderous terrorist attacks carried out in the 1950s by the gang led by the Masin brothers, now United States citizens.
Another law abolished the statute of limitations, so that individuals responsible for "communist crimes" could be prosecuted, regardless of how long ago the "crime" had been committed.
Promoting "class hatred" (defending the interests of the working class) became a criminal offence.
At the beginning of April this year, as the Czech Republic's economic, social and political crisis deepened and support for the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) in the opinion polls rose to more than 20 per cent (as against the 11 per cent polled at the 1998 general election), the red-baiters tried to have the Criminal Code amended so that belief in "communist ideology", or even "sympathy" with it, became a criminal offence.
It is no secret that this was to have been the first move in an attempt to ban the Communist Party and the Communist Union of Youth. The bill was defeated in the 200-member Chamber of Deputies -- by one vote!
Open fascism increasingly characterises the activities ofthe ultra-right organisations, which range from the Republican Party (an affiliate of the so-called "Black International", along with Le Pen's National Front in France and similar organisations) to the neo-Nazi skinhead movements, which according to a recent German TV investigation have around 6,000 members and "ten times as many supporters" and the new National Alliance, formed as the "respectable face" of fascism to contest elections.
The fact that a Czech-language edition of Hitler's Mein Kampf published in March sold 46,000 copies in a month is another sign of the times. So too is the decision of the State Prosecutor's Office not to take action against the publisher.
Anti-fascists in the Czech Re public are mostly in the minority and, because of sectarianism, especially among the anarchists, they are unable to create a united anti-fascist front -- something which we in the Communist Union of Youth are working hard to change, especially since hidden fascism in the bourgeois parliamentary parties is beginning to show its face.
On May Day 1999 the police escorted a neo-Nazi skinhead march through Prague after brutally dispersing a counter-demonstration organised by anti-fascist youth.
On 28 October 1999, the 81st anniversary of Czechoslovakia's foundation as an independent state, there was further police violence against left-wing youth on the streets of Prague.
On 7 March this year, five members of the Communist Union of Youth and the Socialist Organisation of Working People were arrested as they staged a silent protest against the unveiling ofa statue of T.G. Masaryk by US foreign secretary Albright in Prague's Hradcany Square. Because they had hammers and sickles on their banners, they now face charges which are punishable by up to eight years in prison!
Our experience is that the Czech Republic's national police force, the PCR, usually sides with the neo-fascists. They allow their activities, while banning anti-fascists and using violence to break up their demonstrations. The sons of senior police officers are often ultra-right and racist sympathisers.
Left-wing organisations, including the Communist Union of Youth, are under constant surveillance by the secret services and their members are subject to covert persecution.
In their struggle against the communists, some right-wing politicians would not think twice about restricting important civil rights, or even taking up arms against the communists.
According to unconfirmed reports, contacts are being established by right-wing parliamentary parties with the neo-fascists, who are offering their services in the struggle against the Left and militant trade unionists.
But even some anti-communists are alarmed about the post-1989 resurgence of fascism and are speaking out even though they themselves continue to practice discrimination against communists.
The IMF-World Bank meeting in Prague, 26-28 September
The repression is already being stepped up in connection with September's meeting in Prague of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Attempts have been made to ban demonstrations which are calling for cancellation of the summit and of the debt of Third World and Eastern European countries, the establishment of a democratically-controlled international development bank, and action to halt dependence on the transnational monopolies and to tax them and the movement of speculative capital.
The FBI has even announced that it is opening an office in Prague to "advise" local police on how to handle the 30,000 foreign and local anti-IMF protestors who are expected in Prague for September's protests against capitalist giobalisation!
That is a measure of the extent of the threat to democracy which now exists in the United States' Czech neo-colony ten years after the "velvet revolution". --Postmark Prague
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by Renee Sams
THE PLIGHT of asylum seekers who have been forced to leave their own countries and take refuge here, only to find the authorities and the Home Office making their lives intolerable was highlighted at a meeting in London's Conway Hall on 1 June.
Suresh Grover, chairperson of the National Civil Rights Movement an organisation that was sparked off by the struggle for justice by the Stephen Lawrence family, said that despite the McPherson report "there has been no decrease in racial attacks".
Police figures confirm 23,000 recorded racist attacks last year -- "And that," said Suresh, "was 100 per cent up on the previous year, simply because people are a different colour or religion or are asylum seekers.
"Asylum seekers are also suffering from institutional racism. Little has been said about those in detention and nothing has been done. Those who are responsible sit in the House of Commons."
Institutional racism can take many forms and much of it is hidden behind closed doors where vulnerable refugees cannot say or do anything about those who have the power to deport them at any time.
The threat of deportation hangs over thousands of asylum seekers and immigration officials are in no hurry to make decisions and let refugees know their fate.
"George", one of several asylum seekers on the platform, told of the appalling situation that forced him into leaving the Cameroon where he was born and brought up.
He arrived in Britain nearly 10 years ago and despite many visits to immigration offices and talks with officials, he said sadly: "I still do not know what is going to happen to me".
Asylum seekers are not helped by their treatment at the hands of immigration officials who can make appointments wish the refugee has to keep but, as George reported, they can keep the refugees waiting as long as they like.
On one occasion George was left to wait all day and then was never seen.
Another form of institutional racism is to be found in prison where prisoners from ethnic minorities are discriminated against not only by the majority of white prison warders but suffer racism from other prisoners.
Only a few weeks ago, Zahid Mubarek, an Asian man who was due to be released from Feltham Young Offenders Institute was placed in a cell with a known racist thug the day before his release. He was brutally attacked and later died in hospital.
Gareth Pierce, the lawyer who worked hard to get the Guilford Four released, spoke of the case of Satpal Ram, wrongly convicted of murder after defending himself from a racist attack.
He would normally have been released on parole many years ago but from within prison he has constantly fought the injustice of his conviction and the racism of the prison system.
He has endured being moved around the system until his family hardly know where he is from one day to another plus many savage beatings and attacks.
The treatment of asylum seekers in hostels was also highlighted. The situation in Newcastle is a case in point where asylum seekers have no basic support or legal representation.
They have to make do on food vouchers at shops where no change is given and in a hostile situation where many are afraid to go out of doors.
A support worker explained that this is happening up and down the country.
And indeed, since the Conway hall meeting home Secretary Jack Straw has been forced to admit that the policy of dispersing refugees around the country has failed.
Refugees have been left isolated with no legal, social or language interpretation support and have suffered greatly from racism that is being whipped up by certain right-wing newspapers.
The policy was supposed to deal with the problem of the financial burden falling unfairly on certain areas -- those around Dover and Heathrow airports.
The answer is to spread the costs evenly around the country -- not the refugees. Before the Tories cut benefits to refugees, they were supported from central taxation.
Now all the costs of housing and feeding them fall on the local
authorities wherever they happen to be. This is a huge burden for a handful
of local authorities but barely noticeable on a national basis.
Then last Wednesday the Home Office announced new targets in processing asylum applications with a target of 57,000 expulsions a year from the current 12,000.
This implies that refugees are unlikely to get a fair hearing and many may be shipped back to face prison, torture and even death -- just so the Labour government can appear to be just as tough as the Tory government.
The Home Office is to build more detention centres, increasing the number of refugees forcibly detained four fold. This is to prevent asylum seekers disappearing if their applications are turned down.
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