Oct 012015

Alex-Salmond-MP-MSPthm-Credit-SNP-AberdeenshireWith thanks to Tom Collins, Press Officer, Rt. Hon. Alex Salmond MP MSP

Alex Salmond MSP and Christian Allard MSP have welcomed the news that the SNP led Aberdeenshire Council has committed to support up to 50 refugee families fleeing the war in Syria.

At a meeting held on Thursday 24th September councillors debated an emergency Notice of Motion which was unanimously supported.

The Notice of Motion said:

“That Aberdeenshire will contribute to the vision of a Scotland where refugees are able to build a new life from the day they arrive and to realise their full potential with the support of mainstream services; where they become active members of our communities, with strong social relationships.

“That Aberdeenshire welcomes the co-ordination role being taken by CoSLA with regard to financial support and integration issues.

“That the Chief Executive will indicate to the Scottish Government and UK Government, through CoSLA, as a matter of priority, the scale of support that Aberdeenshire can offer in the short-term, middle-term, and longer-term, acknowledging that both the Scottish Government and the UK Government have made a commitment to settle refugees within a year.”

Aberdeenshire Council has been engaging with local partners to identify appropriate resources that can be put in place to support families who may come to Aberdeenshire.

Commenting Alex Salmond said:

“I welcome Aberdeenshire Council’s decision to support these families, who are in desperate need of our help.

“We must remember that these people are not being pulled into Europe, they are being pushed from their homes because of war and the threat that exists to their lives.

“It is fantastic to hear that the motion was unanimously supported. It is important that we all work together to try and help these people in need.”

Commenting Christian Allard said:

“It is great to see unanimity at Aberdeenshire Council. This decision reflects the overwhelming opinion that Scotland should take its fair share. We must ensure that we are helping these refugees and our partners in Europe to come to a solution to this humanitarian crisis.”

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Oct 012015

This refugee crisis has certainly brought the Middle East situation into sharp focus. Many and varied opinions have been voiced, and no doubt the picture of the young boy on the beach in Turkey tugged at many heartstrings. It has encouraged many people, including our own first minister to offer to put up some of these unfortunates. Fin Hall opines.

CalaisThis awful situation, as we are aware, has came about by several factors. One of which was Tony Blair engaging in an illegal war; but the Syrian situation originated as part of the Arab Spring, which started in Tunisia. Their actions were relatively peaceful, but in Egypt, and more so in Syria, it was the opposite.

The failure of the uprising in Syria led to the easy access of Isis, and the escalation of Muslims killing Muslims – leading to the mass exodus that we see now.

Iraq is a different situation. We invaded this country because we didn’t like their leader, and make no mistake this was the only reason.

Coming soon after going into Afghanistan where Egyptian and Saudi terrorists called Al Queda were located, this was George Bush jnr’s excuse to flex his muscles. As soon as he became president, it was obvious he was going to go to war with someone, and 9/11 gave him the opportunity.

He must have been wetting his pants at the thought. His next thought was obviously, ‘Who can I rope in to be my gullible partner here? I know there is that nice right wing lefty Tony Blair’. 

The rest, as they say, is history.

The sad thing about us civilised countries is we never prosecute our leaders when they break the law. We just let them retire on an non austerity pension and get them a good job elsewhere. In the case of Mr Blair, U.N. Envoy to the Middle East.

Who says politics doesn’t have a sense of humour?

Meanwhile at the “successful” conclusion to the “freeing” of Iraq, the people themselves greeted the troops by cheering them on the streets and toppling the previous regime’s statues. Kind of like what happened in Europe at the end of WW2. Only this time the love affair was short lived. This new found freedom gave leeway to the people who were too scared to try and overthrow Hussein, to rise up and to start the cowardly process of killing, not only American and UK troops, but their own fellow citizens.

This seems to be the continuing, relentless manifesto of these maniacs. Resulting in the refugees. The sad thing is that none of their fellow Middle East neighbours seem willing to take them in. They see Western Europe as their only place for safety.

Saudi Arabia, in the meantime, continue their onslaught and killing of the citizens of Yemen. And nearby, Zionist controlled Israel, backed by USA, relentlessly persecutes Palestinians. In none of these conflicts do we ever hear on any news channels, ‘Now over to our correspondent on the ground in ( insert appropriate country here) for the latest news’.

Social media, for a while, was full off scare stories alleging ‘Isis members in the ranks of the refugees’, ‘refugee kills European citizen’, etc. Now while there is always the risk of such things happening, and I am sure that governments will be on high alert for this, I think that our humanity will not allow our fear to win out.

Nor should we be complacent though.

I see on social media people saying that we should all open our doors and let some of these poor unfortunates into our homes. How very magnanimous and easy to say.

But the whole situation is not that simple. Already some people moan about Eastern European, economic migrants getting council houses before people who have been on the waiting list for years. What would it be like when our quota of refugees arrive?

Not that these moaners are right of course.

The other end of the stick are the 3,000 or so refugees living in camps at Calais, whose plight suddenly made people act after the picture of the toddler on the beach went viral. All over the country people started collecting clothes, shoes and sleeping bags etc to help ease their lives.

My one question on this is; why in this case is it mainly, I say mainly not wholly, young men that have travelled right across Europe to try and get to Britain? I am not implying that they have come all this way to claim benefits or suchlike, but as a whole lot of them have come from Africa, where are their wives and children?

Recently I have read of Refugees in Holland and Denmark, not complaining about various things. Minor things in the big picture and things that we would tolerate if it meant us having a safe life free from real oppression. Things like not every migrant is a potential terrorist having internet, sharing accommodation that is meant for 16 with half that number, not eating because they aren’t sure if their food is halal, only getting a one year visa and not being automatically allowed to bring your family over.

This latter man had his supermarket bombed, not sure if it was deliberately targeted, and not in any way decrying this person’s loss of business, but I know if my business was destroyed I would never abandon my wife and children to fend for themselves.

I don’t pay any attention to the scaremongering posts that pop up on social media; you know the type I mean – ‘Isis infiltrating refugees, migrants wreck bus, etc.’

Even when there were delays at Calais, it was reported it was due to migrants, whereas it was mainly due to French workers going on strike. I am not naive enough to believe that every migrant is a potential terrorist, nor do I understand why some otherwise sensible friends repost stuff from the likes of Britain First, even though the sound bite might make a little sense.

But I am also not foolish enough to accept the fact that every single asylum seeker is genuine. And I realise why some people are concerned.

I realise that, hopefully, they will be checked out properly and that, in all the countries only the genuine ones will be allowed to stay.

Meanwhile we should all keep treating them with compassion, whilst making the facts clear, that whichever country they are entering, they are making that choice of which country they want to be in and therefore should obey the laws of that country and respect the cultures and traditions of it.

And, as much as possible, don’t alienate and isolate yourself from the natives.

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Aug 072015

With thanks to With thanks to Lee Robb, Caseworker to Christian Allard MSP.

Christian Allard MSP at Holyrood2French-born MSP, Christian Allard (North-East Scotland), has submitted a motion calling for politicians and media commentators alike to “watch their language” with regards to referring to the situation in Calais and the people involved.

The call comes in response to recent coverage of the refugee situation in Calais.

Mr Allard has expressed his disappointment towards the derogatory terms used to refer to what he describes as “desperate people in desperate need of a new life”.

Commenting, Christian Allard said:

“We have a UK Government that callously responds to desperate people who are desperately seeking a new start in life by calling for higher security fences and more police dogs. David Cameron does not recognise that the people he is neglecting are human beings.

“I am disgusted by the response of the UK Government so far. Not only does the UK fall far short of meeting its quota on refugees, but its government reacts in such a manner of contempt.”

In response to the increased attempts of refugees to cross the Mediterranean, proposals from the European Union was that member-states would increase their asylum seeker quotas to 40,000 – a proposal that the UK Government has dismissed.

In 2014, the UK had 31,000 refugees applying for asylum. In contrast, France had 62,000 applicants, and Germany had 202,000.

Mr. Allard added:

“This negative attitude is reflected in the language used when referring to these refugees. They are not migrants; they are refugees fleeing their homeland. Many of them are from Syria – the alternative is to stay in a country that UK allies are bombing.

“To hear a Prime Minister refer to these people as a ‘swarm’ was totally unacceptable. The derogatory rhetoric from some government officials and media channels alike has got to stop. That is why I submitted a motion to the Scottish Parliament calling for those commenting to watch their language.”


David Cameron remarks: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-33714282
EU proposals: theguardian-40000-asylum-seekers-migration-quota-syria-uk
Europa asylum statitstics: http://ec.europa.eu/index.php/Asylum_statistics

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Aug 302013

Ahead of the demonstration against involvement in Syria taking place this Saturday at 12 noon to 1pm outside Marks and Spencers being organised by Don’t Attack Syria Coalition (Aberdeen), chair of Aberdeen and District CND, Jonathan Russell writes about the background to the Syrian conflict, as well the current situation and warns of the dangers of armed intervention.

Syrian flag2According to the UN, the two-year old conflict in Syria has led to 100000 deaths with a further 1.7m Syrians forced to seek shelter in neighbouring countries. Aberdeen and District CND firmly believes that any military intervention by Western powers is certain to exacerbate the situation and bring even worse consequences for the Syrian people and their neighbours.

That US, UK and French governments are now preparing to attack the Syrian regime without having tabled any compelling proof that the chemical attacks were carried out by the Assad government is of overwhelming concern to us.

Furthermore, without the agreement of the UN Security Council, any attack would be in breach of International Law.

The Syrian conflict is primarily between Sunni, many of whom support the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and Shia Muslims together with the Alawites and Christians who primarily support the Assad government. The FSA consists of different entities with the largest fighting group aligned with Al Qaeda.

The principal supporters of the Syrian government are Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon, whereas the FSA is backed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. There is every possibility that western missile attacks on Assad will widen the conflict and, as with Iraq and Afghanistan, lead to long-standing civil strife of a horrendous nature, possibly even worse than we have witnessed before.

Who was responsible for the reported chemical attacks is not clear. On one hand, Israel, the UK and the US claim to have information to demonstrate that the Assad regime is responsible, whilst Russia and Iran believe that responsibility lies with the FSA.

More telling perhaps, is that the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria and the UN Human Rights Commissioner, Nava Pillay, have laid the responsibility at the FSA’s door. Moreover, since the US had stated that the use of chemical weapons would be the red line on intervention, the Assad government would have nothing to gain from such an attack.

Whoever was responsible has to be held to account, but the facts need to be made public. Unlawful military action will only internationalise the conflict further.

Aberdeen CND calls upon the UK government to allow a UN inspection of the chemical attacks so that the evidence can be properly evaluated. Aberdeen CND regrets the decision by the US to withdraw from negotiations and calls for diplomatic resources to be made available to facilitate negotiations between the warring parties.

The view of Aberdeen CND is that any intervention should be in the form of humanitarian aid for people displaced, made homeless or hospitalised by the conflict. Once these initial steps are taken, conditions may then favour the deployment of a UN peace-keeping mission. Aberdeen CND also supports cessation of arms sales to the countries of the Middle Eastern region.

For further information contact Jonathan Russell on 0758-245-6233 or Mike Martin on 0797-476-3082

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Feb 192012

On March 1st the Aberdeen branch of Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign will be hosting three exciting speakers at Aberdeen University: Fathe Kdirat and Itaf Njoum Karma from Jordan Valley Solidarity, and Leehee Rothschild from Boycott from Within (Israel).

Fathe and Itaf, both Palestinians, will be discussing Israel’s destruction of communities and the environment in the Jordan Valley, and the on-going illegal Israeli settlement construction that continues to drive Palestinians from their land.

The Jordan Valley makes up a large section of the West Bank, around 28% in total.  It has been one of the worst affected areas of the West Bank during the Israeli occupation, which began in 1967.

The occupation saw the Jordan Valley’s population drop by 88% and was thereafter the site of Israel’s first settlements.

Since the occupation Israel has gone about taking almost complete control of the area.  This map (click to follow link) published in December 2011 by the United Nations Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) shows that 15% of the Jordan Valley comprises  settlements (blatantly illegal under international law[i]), 27% comprises nature reserves, often used to control natural resources such as water supply (to the detriment of Palestinians) and 56%  comprises  closed military areas.

In addition, 87% of the Jordan Valley is designated Area C, i.e. under Israeli control. The 1993 Oslo Accords divided the occupied West Bank into 3 sections: Area A, under the full control of the Palestinian Authority (3% of the West Bank); Area B, under Palestinian civilian control and Israeli military control (25%); and Area C, under the full control of Israel (72%).  Designating land as Area C gives Israel unlimited autonomy to do as it pleases and to ignore the rights of Palestinians.  For example, according to UN OCHA 94% of Area C planning applications submitted by Palestinians were denied between 2001 and 2007.

One of the main focuses of Israel policy in the area is to clear the Jordan Valley of its Bedouin population.  In September 2011 the Israeli government announced its plans to expel 27,000 Bedouin from their homes and lands in the Jordan Valley.  This process is due to be completed in the next 3-6 years; the initial stages have already begun.

The role of activism, resistance and international solidarity is crucial in the fight to prevent this attempted ethnic cleansing of the Jordan Valley.  Fathe and Itaf will talk on how Palestinian communities and internationals are working together to witness, catalogue and resist Israel’s actions, and the importance of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against apartheid Israel.

One crucial component of the BDS campaign is the small but important resistance movement within Israel itself.  This includes the campaign group Boycott from Within.

“We, Palestinians, Jews, citizens of Israel, join the Palestinian call for a BDS campaign against Israel, inspired by the struggle of South Africans against apartheid. We also call on others to do the same.” Boycott from Within Website

Organisations like Boycott from Within are operating within a state becoming increasingly reactionary to the growing success of the calls for the end of the occupation, equal rights for Palestinians within Israel, and the right of return for Palestinian (the three main tenets of the BDS campaign).  In July 2011 the Knesset (Israeli parliament) passed an anti-boycott bill, criminalising those who support boycotts of Israel or its illegal occupation and settlements.

The bill has implications for individuals and organisations alike; for example companies deciding not to source products from illegal settlements in the West Bank may be barred from government contracts.  More recent Knesset bills have turned their attention to NGOs working in Israel, such as groups aiming to promote human rights.

One such law proposes to place a limit on the funding NGOs can receive from foreign governments and institutions, meaning many will be unable to function.

Leehee Rothschild will be speaking about her involvement in internal resistance movements such as Boycott from Within and Anarchists Against the Wall, as well as exploring issues of propaganda within the Israeli education system.

The talk starts at 7pm on March 1st in room 268 in the MacRobert Building at Aberdeen University.  For more information contact: Aberdeen@scottishpsc.org.uk

[i] for example see the International Court of Justice ruling 2004, the Fourth Geneva Convention, and UN Security Council Resolution 446

Sep 012011

By Jonathan Hamilton Russell.

In June of this year I  wrote an article on the situation in Libya called ‘Libya another Brutal Conflict’.
In it I suggested a way forward would have been via negotiations, which would include the expectation for fair elections run by the United Nations, the withdrawal of NATO and the use of UN peacekeepers.

Qaddafi would have been forced to face his opposition but in a non-bloody way. Only if such negotiations failed would military action be considered.

The mantra regarding the war on Iraq was ‘weapons of mass destruction’; this proved to be a lie. The mantra in relation t oLibya has been ‘the defence of innocent civilians’. This, as the conflict has escalated, has proved clearly not to be the real objective. Investigations by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and a UN commission headed by the legal scholar Cheri Bassioni found there was no evidence of the atrocity stories which were given as the reasons for NATO action.

Yet this was not listened to by our politicians and was not widely reported by the media. What has clearly happened is a mission of regime change which went far beyond the UN mandate. Such developments were opposed by the US Congress and never properly debated in our own Parliament.

Rather than protecting civilians, NATO weapons have inevitably killed them.

Their targets increasingly widened from attacking tanks that were moving towards Benghazi, to attacking all Libyan Military installations, to attacking any building that was seen as supporting the Gaddafi administration.

Inevitably there were civilian casualties. On the day of the rebel attack on Tripoli, more bombs were dropped than on any other day in NATO’s history. The rebels were also being supported and trained by troops from NATO countries, and as evidenced by the Sunday Times, some were Libyan exiles living in the UK. This has led to an even more bitter war between the ‘rebels and Kaddafi loyalists with disastrous human consequences.

The hospitals are not coping and Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are reporting human rights violations on all sides. Human Rights Watch consider that the evidence suggests that the old governments Khamis Brigade killed 45 detainees. The horrors of what happened to Kaddafi troops and the disappearance of all the medical staff at Abu- Salim hospital is just unfolding as are other atrocities, but these are only the most heavily reported incidents.

We never seem to learn the lesson of the horrors that war can bring.

Richard Seymour in the Guardian reported on Peter Bouckaert from Human Rights Watch findings that he had not identified one mercenary among scores of men being arrested and falsely labelled as such by journalists. Many Libyans are black but have been labelled as black mercenaries from Africa and led to racist incidents.

Qaddafi’s regime became increasingly oppressive over time

On top of this, much of the country’s infra-structure has been destroyed. The Libyan Transitional Council estimate it will take ten years to repair the damage done to the country’s infrastructure.

So what is the future for Libya? It is almost certain that Qaddafi will be eventually defeated, but how long that takes and at what continuing human cost is still to be seen. Worryingly, anyone supporting Qaddafi will not be seen as a civilian but as a supporter of a mad and dangerous dictator. The rebels are not a united force. The National Transitional Council has been recognised by over 40 foreign states; however, has it been recognised by the militias on the ground?

Abul Fatah Younes, the leader of the  Rebel army, was murdered by one of the Islamic militias and this in turn led to the sacking of the whole cabinet by Musta Abdul Jalil, the chairman of the National Transitional Government.

Will this Government be able to rule or will fighting continue between the various factions, in particular those aligned to a more Islamic agenda and those not? These groupings are now highly armed and as our policies did in Afghanistan, they could easily come back to bite western interests. Atiyha Abdl al Rahman, the deputy leader of Al-Qaida who was killed by US drones in Pakistan, was Libyan.

Qaddafi’s regime became increasingly oppressive over time. In his early years as a revolutionary leader, he was involved in pulling down prisons.  Being active himself over the years led to the atrocities that more recently took place of Islamists in Libyan prisons. Hopefully human rights will improve, but that has yet to be seen, and Libya was far from being the only country which has tortured and killed the more extreme Islamists.

Any new government will still have to find ways of dealing with Islamic groups and could end up being equally oppressive.

The Qaddafi regime was oppressive to its enemies, they did however have the highest social indicators in the Third World with better housing, health care and standards of living than in other Middle East and third world countries. As with Iraq these social strengths and the resulting effects on the countries well-being are sure to decline particularly if conflict continues.

Libya was not a country in debt, but it is now, and like us it will have to become beholden to the banks for money borrowed to rebuild the country. Who will own the huge reserves held in foreign banks which were there in part to deal with Libya’s future when the oil stocks have gone?

This has caused considerable indignation on the African continent.

Libya has historically produced 1.5 to 2 million barrels of oil a day. Qaddafi was hated by the west for nationalising Libyan oil and though he has more recently been co-operating with Western firms he has still been directing considerable investment into the economy and saving for its future.

Any new government will, unless clearly Islamic, be beholden to the West, and as such oil is almost certain to be obtained by the West more cheaply; the cost of oil on the markets has already gone down. Libya will also likely have military NATO bases for any future developments in the Middle East.

The poorer Libyans will, I suspect, be those who will be the most badly affected but others will gain and disparities in wealth will increase to the overall detriment of the country. Hopefully human rights will improve, but that has yet to be seen. Qaddafi was supportive of women’s involvement in society and was one of the reasons that he opposed so strongly the more extreme tenants of Islam and its supporters in Libya.

The future for women could go either way, but is certain to cause tension in the new Libya.

Qaddafi was instrumental in setting up the African Union and financially supported African infrastructure projects. The West, unless replaced by Chinese interests, will now have greater control over the African continent. However despite for instance South Africa supporting Resolution 1973 which led to intervention in Libya, their and other African countries attempts through the African Union to set up peace talks were knocked back. This has caused considerable indignation on the African continent.

overall spending on wars leads to fewer resources to be spent on other areas

Due to the way that NATO overstepped the UN resolution, there is now reluctance by many countries to do anything in Syria or the other Middle East countries. Damage has been done to International relations and the workings of the United Nations due to NATO’s actions.

Why have we, and why are we continuing to arm dictatorships in countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Syria, etc.  which are oppressive to their people? In fact, why are we arming any country? All armaments have the potential for use both between warring countries and on countries own citizens. Yet selling more arms is a key target of the present UK Government.

The selling of arms does lead to profit and work for those involved and money for Government. However overall spending on wars leads to fewer resources to be spent on other areas and in the United Kingdom, France and the United States it will lead to increased cuts in public services which will affect us all, but in particular the more vulnerable people in our society.

The United Nations was set up to try and stop wars between countries. Libya had not invaded another country.

The intervention was, however, based around the doctrine of  ‘the responsibility to protect’ following The Rwandan genocide. The way NATO has acted by clearly taking sides in Libya has brought this doctrine into disrespect. The press in the UK have in the main been heralding the success of the Libyan intervention, but if you dig deeper this can only be questioned.

The United Nations needs itself to have increased power to stop the manipulation that has clearly taken place around the Libyan conflict.

So what can we do?

  • We can protest. Stop the War and CND are holding an anti-war rally on October 8th to mark 10  years of  military intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Libya. The demonstrations against the Iraq war may not have stopped the war but they did shake the establishment and led in part to the downfall of Tony Blair
  • We can support the United Nations associations to help make this a stronger organisation that gets back to its original basis for existing
  • We can protest against our pension funds being invested in the arms trade as is in the case of Aberdeen City Councils pension fund.
  • Campaign Against the Arms Trade ( CAAT  ) will be holding their yearly demonstration on September 13th in London. ‘ Cut the Arms Trade not public services’. Please see:  Stop the War  or CAAT website.
Jun 102011

By  Jonathan Hamilton Russell.

The situation in Libya is complex and an understanding requires a historical perspective and the realisation that Libya is a tribal society which has many tribal and political interests. Gaddafi when he took power in Libya in 1969, in a bloodless coup, nationalised the oil and took it away from Western Control.

He used the money gained to invest in the social structure, i.e. health, education and social housing in Libya.

Gaddafi became involved in supporting’ Liberation’ wars in Africa and Ireland  and this along with the Lockerbie tragedy led to sanctions and to initial bombings by the US in 1986. Sanctions led to a decline in the wealth of Libya and In the late 90’s Gaddafi changed his policy to the West due to the effects of  these sanctions  and  to his even greater dislike of fundamentalist Islam in the form of Al Qaida and the Taliban. Libya was returned into the international fold and welcomed warmly by our own Prime Minister at the time Tony Blair.

Gaddafi admits that he has carried out human rights violations and torture on his opposition in particular to those linked to Al Qaida, to whom he is strongly opposed and for this he should, like any other abuser of human rights, be prosecuted. Al Qaida has had a strong following in Libya and Libyans were the largest grouping of fighters within Al Qaida in Iraq.

Gaddafi says he got his lead on the use of torture from the United States and if he is to be tried for human rights and war crimes so should lots of other national leaders and all those affiliated to NATO.

Gaddafi was instrumental in setting up the African Union and has helped in the development of infrastructure projects in Africa. According to the United Nations, Libya until the present conflict had the best social indicators in the Third World.  Gaddafi has promoted the equality of women and is opposed to the backward attitude of most of the Arab world in relation to their attitudes towards women. Gaddafi did instigate his own form of democracy very similar to Soviet Style Workers committees and had no formal position as head of state. In reality he has been at the head of the country and has increasingly been concerned about hanging on to power.

Gaddafi is a complex man who has done both good and bad but the media portrayal of an evil dictator is to say the least over simplistic This does not mean that his desire to hold onto power has not led to an over controlling and oppressive state but it does mean that our response to him should be more balanced particularly when you compare Libya to other regimes in the Middle East which are equally repressive but also have greater disparities in wealth. There have been reports of Gaddafi’s troops having been involved with rape in Misrata a common occurrence in war which is barbaric and unacceptable.

The United Nations staff, on the ground in Libya say there is no hard evidence of this. However a spokesperson from the International Court on war crimes say they have evidence that systematic rape is being used by the Gaddaffi regime. This clearly needs further investigation before any firm conclusion can be reached.

Libya is a tribal society and the West of the country has benefited more than the East.

The bombings were aimed at stopping a humanitarian disaster yet where has the outcry been about those supporters of Gaddafi tortured and killed

Gaddafi clearly has his opponents but these are a mixture of Western sympathisers including those who want more democracy and those who follow Al Qaida. The majority of leadership of the Rebels in Banghazi is presently made up of ex Libyan Government ministers who previously had no interest in Western Democracy but are defecting as they see the imminent collapse of the regime.

A significant number of the more experienced of those fighting for the revolution gained their military skills fighting for Al Qaida in Iraq and are to be feared by many of those who support Gaddafi. Getting rid of Gaddafi is not likely to lead to a peaceful democratic Libya but is much more likely to lead to greater internal division and continued violence.

The oil is to be found in the East of the country.

The eastern leaders have already agreed to give oil contracts to the West. The bombings were aimed at stopping a humanitarian disaster yet where has the outcry been about those supporters of Gaddafi tortured and killed, the killings and general plight of African Workers and to the casualties of NATO bombings? Why has Libya been selected for this type of intervention when the evidence is that equally bad oppression is taking place in other Middle Eastern countries.

Libya compared with most countries had only a small army and arms sales to Saudi Arabia  – an equally oppressive state – are far greater. From 2008 until the last quarter of 2010 arms sales to Saudi Arabia from the UK were three times  less than those to Libya.

War is always brutal and people always suffer on all sides, yet it appears to have become the norm to intervene in this way rather than to find ways forward via negotiation. This policy of military intervention has been used to disastrous effect in Iraq, Afghanistan Pakistan and Palestine.

The only beneficiaries of these conflicts are the arms companies burgeoning profits. Ordinary people on the ground pay for war by the murder or mutilation of their loved ones. Why were the attempts by the African Union and Venezuela to act as an intermediary for negotiations in the Libyan conflict so easily turned down?  Nor any other attempts to broker negotiations put in place? Surely all forms of negotiation should have tried before the policy of protecting civilians turned into a  military intervention aimed at regime change at any cost.

The cost of this action and the resulting likely cries for more military spending will lead to even greater cuts in our own social spending

NATO  has moved from a position of ‘protecting civilians’ to regime change and is in effect putting many civilian lives in jeopardy.

This policy has never been sanctioned by our own Parliament and does not fit with the United Nations own charter as Libya has not invaded another country.

Our own Prime Minister, who was caught promoting the sale of arms to Middle East dictators at the beginning of the Middle East uprisings, has with his ally President Sarkozy of France been the main instigators of this military Intervention in Libya and have in many ways replaced Bush and Blair as the main instigators  of military intervention in other states. President Obama initially hesitated but – as has sadly become his style – eventually taken a hawkish position in Foreign policy.

The results of these actions have lead to more civilian casualties and to the destruction of buildings and infrastructure and to the loss  of social gains.  The cost of this action and the resulting likely cries for more military spending will lead to even greater cuts in our own social spending. The United States spent over £750 million on the conflict in its first few weeks. In the UK the corresponding figure currently stands at around £300 million and it is forecasted that this will rise to one billion by September.

One factor that has got lost is that when Libya’s Foreign Secretary  Moussa Koussa was interviewed by the Scottish police in relation to the Lockerbie bombings,  yet we have heard nothing of these interviews.

Surely if he had  evidence of Libya’s involvement this would have been given huge publicity and given as a justification for military action. Dr Jim Swire has warned against any evidence from defectors being taken seriously as they have interests of self-preservation. There is still significant concern about the correctness of the present verdict regarding the Lockerbie bombing

We appear to have become numb to the use of brutal military action by our own Government and have fallen for the media’s over-simplistic justification of getting rid of a mad and brutal dictator. NATO has extended it’s timescale for operations and calls from South Africa are going unheeded. Al Jazeera has shown footage of Western troops West of Misrata yet one of the main points of the UN Security Council was to exclude foreign involvement on the ground.

I  believe that a negotiated settlement should be sought with the clear aim of setting up elections. It would then be up to all the Libyan people to decide on their future. All bombings by NATO should stop while negotiations take place. One of the main demands of the UN Security council resolution was for a cease fire. Given any ceasefire it should be United Nations Peacekeeping forces that should be put on the ground not NATO troops that are on the ground.

All those responsible for war crimes and torture should be tried at the International War Crimes court.

May 272011

The Fire Brigades Union’s report ‘Easy Targets’ details some of the scenes their members have experienced. Bricks, bottles, even petrol bombs have been used against emergency services when they have answered calls. Voice’s Suzanne Kelly, with input from Steve Jordan, juxtaposes this sometimes-brutal reality with the excellent global work being done by Florian.

Across the UK, fire-fighters and ambulance crews risk their lives every time they race to answer an emergency call.  They rarely know exactly what they will face until they get to an incident scene.

There might be a raging fire, serious hazards and risks to cope with, and casualties may well be in the middle of such scenes.

As if it weren’t challenging enough dealing with fires and casualties, there is a very real risk of being attacked by mobs armed with bottles, bricks and weapons. This is the reality for fire-fighters and ambulance crews in the UK today.

As if the risk of physical assault wasn’t bad enough, the proposed budget cuts are nothing short of an assault on essential life-saving resources provided by the emergency services.  The Union describes the proposed cuts as:

“… nothing short of a full scale ideological onslaught on the fundamental principle of public service” (Fire Brigade Magazine, October 2010

People trying to save lives in the UK are, sadly, not given the resources and support they need.

Against this backdrop of problems, there is a group of volunteers determined to make a difference in poorer countries – countries which desperately wish they had the resources we in the UK take for granted, and even abuse. These volunteers provide training, gear and equipment, and are Operation Florian.

According to Operation Florian’s brochure, Florian was established in 1995;

“It is a UK Fire Service Humanitarian Charity working to promote the protection of life amongst communities in need worldwide, by the provision of equipment and training to improve fire fighting and rescue capabilities.”

Its roots are in the aftermath of the Bosnian war in which that region’s infrastructure was severely damaged. Fire-fighters from Manston were visiting the town of Split; they had been invited to help identify the way forward and see what could be done.

During this visit, a serious fire broke out near the town. There were simply no means to fight the fire successfully and acres of forest and buildings were lost. The visiting fire-fighters decided they had to help, and Florian was started, named after St. Florian, the patron saint of fire-fighters.

The first fire fighting truck sent abroad by Operation Florian volunteers is still in service today. It was clear in those early days that much more help was needed.

The charity is run purely by volunteers from the emergency services. Activities include fundraising, training, and supplying equipment and protective gear. When a project is identified, equipment is found, often from local authorities or sales. Everything is tested before being sent abroad, and training is always provided.

The Grampian Fire Department carried out an important project for Florian in Macedonia in 2007. A team of six Grampian area fire-fighters delivered four trucks and spent weeks training the Macedonians. In total, Operation Florian has delivered

  • 163 fire and rescue vehicles
  • 7 aerial ladder appliances
  • Over 650 breathing apparatus sets and cylinders
  • Over 3,000 sets of protective clothing
  • 40 hydraulic rescue sets
  • 110 portable pumps and generators.

Steve Jordan of Operation Florian, who was recently awarded an MBE for his services to Macedonia,  stated:

“It is vital that the work of Operation Florian continues, not only in Macedonia but across the world. I am most grateful to Grampian Fire and Rescue Service volunteers who have carried out valuable training and donated vital equipment. This year, the volunteers have carried out Road Traffic Collision training in Delcevo led by Alan Davie from Grampian Fire and Rescue Service. I would like to thank all at Grampian for giving up their time to help others within deprived communities across the world”.

Fires destroy wildlife, property, and people and ruin lives and families. Anyone who is willing to risk their own neck, time and time again, to save others deserves all the support we can give them.

If you have any help you can give Operation Florian be it funding or skills, then please do get in touch at 01304 617859 or www.operationflorian.com