Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Tear gas and rubber coated steel bullets won't stop them masses

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptian have poured into Cairo’s Tahrir Square yet again, and of course into the streets of cities and towns from Alexandria to Suez, from Lower Egypt to the Nile Delta, remonstrating against the savage repression released by the army and the security forces over the past few days and demanding an end to the rule of the US-backed military junta.

Scores have been killed and over 2,000 wounded. Fierce street battles continued into the early morning hours of Tuesday in the streets surrounding Tahrir Square. An official at the main Cairo morgue confirmed to the Associated Press that the bodies of 35 victims of the crackdown had been brought there by Monday.

Tear gas and rubber coated steel bullets supplied apparently by an American company along with live rounds have been used on those participating in the protests.

Among the wounded, some had lost eyes and suffered grievous head wounds from the tear gas canisters, rubber bullets, buckshot and live rounds fired at the unarmed demonstrators. Soldiers and state police were ordered to aim for the head. Other civilians were callously beaten with truncheons, some apparently to the point of death.

This is worst bout of violence in Egypt since the revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak earlier in the year. Video footage has been circulating of police apparently beating protesters, including some lying on the ground. The International Federation for Human Rights accused the policemen of using live ammunition on protesters. Some reports indicated that demonstrators were responding by hurling stones and Molotov cocktails, but having been glued to Al Jazeera English live stream for the last few days I have not seen any evidence of such retaliation or retribution.

Crowds in Tahrir Square have been growing today in answer to a call for a one million man march in the capital and across the country.

Confronted with this new widespread and popular uprising, the country’s civilian cabinet, installed by the ruling military council and headed by former Mubarak minister Essam Sharaf, offered its resignation. The resignation, which was announced on state television, was seen by some as an attempt to placate the mass protests, possibly suggested and ordered behind the scenes by the military junta; if so this is just another political manoeuvre.

The one thing that stands out to me more than anything; is that the world of capitalism and the ruling classes and indeed throughout creation, is now in conflict and being challenged by the masses and multitudes who are increasingly questing and searching for something which is completely different to what we currently have, what that exactly is, has yet to be decided, but I think that we are on the road to some monumental change, that this is a time of history in the making; what we can expect in the next few months is anyone’s guess really, but let’s hope, pray and cross your fingers that it comes peacefully?”                 

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Monday, 21 November 2011

Swings and roundabouts in Spain

Modern electoral politics is like the game of swigs and roundabout’s; you take a mouthful of this and a mouthful of that and then you go on a trip on the political roundabout. In reality it's always a draught that the working class ends up in.

Take yesterday’s Spanish election for example, the right-wing Popular Party won the 2011 parliamentary election, according to the latest vote count, with the ruling Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) having now conceded defeat.

With 78 per cent of the poll now counted, the opposition Popular Party has won around 44 per cent of the vote and is expected to gain an out-and-out majority of 187 seats in the 350-seat lower house of the Spanish parliament, as Reuters reported shortly after the polls closed on Sunday.

The Socialists lost a third of their seats as voters dumped a government that presided over a dramatic economic slump which has left 23% of Spaniards out of work.

Outgoing Prime Minister Jose Luis Roderiguez Zapatero, who led the PSOE, introduced tough austerity measures in 2010, including a five per cent salary cut for public servants, a pension freeze and a rise in the retirement age from 65 to 67 years.

This has been for Spain the season of funerals, healthcare, education, transport, public services have all been declared dead, given symbolic burials by grim faced citizens, so deep have been the cuts in public spending. And a resigned population now awaits the axe to fall again, and it will.

Once hailed as one of Europe's success stories economically, politically and socially, Spain is facing problems of large deficits, 21 per cent unemployment (5 million are out of work with youth unemployment at 48 per cent), no growth and a generalised malaise. The Spanish socialists who spearheaded bold reforms such as gay marriage, legislation against domestic violence and the re-examination of Spain's fascist past, lost on the economic front. They went to bed with capitalism or rather tried to run it and the result annihilation at the polls.

Spain is a fine example really of the utter failure of the reformist road which can never be made to work in the interests of working people anywhere in the world, and it is in actuality time to get off that political roundabout.

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Sorry, that I have not been able to blog as much as I would have like during the last week; and rally, to be absolutely honest with you this is due to the fickle little fact that I had a falling-out with my mother; and over all things that of the Occupy Movement, which I found upsetting, and of course, made somewhat worse, because she is 75 young.

It seems very strange to have this generation difference of opinion at our time of life, and as I am myself almost 56, but then again this is indeed something that has been an issue ever since I decided that I was a Socialist many years ago now, and would do whatever I had to do, to be part of a movement that would bring change into this, the rotten world of capitalism.

I hold my contempt and abhorrence of the system that we are all forced to live under, with such passion, and yes, with such fury and with such intensity of “vehemence”. The sooner that we get rid of the hold that capitalism has on the world, could not be soon enough as far as I am concerned; it’s just a shame that along the road that one takes as an activist, that you have to fallout, as a consequence, with those you hold “close” and those you “love” indeed the most!”

Being a Socialist has a price tag that many a revolutionary will discover comes with the ideas and simple philosophies that we propagate; it’s not an easy path to take and the last thing that you intended was to take issue with family or friends, and it’s made much worse when you realise that they have been taken-in by the reactionary, backward-looking views put-out by the capitalist media, or that they somehow refuse to be freethinkers, instead they allow the print media or the BBC news to do the thinking for them. Sometimes I really do despair and feel the hurt when they try unintelligently to put you down and without recourse to facts. I feel and hate the ambiance of this situation, the hurt the emotion, the mountain that seems now even more the harder to climb; but you have to rise above it all, that’s part of the course, the passage that needs navigation, the tide, we need to turn back today and every day.

Some inspiration..

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Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Doncaster is an unemployment black spot - do you hear that Ed Miliband?"

Today’s unemployment statistics are I fear a foretaste of worst to come; and the Unemployment figures in parts of east London have risen by almost 16 per cent over the last year.

Figures released today showed the jobless totals in Newham have risen from 10,265 to 11,877 in the year to October, an increase of 15.7 per cent. In Tower Hamlets the figure rose to 11,486 from 10,147, a 13.2 per cent increase.

Of those unemployed, 3,295 in Newham are aged 18-24, while 3,424 are in that same bracket in Tower Hamlets.

London saw a rise of 10.8 per cent in unemployment, with the total seeking work now 236,912. The total number of people across the UK out of work is 2.62million, with 1.02million young people jobless. That's the highest total for 15 years.

Youth unemployment in the UK has risen above the politically sensitive 1 million mark, as fears grow of a lost generation of workers amid the worsening economic conditions.

Grimsby, Doncaster and Blackpool were named as black spots with high rates of young people not in education, employment or training. Parts of London, such as Hackney and Newham, also showed a similar pattern, according to the Work Foundation and Private Equity Foundation.

Oh yes Doncaster, were 20,000 pensioners are living in fuel poverty, now we are told this is a youth unemployment black spot, it is also the Town that Ed Miliband represents in the House of Commons – lucky then for him that he isn't the keys holder to 10 Downing Street.

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In Miliband's Doncaster 20,000 pensioners live in fuel poverty

In the UK 5.4 million households are currently living in fuel poverty and almost half of those are aged over 60. NEARLY 20,000 pensioners in Doncaster are living in fuel poverty, according to shocking new figures.

Figures also revealed around 88 more people aged over 65 died in Doncaster last winter than in any other season last year.

The findings show that around 80 per cent of these excess winter deaths were a result of circulatory or respiratory diseases, which are exacerbated by cold weather conditions.

As heating costs increase, campaigners are concerned that more elderly people will struggle to look after themselves this winter. In Surrey last year, 528 deaths were directly caused by winter weather with 39,414 households living in fuel poverty.

In case you didn't know Ed Miliband Leader of the Labour Party is a member of parliament for Doncaster – Is someone going to tell him?”  

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“You can't evict an idea whose time has come”

Throughout the United States, city administrations are moving to break up encampments of the Occupy protests, and in the process trampling underfoot the constitutionally protected right of assembly, and I must add that I am not at all familiar with the US constitution, but whatever it is there can be no doubt that it’s been thrown out of the window with the many attacks that have taken place on evicting Occupy protests.

Police cleared out the Occupy camp in Oakland, California in a predawn raid on Monday, resulting in 32 arrests. This followed the shutting down of the Portland, Oregon encampment, in which 50 people were arrested. Last week, police used truncheons to hit unarmed students attempting to set up a camp at the University of California, Berkeley.

According to one tally, there have been over 3,600 arrests at Occupy protests, mostly in the United States, including 943 in New York City, 370 in Tucson, 352 in Chicago, 206 in Oakland and 153 in Boston.

Many of the raids have been carried out by police in riot gear, in some cases using rubber bullets and tear gas, as in last month’s attack on Occupy Oakland. Those arrested have been subjected to capricious and retaliatory measures, including high bail and trumped-up charges.

And of course yesterday the world witnessed, although the press by all accounts were barred and band from recording events at Liberty Square (Zuccotti Park), home of Occupy Wall Street for the past two months and birthplace of the 99% movement that has spread across the country and around the world. At about 1 a.m. Tuesday, police handed out notices from the park's owner, Brookfield Office Properties, and the city saying that the park had to be cleared because it had become unsanitary and hazardous. Protesters were told they could return in several hours, but without sleeping bags or tents.

The New York times reported that the clearing out of Zuccotti Park (Liberty Square) came as protesters announced on their website that they planned to "shut down Wall Street" with a demonstration on Thursday to commemorate the completion of two months of the beginning of the encampment, which has spurred similar demonstrations across the country. Whist I am still trying to familiarise myself with the exact details and sequence of yesterday’s events and recent developments since, my principal thoughts are that the Occupy Movement can only get stronger, and that eviction hands us the high ground as the saying now goes and spreads: “You can't evict an idea whose time has come”.

These events of course make you think of our own occupation at St. Paul’s and as I understand it the Corporation of London are considering new action to evict our camp, and I think in the next few days we will have a better idea of what’s going on in this regard, there really is no point in getting worked up about this just now, so whilst we sit back and take in a bit of stock, here is an interesting article about the London Protest published in The New York Times - Here

"Be wary of great leaders...Hope that there are many, many small leaders." - Pete Seeger 

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Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Newham to get its own Surface-to-air missiles

Make of it what you will then, but today I am not what you would call a very un-happy person. I have discovered that here in Newham it is likely now, that we are to have Surface-to-air missiles deployed during the Olympics if deemed appropriate, the defence secretary, Philip Hammond, said yesterday, insisting "all necessary measures" would be taken to ensure security.

It would be the first time surface-to-air missiles have been deployed in Britain since the end of the Second World. And I ask, would it be thought of as insensitive to those many thousands who lost their lives during that war defending and living in a community that was hammered, pounded and pulverised by Luftwaffe during that terrible time in our local and national history, and of course it goes without saying let’s not forget what they the Royal Air Force did to the German nation, and just for the record: In the first months of the war, British strategic bombing (aerial attacks on the enemy’s industry and infrastructure) were bound by the belief that deliberate attacks on civilians and private property were illegal and unjustifiable. But by 1945, RAF Bomber Command was obliterating historic German cities overnight. It was a terrifying transformation in the nature of war, which saw industrial towns across Europe smashed to pieces and hundreds of thousands of civilians killed.

In the East End of London, from September 1940 to April 1941 East London was exposed we cannot forget, and perhaps, to one of the most constant and sustained periods of aerial bombing on record, the constant air raids took a heavy toll on the local population and because of this and the fact that the local population were still expected to man the docks with the loss of life inescapable, and the senior amongst us now still hold childhood memories, the vivid memories of the war, which they will never forget, it's as though it happened yesterday, they can tell many unique stories about the blitz. They recall the wailing air-raid sirens, the drone of enemy bombers, the sky filled with searchlights, thuds of heavy ack-ack, and then bombs screeching to earth and then the explosions, many escaped nightly to underground air-raid shelters, and in the morning, after the 'all clear' sounded, walked through streets of smouldering rubble and desolation in the aftermath of the air-raids, and often were to find their homes and shops destroyed and incendiary fires still burning. It is this memory etched, imprinted and still held by many here, that I would suggest that the deployment of Surface-to-air missiles is an insult and say’s in so many ways’- that the world has not moved on.

The Guardian newspaper recently reported that the United States was concerned about security at the Games and planned to send up to 1,000 of its agents, including 500 from the FBI, to protect American contestants and diplomats.

A decision to install air defence weaponry in London would follow a precedent set by previous Olympic hosts. China deployed a battery of surface-to-air missiles a kilometre south of its showpiece venues for the Beijing Games in 2008.

Greece placed dozens of US-made Patriot missiles around Athens around six weeks before the 2004 Olympics, the first summer games after the September 2001 attacks on the United States.

More than 6,000 British soldiers dressed as civilian security guards are expected to boost security at London’s Olympic venues, a source divulged to Reuters earlier this month, enhancing a force of at least 10,000 civilian guards and 12,000 police who are to have their own barracks built, so I suppose you could say that my neck of the woods, this impoverished London borough where the Olympics will make no real difference to the lives of many struggling with the reality of unemployment, poverty and homelessness  are now to have weapons of mass destruction in addition to the imposition of thousands of state, civilian and private security personnel all for the Olympics, which is nothing more than a plaything of commercial convenience.

Corporate sponsors are paying £1.4billion towards the Games, but British taxpayers are thought to be stumping up £12billion – more than four times the original estimate.

Ticket sales are expected to offset just £500million of this. It has also emerged that the ballot for tickets favoured the wealthy, with more than half of those applying having had to risk bidding more than £1,000 to stand a chance, according to analysis. The corporate sponsors include Lloyds TSB – one of the banks bailed out by taxpayers – French energy firm EDF who have gained gold for constantly mugging their customers in this country, and Cadbury’s, sold to U.S. food giant Kraft. The following companies are what they call top Partners for the London 2012 Olympic Games: Coca-Cola, Acer, Atos, Dow, GE, McDonald's, Omega, Panasonic Corporation, P&G, Samsung and Visa International.

Some of the above mentioned corporate sponsors will be household names to many like Coca-Cola or McDonald’s whose inclusion on this list says a great deal about the so-called Olympic movement, the promotion of healthy living and lifestyles particularly to the science they cast-out towards the young.

I personally found Atos to be interesting they earn millions from the DWP in connection with work they carry out on IT systems and have recently been chosen by Accenture to partner them in work for DWP IT services contract that will deliver the application development and maintenance services for its customer-facing systems including delivery of elements of the IT solution for the Universal Credit, the U.K. government’s program to simplify working-age benefits systems into a single streamlined system. The value of the Accenture contract could range from £50 million to £70 million per year. And of course Atos are one and the same company that runs the government "cruel" back-to-work interviews who include the terminally ill or those currently undergoing chemotherapy, radiotherapy being threatened with benefit cuts if they do not even attend the meetings, need I say any more.


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Occupy Portland the protest that keeps coming back

I have now become quite intrigued and absorbed with the occupy movement in America, on Sunday as I mentioned in a previous post, captivated to the developments as they accrued on the live feed provided from Occupy Portland as several hundred protesters tried to passively to resist and repel the brute force of the police, and yesterday it was the turn of Occupy Oakland encampment at Frank Ogawa Plaza.

One notable development and occurrence in these modern day struggles of the international working class at home and aboard is the inclusion and part being played by social media and the rise of the citizen journalist. I was absolutely fascinated by the quality of both the commentary and clear images being streamed live from Occupy Oakland and subsequently stayed with it most of the day; the revolution is amazingly well prepared and very much hi-tech, even St Paul’s has its own media tent that’s playing an important part in the struggle.

Anyhow, at about 5 am their time, up to 1,000 police officers fully clad in heavy riot gear descended on the Occupy Oakland encampment at Frank Ogawa Plaza and proved definitively that the hyper-militarised crowd control tactics that brought so much national and indeed now international attention to the city in recent weeks was an unnecessary uses of excessive force.

They the police looking like something out of a science-fiction film, moved swiftly and shut down a wide perimeter around the plaza and then moved up, block by block, in heavy lines, until the mass of protesters were pushed into an intersection nearby. Then, a large formation of riot police moved into the plaza itself, where they arrested 32 people who had chosen to remain in the camp in an act of civil disobedience ('bravo'  'bravo'), there was one fella going by the name of ‘Running Wolf’ who was left up a tree, in some sort of tree-house and don’t know if he was eventually arrested, I suspect he was.

There was also an interfaith tent and group who have since been reported as having been arrested whilst they being huddled together in a circle in silent prayer, prayed and then detained it appears.

Police were tearing down tents and clearing the plaza. There were no reports of injuries, which makes a change from the prior and previous (October 25th and the night of November 2nd) assaults on the camp and the protesters.

While US police crowd control techniques are not or rarely pretty, people facing off with riot police as part of various occupations around the country probably don't really have a good sense of the force used during the first eviction of Occupy Oakland due to a media selected blackout. In all the tally of injuries for October 25 and November 2 was three broken hands, two head injuries (one of which, to Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, was quite severe), a ruptured spleen and minor injuries too numerous to list.

What these evictions had in common with the one two weeks before is that the end-game is just as unclear. Protesters again promise to reclaim the plaza as soon as police leave. The Oakland City Council has reportedly entertained a proposal to hire private security guards to keep the plaza clear, but this is a cash-strapped city and one has to believe that the Occupiers' resolve will outlast the city's private security budget. 

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Monday, 14 November 2011

Cameron & Osborne on the Run

Here is something interesting for you all…

This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Is it conceivable for a person from a very rich and privileged background to genuinely care about the plight of the poor? I really don’t know about that at all, but I think it is much harder for such a person to have any real comprehension of what it feels like to live in poverty, with little or no prospect and a diminishing possibility of escape, no matter how hard they work.

To call living on benefits in any shape or form a "lifestyle choice" is the most inconsiderate and insulting demonstration of titled insensitivity and ignorance to have crossed the lips of any politician or commentator in recent times.

There is no such thing as easy money, in fact there never has been unless of course you are one of the very few who own the means of production and are able to profit off-the-peg and from those who may think they are fortunate to have employment in these hard times of austerity and economic chaos to be able to earn some sort of a living, and then that’s no guarantee that you are any better off than those on the benefits treadmill.

When someone thinks of poverty, it’s usually imaged the physical likeness or representation of people who are out of work due to illness, unemployment or retirement that first come to mind. And as this year’s new levels for the national minimum wage were being introduced, the BBC’s Panorama programme discovered that many British workers are still being paid much less than the law states and finds the problem particularly acute especially in the care work sector. The programme went on to show that there is general agreement that minimum wage underpayment is widespread, the difficulties of investigation and proof mean there have only been seven criminal prosecutions over the national minimum wage in more than a decade. And I would suggest and suspect now in such an economic climate where these sorts of abuses are likely to occur more frequently.

The Tories hatred of the poor is so deep seated that since they came to power 80% of their work has reduced income for the poor. And like their predecessors in government New Labour, they have continued to use a stick against working people in attacking the welfare system and cultivating through fear the desired result that workers would be willing to take up low and part-time employment, also an important point to be made here, though, is that this "ideology" of the privatised family is a way of thinking which arises out of particular private property (class) relations and as such works to reproduce these class relations. In short, the idea that the parents (biological or adoptive) of a child are the ones responsible for the economic well-being of that child works to reproduce all the inequalities of class society that we have today.

I believe that "ideology" is gradually but increasingly being rejected today by a new emerging generation who are under no illusions that the system that kept workers in their place in the past is breaking down as it fails to meet expectations, as employment and opportunity for many permanently dries-up. The system of capitalism is stuck in a Cul-de-sac that it’s not getting out of it in a hurry or at all for that matter.

It seems that everywhere I go these day’s I hear the call being made not just for change but for ‘revolution’ and it may only be uttered and voiced at the moment by just a few thousand in Britain whenever, each and every time I attend an event, demonstration or occupation, but the most important factor is its being called for around the world and gaining traction. Yesterday I became transfixed and engrossed to the developments as they accrued on the live feed provided from Occupy Portland as Several hundred protesters, some wearing goggles and gas masks, marched past authorities and downtown on a Sunday, hours after riot police forced Occupy Portland demonstrators out of two encampments in parks. Police moved in shortly before noon and drove protesters into the street after dozens remained in the camps in defiance of city officials. The City Mayor Sam Adams had ordered that the camps be shut down on Saturday at midnight, citing unhealthy conditions and claiming that an increasing number of drug users and thieves were utilising, operating and exploiting the camps of with I am sure this was only a fabricated lie and tall tale to discredit and demean the occupy movement.

In other US cities over the weekend:

Scott Olsen, an Iraq war veteran who suffered a skull fracture during a police raid on the Occupy Oakland encampment, had been released from the hospital. Olsen was injured Oct. 25, and Occupy supporters around the country had rallied around his plight.

And for the third time in three days, Oakland city officials warned protesters that they did not have the right to camp in the plaza in front of City Hall and that they would face immediate arrest.

In Salt Lake City, police arrested 19 people Saturday when protesters refused to leave a park a day after a man was found dead inside his tent at the encampment.

Police in New York arrested 24 Occupy Albany protesters after they defied an 11 p.m. curfew in a state-owned park. They were charged with trespassing.

In Denver, authorities forced protesters to leave a downtown encampment and arrested four people for interfering with officers who removed illegally pitched tents.

In San Francisco, police said two demonstrators attacked two officers in separate incidents during a march.

I was also able to attend the occupation at St Paul’s yesterday afternoon, where sprits, enthusiasm, passion and support remain very high. I did notice some changes since my last visit that improve the camp more toilets and a new welfare tent set-up to deal and give support to comrades that had or have issues or personal problems to deal with, very thoughtful and considerate I thought. In addition I was able to attend the university tent and take part in a very lively debate on food sovereignty and reclaiming the global food system but more about that possibly in my next posting.

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Saturday, 12 November 2011

‘Your Country Needs You’

First penned by me in 2011 and thought it a good idea to repost it for this weekend.  

The campaign to win the young to war has come a long way from that poster used in the ‘First Great War’ you know ‘Your Country Needs You’ and the pointing finger of Kitchener. "Your King and Country need You." And they came and died in their thousands innocently conned and dispossess of life by deceit. They put it on hoardings, on trams, on buses, on stations and warehouse walls, and even the notice board at the church hall had "Your King and Country need You."

Have you ever wondered just why it is that when a young man or women goes off to war and then comes back wounded or even worse still, killed, that we are asked to dig-deep into our pockets with the so-called poppy-appeal run by The Royal British Legion, an appeal that no one disputes brings some relief and help to the families of the wounded and killed, but why is this the case, when they have given-up or lost so much including life; so why is the government, the establishment, the ruling classes who made the wars, who forced the drafts and conscriptions by the use of legislated laws when it suited, when it was appropriate, not making and creating the provisions that meets the needs of those who fought in what is after all their many wars?

The precursor to The Royal British Legion was The Haig Fund a charity set up in 1921 by Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig to assist ex-servicemen. Today, the Haig Fund continues to support veterans from all conflicts and other military actions involving British Armed Forces. Its members sell remembrance poppies in the weeks before Remembrance Day/Armistice Day. The words Haig Fund which I remember as a schoolboy in the 1960s are no longer inscribed in the centre of each poppy, and that maybe just as well when you consider that one of the greatest debates for almost a century now has involved the conduct of the British Commander-in-Chief during the Great War, Field Marshal Sir. Douglas Haig.

Many commentators and observers have referred to Haig as a 'butcher' who sent hundreds of thousands of men unnecessarily to their deaths. A large number of historians subscribe to this theory and savagely attack Haig as being responsible for the wholesale premeditated slaughter. I should really go into the deceptive role of The Royal British Legion; perhaps I will do that next year, so let’s move on.
As is usual at this time of the year, we are called upon to remember the dead, the fallen of wars; not only two ‘World Wars’ but of recent continuing wars in faraway places. Poppies sold, a festival of remembrance held and televised, boy-scouts, girl-guides, sea, air and army cadets, new and old soldiers march down to the local war memorial to repeat that yearly ritual, customary observance and practice.

The main event is held at the Cenotaph, the monument built to honour people whose remains are interred elsewhere or whose remains cannot be recovered and lie scattered across the fields and arable land of France; as was and still is the case for many casualties of that First Great War. The Cenotaph is in London’s Whitehall, stone’s throws from Downing Street were all decisions of war have been taken and plotted particularly in the last and current century. This year’s remembrance falls in the year that marks the 72th anniversary and outbreak of the Second World War and as usual the Queen and her Royal Family dressed-up as Fleet Admirals, Air Marshals and Field Marshals with medals and self-awarded honours, will join our political leaders in honouring by this act of remembrance the war dead, who we are told time and again, gave their lives for the freedoms that we (supposedly) enjoy today, even though they for the most part were conscripted, that’s forced to fight in the blood-red fields of war.

Wootton Bassett now Royal; with its cricket field, pubs and a centuries-old church became the focuses of international media attention, not unfortunately because of its idyllic picturesque village qualities; typical of an old English town in all respects; but one: until this year every corpse that returned from Britain's wars abroad passes through it. In what has become a public show of respect? Wootton Bassett is near Royal Air Force Lyneham, the base to which the country's war dead were returned. Commencing about four years ago, townspeople began gathering for the processions of each soldier as the body, in a flag-draped casket, was moved from Lyneham to a coroner's office in Oxford. The inaugural processions were attended by just a dozen saluting war veterans at first. Crowds then swelled to the thousands when the repetition of these sad processions became commonplace as the convoy of coffins through Wootton Bassett turned from a trickle to a stream.

Newspapers carried front page converge that included pictures of mothers, fathers, wives, children and in some cases distraught girlfriends’ of the fallen. Anyone who picks up a newspaper or owns a television set could not have failed to miss the risks that are involved and taken by the young in the modern wars that are Afghanistan and Iraq and have proven to be oh so deadly.

Every now and again, Cameron, and like his predecessors; before the exchange of insults during questions to the Prime Minster, will pay a tribute of hollow words acknowledging deceased military personnel. But with the public witnessing the return of so many young military casualties the pendulum of public opinion began to stick and stay put on questioning or opposing the military mission. The government in most recent years, sensing the public perception, gave support to an armed forces day, the idea being that parades and ceremonies’ would be held in every community around the war memorial to honour the role and function of armed forces personnel past and present - to use government language - honouring their commitment.

The British armed forces have some of the most difficult and far-flung commitments to maintain. Major commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq co-exist with others from peacekeeping in Cyprus to patrolling the Falkland Islands. To meet these commitments, an estimate is made of the required number of trained full-time personnel, known as the ‘trained requirement’. The actual number of trained personnel, known as the ‘trained strength’, is usually slightly less than requirement. The trained requirement in 2007 stood at 183,610; the trained strength stood at 177,760, of which 99,280 were in the army, 34,940 in the navy and 43,550 in the air force.

In terms of personnel, the UK regular armed forces are about the third-largest in Europe after Germany and France. Britain is the world’s largest military spender after of course the US, and our armed forces being the most stretched in the world, over £2 billion is spent each year on recruiting and training 20,000 new personnel to replace those who either leave or are killed on active duty. The armed forces, as the statistics show, draw their non-officer recruits mainly from among young people with low educational accomplishment living in poor communities. A large proportion joining for disadvantaged reasons, including the lack of civilian career choices; a survey in the Cardiff area in 2004 found that 40 per cent of army recruits were joining as a last resort and the army revelled in 2004 that while roughly 45 per cent of all young people leave school with 5 GCSE subjects graded A-C only, 17 per cent of all Army recruits in 2003–04 had English at A-C level, with the figure for Maths at about 10 per cent. On average Army> recruits have 0.9 of a GCSE at grade A-C. ... Records also show that 24 per cent of all Army applicants in 2003–04 were unemployed for a significant period before applying.

The killing locomotive that is the army always needs fuel to feed into its boiler, so tens of thousands of pounds are spent on newspapers and the media convincing youngsters to sign away (no apology) their lives. On the way back from visiting a friend, I found one of those free newspapers that are handed out every evening at tube stations in London and lying on the seat next to me on the train on which I was travelling, what caught my eye was a double-page spread advertisement placed in the London Metro by the army and, I assume, acting on instructions from the Ministry of Defence and the government. The advertisement carried the image of a beautiful young woman in combat fatigues. I have no reason to believe that this young person isn’t a serving member of the armed forces and with the looks of a model.

The advert had a personal testimony of army life given by Major Laura Blair, 31, (can you believe that name) who is a member of the Adjutant General’s Corps; they apparently specialise in HR Personnel. Laura, if she does exists, says wonderful things about army life and ends by advising anyone who may be interested in an army career to either pop into one of the Army Careers Offices dotted around London or visit the Army Show Rooms in Hounslow or Dalston to find out just what life in uniform could offer them.

Recruitment literature for army careers emphasises potential benefits: career interest and challenge, comradeship, the active lifestyle, travel and training opportunities. It omits to mention or obscures even blots out: the radical change from a civilian to a military lifestyle, ethical issues involved in killing, risks to physical and mental health, the legal obligations of enlistment, the state’s legal and moral obligations to its armed forces personnel, and the right of conscientious objection. By suggesting that soldiers are highly satisfied with army life, the literature also glosses over the ambivalent attitudes of the majority. The omissions conspire against the potential recruit’s right and responsibility to make an informed choice about whether to enlist. The literature also does little to enable parents to ask searching questions of their children and of recruiters in order to assure their children’s best interests.

One thing that remains the same about war is that workers fight it; and die in it; and that’s best summed-up by last surviving soldier to have fought in the trenches of the First World War and who died earlier this year. Henry John “Harry” Patch (17 June 1898 – 25 July 2009) – known as ‘the Last Tommy’ Harry, from what I can gather, hated war, and called it “organised murder, and nothing less.”  

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If a child is given a doll - If a child is given a gun

Wilhelm Kahler

The above portrait and likeness is the image of my grandfather, from my mother’s side of the family. I first saw his likeness hang on the wall of my grandmothers flat in the early 1970s on a family Christmas visit to Germany. 

Thousands of war veterans will March past the Cenotaph memorial in London to mark Remembrance Sunday. The Queen will lay the first wreath of poppies and senior royals will follow suit, then the PM and leading politicians and other dignitary’s. Remembrance events will take place around the country and in the theatres of modern wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
This year’s Remembrance Sunday falls exactly 93 years after the ending of World War I, Armistice Day.

World War II was humanity's deadliest war, causing tens of millions of deaths. The total estimated human loss of life caused by World War II was roughly 72 million people, making it the deadliest and most destructive war in human history. The civilian toll was around 47 million, including 20 million deaths due to war-related famine and disease. The military toll was about 25 million, including the deaths of about 4 million prisoners of war in captivity. The Allies lost approximately 61 million people, and the Axis powers lost 11 million.

My grandfather Wilhelm Kahler was killed just weeks before the wars end, away from home in Russia at the ridiculously young age of less than forty years; he was one of 5.2 million German servicemen – that’s three in every ten mobilized, whose lives were prematurely taken along with 2.4 million innocent German civilians. More German soldiers lost their lives in the last twelve months of fighting than in the whole of the war. The crucial point is that to Hitler this monstrous toll meant nothing whatever, he once said:

“Life is horrible, coming into being, existing, and passing away, there’s always a killing. Everything that is born must later die. Humanity is a ridiculous cosmic bacterium.” 

His statement only proving that war is evil, the dark side of humanity, it is the true tragedy, the triumph of disaster.

How can anyone praise war without stopping to reflect on the many horrors and revulsion's of pain the needless loss of life?

If a child is given a doll

This post above I wrote originally in 2008 when I first started to blog and it has now become a tradition and practice in respect to remember at this time of the year not only my own grandfather but all those countless young men and women who were and still are cut down in the many theatres and fields of war. Since the end of the Second World War there have been over 250 major wars in which over 23 million people have been killed, tens of millions made homeless, and countless millions injured and bereaved.

In the history of warfare the twentieth century, and now continuing into the twenty-first stands out as the bloodiest and most brutal - three times more people have been killed in wars in the last ninety years than in all the previous five hundred. Only 11 years into the new millennium the world still wrestles with a welter of problems left over from the 20th century. There are still more than three dozen major active conflicts (those with over 1,000 casualties, both military and civilian) in the world. 

Millions of children are caught up in conflicts in which they are not merely bystanders, but targets. Some fall victim to a general onslaught against civilians; others die as part of a calculated genocide. Still other children suffer the effects of sexual violence or the multiple deprivations of armed conflict that expose them to hunger or disease. Just as shocking, thousands of young people are cynically exploited as combatants.

In the past decade, around 2 million children have been killed in armed conflict, three times as many have been seriously injured or permanently disabled, and countless others have been forced to witness or even to take part in horrifying acts of violence.

In dozens of countries around the world, children have become direct participants in war. Denied a childhood and often subjected to horrific violence, some 300,000 children are serving as soldiers in current armed conflicts. These young combatants participate in all aspects of contemporary warfare. They wield AK-47s and M-16s on the front lines of combat, serve as human mine detectors, participate in suicide missions, carry supplies, and act as spies, messengers or lookouts. Child soldiers are being used in more than thirty countries around the world. Because of their immaturity and lack of experience, child soldiers suffer higher casualties than their adult counterparts.

Yesterday on twitter I wrote: ‘If a child is given a doll to play with he/she will learn to love; if a child is given a toy gun to play with one day he/she may learn to kill.”
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