End of war fought for US power

So, the Yanks are going home. Apart from the thousands of their servicemen and women whose life-blood they are leaving in the sands of Iraq. And the tens of thousands too maimed or otherwise damaged to make it back to home and hearth. And minus the trillions of dollars in treasure they have expended on destroying an Arab country (which may have lost a million souls and seen three millions off into exile), fanning the flames of fanaticism, and unleashing a wave of sectarianism throughout the Muslim world.

Nice work, but hardly "Mission Accomplished" as the melancholy valediction delivered by President Obama at Fort Bragg this week made clear to the discerning. The more he talked about what he once called the "dumb war" the more obvious it was that his was the task of holding the dipped banner of defeat. And the crew of thick-necked servicemen straight out of central casting roaring their approval at his description of their success could not quite drown out the sound of the Last Post. This is the death knell of American empire. Like Ozymandius history, which hasn’t ended after all, will invite us to gaze upon its ruined works and tremble. But instead we will rejoice, rejoice. For the Project for the New American Century it will be never glad confident morning again.

The war which was waged, yes for oil and yes also for Israel, was waged above all to terrify the world (especially China) with American power. It turned into the largest boomerang in history. For what has been demonstrated instead are the limits of near bankrupt American power. Far from being cowed, America’s adversaries and its enemies have been emboldened. With shock and awe the empire soon dominated the skies over Iraq to be sure. But they never controlled a single street in the country from the day they invaded until this day of retreat. One street alone, Haifa Street in Baghdad became the graveyard of scores, maybe hundreds of Americans. Fortresses like Fallujah entered history alongside Stalingrad as symbols of the unvanquishable power of popular resistance to foreign invasion. Crimes like Abu Ghraib prison where Iraqis were stripped naked and humiliated forced to perform indecent acts upon each other and videotaped doing so for the entertainment of their torturers in the barracks afterwards entered the lexicon of the barbarism of those who invade others, flying the colours of their "civilising" mission.

As Chairman Mao once said; "sometimes the enemy struggles mightily to lift a huge stone; only to drop it on its own foot". In an America where a third of the population according to the Census Bureau are living in poverty or terrifyingly near it and where imperial hubris met its nemesis on Haifa Street, China now knows it has nothing to fear from this paper tiger.

Almost nobody in Britain or America any longer believes a word their politicians say. This profound change is not wholly the result of the Iraq War, but the war and the militarised mendacity which paved the way to it was, when it moved into top gear. In America this malaise has fuelled both the Tea Party phenomenon and the Occupy movement alike. And from the Atlantic Ocean to the Persian Gulf the plates are moving still...

Working class are paying for the war budget

Over the last year public sector workers, pensioners and students as well as other sections of the working class have been identified as those who must bear the brunt of the austerity measures. It is us who will pay for the chaos created by the insane and uncontrollable banking system.

EMAs removed, student fees increased, wage freezes, cuts in the welfare supports and the change in the indexation of pensions and benefits from RPI to CPI have, together with the huge increases in unemployment, ensured that all know that the government priorities are to protect their class and squeeze the rest.

The increasing impoverishment of the old, the poor, the sick and the young has developed with a stark rapidity. No democratic mandate. No debate about options. Just a list of all that they can do to suck any margins from those who have so little.

Yet meanwhile the war budgets are sacrosanct. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2001/2 announced the open budget for the war - the government would spend whatever was required for the military budget, again with no debate. While pensioners are finding that winter fuel payments are slashed, the expenditure on drones, weapons, Humvees and the forces continues.

Whilst the state retirement pension is still substantially below the poverty line, with £102 per week and over 2.5M living in poverty today (only Cyprus, Latvia and Estonia in Europe paying lower pensions) the war budgets can swell if NATO decides to institute a no fly zone in Libya. No questions asked.

While the top earners in the country – the top 0.1% - take over 6.5% of GNP and the average pay of the 350 FTSE directors increased their earnings by 73% at a time when share prices fell by 5% and the directors of the large companies take pensions averaging £175000 pa there is no drive to tax the wealthy as part of the anti austerity drive. As the rich get richer and the poor poorer, in Britain and the US, war budgets are untouched. Britain has been spending around £7 billion pa on Afghanistan and Libya and £2 billion annually on the “upkeep” of Trident.

Each year the US Congress pours $120 billion + into the Afghanistan operation. This constitutes over $100 million per day for military purposes and other NATO countries put in $7 million a day for non military aid. Britain spends over £6 billion each year on the military operations.

Since October 10th 2001 the US, UK and others has been conducting a constant war against the Taliban and others. But they also claim that development and reconstruction are also integral to their anti-insurgency operations. Today there are still over 200 000 “coalition forces” together with 250000 contractors, many more commonly known as mercenaries, but the claim is that the troops will leave in 2014. (If the US wants to maintain their presence and if the Turkmenistan – Afghanistan - Pakistan – Indian pipeline is to start in 2012 and be completed by 2014 this leaving date may be postponed).

Given the injection of inconceivable sums of money what is the result after 10 years?
War and occupation! This means large numbers of deaths, injuries and traumas amongst the Afghan population. Civilians slaughtered, “insurgents” killed; and a constant bloody toll of occupation troops which is now hardly mentioned in the western media. A society torn apart; corruption, violence, torture, instability, suicide bombings in the “safe” areas of Kabul, drone attacks on areas under insurgent control and through the Pakistan / Afghanistan border areas, and widespread opposition to the puppet Karzai government.

The Red Cross reports that Afghanistan is a more dangerous country than it has been over the last 30 years, as described by Afghan activist Malalai Joya:

"Ten years ago the US and NATO invaded my country under the fake banners of women’s rights, human rights and democracy. But after a decade Afghanistan still remains the most uncivil, most corrupt, and most war torn country in the world. The consequences of this so called war on terror have only been more bloodshed, crimes, barbarism, human rights and women’s rights violations which has doubled the miseries and sorrows of our people". Monthly Review Oct 7th 2011

The year of meltdown

The old Europe is in tatters. The debt crisis afflicting the Eurozone is a crisis of modelling society on the needs of the bankers and the extremely wealthy. It is the crisis of neo-liberal market economics that allows the rich to borrow huge sums, gamble on international markets and then demand that the rest of us bail them out when it goes wrong. When they profit, taxes are not paid and the money is moved abroad. Either way, the rest of us lose.

In Britain, millionaires and their lackeys hold sway. Cameron and Osborne try to convince us that ‘we are in it together’ and we lived beyond its means. In reality, the fabulously wealthy 1% does not pay its bills. Austerity has created a new recession, emptying purses and destroying jobs just when we needed more. Service cuts, privatization of the National Health Service and benefit cuts have reduced buying power still further so Britain is entering a destructive cycle. Cuts in housing benefit from January will increase homelessness dramatically as private rents climb. The poorest are squeezed to breaking point. The only escape is for those creating the crisis – bankers and the rich that do not pay their taxes. In Europe and Britain, it is the year of meltdown for market economics.

As things grow more desperate, the US, British and Israeli governments threaten war against Syria and Iran. They have learned nothing from ten years of chaos in Afghanistan and Iraq, where occupation has failed and ruined the countries. Libya is repeating the turmoil after NATO’s ‘humanitarian intervention’ cost over 50,000 civilian lives and destroyed entire cities.
In Italy and Greece, democracy is being sacrificed to unelected bankers, installed to run the governments. In Britain, Tories try to deflect blame by claiming the new recession is Europe’s fault when it is about their obsession with cutting services and helping rich mates. For all pretence at being ‘progressive’, the Liberal Democrats in government are the Bullingdon Boys Fan Club without a squeak of opposition. Cameron whips up Islamophobia and May makes false claims about immigrants while the Liberal Democrats pretend they did not put them in government.
A world cries for change so what is the Labour leadership’s response? Timidity. On every issue, Labour is hamstrung by its government record and the legacy of ‘Blair Thought’ still infecting it. The Tories cut, Labour says ‘yes, but a little less’; Tories cry for war, Labour says ‘yes, but a little less’; Tories blame Muslims, Labour says ‘yes, but a little more’! Ed Miliband has made efforts to change Labour to opposition but it’s far too little and too quiet. The result is a massive build-up of frustration and anger in society that finds few that speak for it.
The global Occupy movement has succeeded in bringing deteriorating living standards and growing inequality to the media and politicians. The Respect Party supports this breaking open of debate about the horrific effect of market policies. On 30 November, a huge public sector strike will involve up to 3 million workers who want to protect their pension provision. It can break open the debate on the ConDem assault on living standards. It is wrong to increase retirement age simply so that more die before they can collect pensions. It is wrong to say public sector pensions should be like private sector pensions when these are raided by companies. Private sector pensions need improvement to the level of public sector pensions. The bankers that lost billions (gambling with pension funds) got huge pensions even when sacked. This attack creates more misery and inequality. We support this strike action.
Construction workers are balloting for strike action and campaigning against a 35% wage cut for electricians from December. Respect supports them as they fight for a future. We note that Balfour Beatty profits rose by 4% in the first half of 2011. More inequality!
The failure of the major parties to provide any voice for change or even effective criticism of the current disastrous policies is the biggest feature of our time. We desperately need progressive voices to reach large numbers of people with an alternative to recession, war and racism. The Respect Party can be one such voice. Respect has shown a talent for high impact campaigning across a number of issues including peace, resistance to Islamophobia, council housing and supporting Palestine. We retain a number of high profile figures committed to our ideas.

Immigration Good or Bad for Economy

IMMIGRATION is a sensitive subject at the best of times, and this is not one of them. The economic crisis has destroyed millions of jobs in rich countries, making their governments especially touchy about the impact of immigration on the demand for indigenous labour.

Such concerns are illogical, because immigration is counter-cyclical. Recession in rich countries has discouraged some would-be incomers from trying their luck. America, for instance, has seen a sharp decline in Mexicans trying to cross its southern border. Immigration to Europe has slowed. Some studies also suggest that increased inflows of migrants are a leading indicator of a pickup in growth.

Yet governments are often reluctant to leave migration flows to the labour market. In recessions, they tend to take steps to discourage new migrants and even get rid of existing ones. David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister, has imposed a “migration cap” for those from outside the EU.

Concerns about immigration are understandable, especially at a time when jobs are in such short supply. Polling in both Europe and America suggests that a majority of locals think immigrants do more harm than good and damage locals’ chances in the job market. Evidence that immigration hurts indigenous workers is, however, weak. In seasonal work and construction, cheap foreign labour can depress wages and make it harder for the low-skilled to find work, but the flexibility and willingness of new workers can also boost productivity and encourage innovation

Strains on public services can sorely test the patience of locals, especially when budget cuts are making it hard to maintain such services. In Britain, for instance, a contingency fund to help cash-strapped local authorities facing pressure on public services has been scrapped. Yet over time immigrants more than repay the extra short-term burden they impose on education, health and other budgets.

Politicians often say that they want a sensible debate about immigration; but too often they pander to voters’ fears of immigrants rather than attempting to allay them. They should be particularly wary of doing so now. There is growing competition for their skills elsewhere (read this article). Asia is fast becoming the new magnet for migrants.

China, which used to be closed to immigrant labour, is now handing out residency permits to professionals, academics and entrepreneurs. In 2009 Shanghai recorded 100,000 foreigners living there. A similar number have settled in the southern port of Guangzhou, drawn from Europe, the Middle East and Africa. South Korea has also witnessed a rise in incomers since 2007 and is particularly keen to attract American-educated graduates.

Immigration is, on the whole, good for economies; and right now, rich countries can do with all the economic help they can get. Rather than sending immigrants home, with their skills, energy, ideas and willingness to work, governments should be encouraging them to come. If they don’t, governments elsewhere will.

Protests against state of the Economy

From New York to London, protesters have taken to the streets. Whether they are inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York or by the indignados in Madrid, they burn with dissatisfaction about the state of the economy, about the unfair way that the poor are paying for the sins of rich bankers, and in some cases about capitalism itself.

In the past it was easy for Western politicians and economic liberals to dismiss such outbursts of fury as a misguided fringe. In Seattle, for instance, the last big protests (against the World Trade Organization, in 1999) looked mindless. If they had a goal, it was selfish—an attempt to impoverish the emerging world through protectionism. This time too, some things are familiar: the odd bit of violence, a lot of incoherent ranting and plenty of inconsistency (read this article). The protesters have different aims in different countries. Higher taxes for the rich and a loathing of financiers is the closest thing to a common denominator, though in America polls show that popular rage against government eclipses that against Wall Street.

Yet, even if the protests are small and muddled, it is dangerous to dismiss the broader rage that exists across the West. There are legitimate deep-seated grievances. Young people—and not just those on the streets—are likely to face higher taxes, less generous benefits and longer working lives than their parents. More recently, houses are expensive, credit hard to get and jobs scarce—not just in old manufacturing industries but in the ritzier services that attract increasingly debt-laden graduates. In America 17.1% of those below 25 are out of work. Across the European Union, youth unemployment averages 20.9%. In Spain it is a staggering 46.2%. Only in Germany, the Netherlands and Austria is the rate in single digits.

It is not just the young who feel the squeeze. The middle-aged face falling real wages and diminished pension rights. And the elderly are seeing inflation eat away the value of their savings; in Britain prices are rising by 5.2% but bank deposits yield less than 1%. In the meantime, bankers are back to huge bonuses.

Turning a blind eye

The secret life of the UK's biggest companies listed on the London Stock Exchange has been uncovered today revealing that 98 out of 100 are using tax havens. ActionAid's research show for the first time just how deeply embedded this practice is for nearly all of Britain's top multinationals.

 Corporate tax avoidance, which is one of the main reasons companies use tax havens, is having a massive impact on rich and poor countries alike. Developing countries currently lose three times more to tax havens than they receive in aid each year.

ActionAid's report Addicted to tax havens shows banks are doing a brisk business via tax havens, despite the ongoing repercussions of a global financial crisis they helped to create. The banking and financial sector are by far the heaviest users with the ‘big four' High Street names HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds Group and RBS notching up 1,649 tax haven companies.

Chris Jordan, ActionAid's tax justice expert said: "ActionAid's research showing the use of tax havens by Britain's biggest companies raises serious questions they need to answer.

"Tax havens have a damaging impact on the UK exchequer, the stability of the international financial system, and vitally on the ability of developing countries to raise tax revenues which would lift them out of poverty and make them less dependent on aid."

ActionAid's key findings:

•98 multinationals declared tax haven companies. The banking sector makes heaviest use of tax havens, with a total of 1,649 tax haven companies between the ‘big four' banks. They are by far the biggest users of the Cayman Islands, where Barclays alone has 174 companies.

•The biggest tax haven user overall is the advertising company WPP, which has 611 tax haven companies.

•A quarter of the 34,216 companies set up by FTSE 100 multinationals are located in tax havens.There are over 600 FTSE 100 companies in Jersey (more than in the whole of China), 400 in the Cayman Islands and 300 in Luxembourg - all tiny tax havens.

•Only two little-known companies Fresnillo and Hargreaves Landsdown, don't use tax havens

 The use of tax havens facilitates tax avoidance and evasion, which undermines the revenue bases of both developing and developed countries. Additional revenues are urgently needed both to invest in the fight against poverty and to tackle the deficits incurred during the financial crisis in rich countries.

 Chris Jordan continued: "When multinationals use tax havens to avoid paying their fair share, ordinary people in both poor and rich countries are left to pick up the bill. Spending on doctors, nurses and other essential services gets cut for those who need it most.

 "Tax havens might provide the lure of financial secrecy and low tax rates for big companies, but at a time when all countries are desperate for revenues, the UK government can't afford to turn a blind eye."
ActionAid is calling on the government to urgently rethink its current proposals to relax UK anti tax haven rules. The Treasury itself estimates these changes will result in an £840 million tax break for multinational companies that use tax havens.

 With both developing and developed countries bearing the brunt of debilitating losses, ActionAid says the UK must ensure that G20 takes the decisive action it promised on tax havens at the London summit in 2009.

The World vs Wall Street‏

Thousands of Americans have non-violently occupied Wall St -- an epicentre of global financial power and corruption. They are the latest ray of light in a new movement for social justice that is spreading like wildfire from Madrid to Jerusalem to 146 other cities and counting, but they need our help to succeed.

As working families pay the bill for a financial crisis caused by corrupt elites, the protesters are calling for real democracy, social justice and anti-corruption. But they are under severe pressure from authorities, and some media are dismissing them as fringe groups. If millions of us from across the world stand with them, we'll boost their resolve and show the media and leaders that the protests are part of a massive mainstream movement for change.

This year could be our century's 1968, but to succeed it must be a movement of all citizens, from every walk of life. Click to join the call for real democracy -- a giant live counter of every one of us who signs the petition will be erected in the centre of the occupation in New York, and live webcasted on the petition page:

The worldwide wave of protest is the latest chapter in this year's story of global people power. In Egypt, people took over Tahrir Square and toppled their dictator. In India, one man's fast brought millions onto the streets and the government to its knees -- winning real action to end corruption. For months, Greek citizens relentlessly protested unfair cuts to public spending. In Spain, thousands of "indignados" defied a ban on pre-election demonstrations and mounted a protest camp in Sol square to speak out against political corruption and the government's handling of the economic crisis. And this summer across Israel, people have built "tent cities" to protest against the rising costs of housing and for social justice.

These national threads are connected by a global narrative of determination to end the collusion of corrupt elites and politicians -- who have in many countries helped cause a damaging financial crisis and now want working families to pay the bill. The mass movement that is responding can not only ensure that the burden of recession doesn't fall on the most vulnerable, it can also help right the balance of power between democracy and corruption. Click to stand with the movement:


In every uprising, from Cairo to New York, the call for an accountable government that serves the people is clear, and our global community has backed that people power across the world wherever it has broken out. The time of politicians in the pocket of the corrupt few is ending, and in its place we are building real democracies, of, by, and for people.

Poor students are still being left out

A new government report shows that nearly one in four universities failed to meet their own targets to recruit more poor students last year. In total, 44 institutions, including 23 universities, five of which are elite universities, did not meet their own goals in 2009/10. The figures are included in the Office for Fair Access’s (OFFA) fourth monitoring report, which looks at how much money universities and colleges are spending, and how well they are doing at attracting and supporting candidates from poorer backgrounds. It shows that overall, English universities and colleges received £1.57 billion in additional fee income in 2009/10. This is additional fee income gained from tuition fees charged above the basic rate of £1,285. The maximum fee in 2009/10 was £3,225.

OFFA’s report shows that a quarter of this extra income (25.1%) – £394.7 million – was spent on recruiting and supporting poorer candidates, with £355.7 million going on bursaries and scholarships. In return for charging above the basic fee rate, institutions must submit access agreements to OFFA setting out how they plan to help poorer students. This includes setting their own targets on increasing the numbers of applicants or entrants from poor or under-represented groups. The report raises concerns that while 77% of institutions have either met or exceeded all or most of their targets, 23% (44 in total) are falling short.

OFFA director of fair access Sir Martin Harris said: “The large majority of universities and colleges are also meeting their statistical targets. Where they are not doing so, I am concerned to understand the reasons why. “Over the coming months, we will therefore be discussing performance with a range of institutions, including those that have reported the least progress.”

The report shows that more students are receiving financial support, but the average bursary awarded is smaller. Three-quarters (75%) of money spent on bursaries and scholarships in 2009/10 went to students from the poorest backgrounds, helping more than 271,000 youngsters on full state support. On average, these students receive a bursary of £935 a year, down from £942 in 2008/09 and £1,019 in 2007/08.

Sir Martin said institutions can decide to give funding to “more or less everybody” or decide it is only for students on the very lowest incomes. “What we’ve tried to do is encourage universities to focus money more on students that are genuinely disadvantaged,” he said. Smaller average bursaries are “going in the wrong direction”, Sir Martin suggested. “It is better to focus more on students whose income level is particularly low.” He added that the latest report is for 2009/10 and universities are likely to be encouraged to focus on giving large sums to smaller numbers of very disadvantaged students in the future.

Induction for Overseas Doctors

News that the General Medical Council (GMC) is planning an induction programme for doctors who are new to the UK has been welcomed by healthcare employers.
In its first "State of medical education and practice" report, the GMC reveals that approximately 12,000 doctors from around the world start work in the UK for the first time every year. Of the 239,270 doctors that were on the medical register last year, just over 150,000 qualified in the UK. A further 23,000 trained initially in the European Economic Area (EEA) and 66,000 completed their medical undergraduate education overseas.
But, while overseas doctors have helped employers to address skills shortages, there have been some examples of language difficulties, and differences in expectations of UK medical ethics and culture compared with overseas. Language was one of the difficulties cited in the case of Dr Daniel Ubani, an out-of-hours doctor from Germany, who was found guilty of gross negligence and manslaughter after the death of a patient he injected with 10 times the recommended maximum dose of diamorphine in 2008

Hands off Our Pension

The country's three largest trade unions — Unite, Unison, and the GMB — joined the Fire Brigades Union in announcing they will ballot their members over a coordinated programme of industrial action in protest at proposed changes to pensions.

It could see hundreds of thousands of Scottish workers, and millions across the UK, downing tools in November.

The mass walkout has been pencilled in for November on the date Chancellor George Osborne is expected to give his pre-Budget report.

Mike Arnott, secretary of the Dundee Trade Union Congress, said there is widespread anger over plans to increase workers' pension contributions.

"If this is well coordinated then it will have a massive impact," he said. "There will be more people coming out than in the General Strike 85 years ago. There is a huge amount of anger."

Mr Arnott, a member of the GMB, added: "We are not one of the most radical unions so when they get annoyed it indicates there will be a massive response."

He added that he disagreed with Labour leader Ed Miliband, who said the unions should not threaten industrial action while negotiations over the proposed changes to pensions are continuing.

"We have to kick the negotiations on by taking some action. People are talking about paying another 3.2% into our pensions but it's not going into the pot — the money will go to the government and we'll get less in our pension. It is quite horrendous."