Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials, 10 December 2007

10 December 2007

 Iraq and Afghanistan: the triple-speak of governments

When is a new government announcement really a new government announcement?

During his visit to Iraq on Monday, Gordon Brown "announced" that military control would be handed over to the Iraqi authorities before Xmas, thereby allowing an earlier British troop withdrawal. However, he stopped short of committing himself to an actual reduction in the number of soldiers stationed in Iraq.

The joke about all of this is that it is the third time such an "announcement" has been made by a British prime minister. The first time was in February - when it was Tony Blair who said this handover and troop withdrawal would be taking place. Then in October, it was Brown himself who said so - causing a big hoo-hah, because he made the announcement in the middle of the Tory Party conference and was accused of deliberately trying to upstage them.

Does it make this announcement more credible because it has been repeated three times? Hardly, given that the number of soldiers actually increased by over 500 during the year. But in addition, it is an outright lie to claim that peaceful conditions, allowing a successful handover, have been made to prevail in Basra.

Just one example bears out this point. Over the past year, the Iraqi authorities have officially recorded 40 cases of women who were killed and mutilated because of the way they were dressed. Which only reflects the fact that in reality, Brown's government is preparing to hand over power to Iraq's armed religious militias, which are ruling over Basra, just as they are ruling all over Iraq, in fact.

This kind of reality does not, however, prevent Brown from pledging continued British involvement in Afghanistan "for the next few years". This is yet another case of a country which, because of imperialist interference, is being torn apart by armed militias - those allied with the West and those fighting the occupation.

For the likes of Brown, though, the interests of the majority of the Afghan population have no more importance than the interests of the majority of the population of Iraq, or, for that matter, of Britain.

 The case of the shrinking olympic park

The Olympic Games will only be taking place in five year's time. In other words, they are still quite a long way off. Yet, despite this fact, the cost is already rising exponentially. At £9.3bn, this is more than double the original estimate. And it is not petty cash. It is equivalent to half the government's 2007/8 housing budget.

What is more, everyone living in Greater London is being taxed to pay for these Games - to the tune of an extra 38p a week on Council Tax bills, which comes to around £20 per year - so far, that is.

Londoners - and particularly east Londoners whose neighbourhoods are being turned upside down for the sake of the Games, have been told that there will be great and lasting benefits to the local community and that this is why it is all worthwhile!

Indeed, Mayor Ken Livingstone himself, has reassured everyone concerned that even though Londoners are paying, the government and the Lottery are paying even more - £17 for each one pound contributed through the levy. As if "the government" and "the lottery" are not fully funded by "the public" as well!

This Olympic overspend - at such an early stage - is putting the government team in charge of the Olympics under pressure to make cuts before the real building has even begun.

So, we are told, the stadium originally envisaged for the sport of fencing, is now unlikely ever to be built. Sports minister Jowell explains that if the fencing events are relocated outside of the Olympic Park in an existing building somewhere, it will save £90m. This hardly bodes well!

At this rate, after one sport after another has been relocated outside the Park, one has to wonder what will be left inside? Will there even be a space for the opening ceremony?

Of course, the cost overrun is not bad news for everybody. Not at all. As it increases, just as it has in almost every single public project from the British Library to the Scottish Parliament, it will be bringing in an ever-increasing bonanza for the construction and other companies involved. And there are no prizes for guessing who it is who will be footing the ultimate, exorbitant, bill!