Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials, 17 December 2007

17 December 2007

 Iraq - "handover" but no end to the occupation

There was much fanfare around Sunday's handover of Basra Province to Iraqi forces. Does it mean that British troops will be flown back home after nearly 5 years of bloody occupation? Well, not really.

In fact, there is to be no change on the ground. The same numbers will remain in the huge British base at Basra airport - between 4,700 and 5,500, depending on whom you believe. Brown promised that this number would drop to 2,500 from April. But will it? And when will the occupation end? Who can trust him, given Labour's record?

During his recent visit to Basra, Brown boasted that the level of violence in Iraq has been "reduced by 90%". But if this were true, why would his sidekick, Foreign Secretary David Milliband, argue for keeping the troops in Iraq on the grounds that there is a need to "retain the capacity to intervene again should there be a breakdown of order"?

Surely the British-trained and armed Iraqi 14th division, now in control of security in Basra province, should be able to deal with any situation in the "low-violence" Iraq flaunted by Brown? Unless, of course, Brown is deliberately lying.

In this respect, a recent opinion poll among the population of Basra is revealing: 86% believe that the British occupation made security worse! No wonder! The invasion led to the emergence of Fundamentalist militias in the political vacuum left by the collapse of Saddam Hussein. The US-British policy of relying on the militias to control the population while using divide to rule tactics, boosted their profile and exacerbated their rivalries.

By now, the militias rule on the ground, control parts of the western-backed state machinery and wage permanent turf wars against one another. In this respect, Basra is just as bad as the rest of Iraq: in the militias' overbidding to impose their rule on the streets, they have killed 40 women over the past 3 months for wearing the "wrong" clothes.

So much for the "improved" security! But Brown's government could live with that. After all, what does Labour care if the Iraqis are caught in the cross fire between the militias, when it was Labour who ordered them to be bombed in the first place?

However there is also another twist to Brown's policy - probably his main reason for keeping the troops in Iraq. For this government has every reason to doubt that the Iraqi authorities (and their US masters) will respect British interests - i.e. the interests of Britain's big companies!

So if any soldier wonders why he is kept drilling at Basra Airport and risking his life due to road-side bombs or mortar attacks, the answer is: for the same reason that he was sent there in the first place : that is, to protect the interests of the City's big shareholders! Troops out of Iraq, now!

 Hands off Al Bangura!

An unusual event took place at half-time during last Saturday's game between Watford and Plymouth Argyle, when thousands of supporters of both clubs stood up holding posters with the picture of Watford mid-fielder Al Bangura.

This was a protest against the deportation threatening 19-year old Al Bangura back to his country of origin, Sierra Leone, after a tribunal turned down his appeal against the Home Office's refusal to grant him asylum status.

Bangura fled Sierra Leone for his life when he was 15 and arrived in Britain 4 years ago, when he made his application for asylum. Thereafter he worked hard to become the footballer many soccer fans know. Deporting him to Sierra Leone would mean breaking up everything he has built here - job, family and friends. And all this because some bureaucrat, in an obscure corner of the Home Office, has decided to pick on him using Labour's arbitrary anti-immigrant legislation.

Soccer was once plagued by the racist insults hurled at black players during matches. It is comforting to see that, for once, the fans have stood up in defence of one of these black players, exposing the fact that the "politically correct" world of the ruling politicians is just as much plagued by racism, if not more.

However, there are many thousands of Al Banguras threatened with deportation these days in Britain, who do not have the luck of being as famous as he is. Labour chooses to break up the lives of these immigrant workers for no reason other than to woo reactionary prejudices, in the hope of retaining the votes of a wavering section of voters. But these immigrants should have every right to stay here, just like the millions of Britons who choose to live in other countries have the right to do so. There is plenty of space for all of us.

It is in the interests of the working class of this country to stand up in solidarity behind all the Al Banguras, whether famous or unknown, against the reactionary politicking of this government!