Tag Archives: War

Aleppo: The truth that the western media refuses to report

andrewashdowncofeAndrew Ashdown is a Church of England priest studying Christian-Muslim relations in Syria. In the last few days he has visited East Aleppo. This is the report of his visit to the area yesterday (14th December) that he published on his facebook page. Photos by Andrew Ashdown

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This morning we visited the main IDP Registration centre at Jibrin, for Internally Displaced Persons from East Aleppo. They are registered here for humanitarian reasons and access to services, before they go either to relatives in other parts of Syria if they have them (many do), or to other reception centres where they are provided with accommodation, food and other services. During the past two weeks they have registered 95,000 refugees, but estimate there may be a further 10,000 who have not registered. There were thousands of people there who have arrived within the last couple of days. Let me make clear that we visited in a taxi without Government or Army accompaniment, and without prior notice. We were not expected.

idp10The Centre is well organised. The Syrian Red Crescent have tents available that offer information about all social welfare facilities available, and offer free medical attention. In cases of emergency, ambulances are on hand to transport patients to hospital. Free food is being distributed by the Syrian Red Crescent and the Syrian Army, and we saw a convoy of Russian lorries providing aid. There is also a Russian field hospital on site which offers immediate medical treatment.

The sense of relief amongst the thousands of refugees is palpable.idp16 All were keen to talk, and we interviewed several who had arrived only yesterday and today. They all said the same thing. They said that they had been living in fear. They reported that the fighters have been telling everyone that the Syrian Army would kill anyone who fled to the West, but had killed many themselves who tried to leave – men, women and children. One woman broke down in tears as she told how one of her sons was killed by the rebels a few days ago, and another kidnapped. They also killed anyone who showed signs of supporting the Government. The refugees said that the ‘rebels’ told them that only those who support them are “true Muslims”, and that everyone else are ‘infidels’ and deserve to die.

idp3They told us they had been given very little food: that any aid that reached the area was mostly refused to them or sold at exorbitant prices. Likewise, most had been given no medical treatment. (A doctor who has been working with the refugees for weeks told me last night that in an area recently liberated, a warehouse filled with brand new internationally branded medicines had been discovered.) Most of the refugees said they had had members of their families killed by the rebels and consistently spoke of widespread murder, torture, rape and kidnap by the rebels. They said if anyone left their homes, their properties and belongings were confiscated and stolen.

idp23One old man in a wheelchair who was being given free treatment in the Russian Field Hospital said he had been given no treatment for three years despite asking. He said: “Thank God we are free. We now have food. We can now live our lives. God bless the Syrian Army.” They all said they were glad to be out and to be free. All the refugees without exception were visibly without exception clearly profoundly relieved and happy to be free. One woman said: “This is heaven compared to what we have been living.” We asked if the Syrian Army had ill-treated anyone. They said never. One woman said: “They helped us to escape and they provide us with food and assistance.”

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I therefore have two key questions:

1. It is now only the Syrian Red Crescent, the Syrian Army, and the Russians who are providing humanitarian aid to the tens of thousands who have fled East Aleppo. Why are none of the international agencies offering to help them now?

2.  Why is it, given that stories about massacres by the Syrian Army are headline news worldwide, and several international media units are in Aleppo, that there is not one international media agency actually at the Registration Centre talking to the refugees themselves? We were the only ones there. Here are people who have lived through it who are keen to talk, yet the media take at face value unverifiable claims by highly dubious sources. The collapse of any form of reliable investigative journalism in a context of global significance is utterly shocking.

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CNN’s favourite ‘independent film maker’ American Jihadist and Al Qaeda member Bilal Abdul Kareem, interviewing Sheikh Abdullah Muhaysini, leader of Jaish al Fatah: Saudi educated and funded, child suicide bomber trainer, judge and executioner of apostates, Chief Head-Chopper and mass murderer.

Today the agreement for 4000 fighters to leave Aleppo is reported to have collapsed after the fighters had refused to fulfil the agreement. (I don’t know the details, but think about it… There is no reason on earth why the Syrian Government would want this agreement, which would involve the complete liberation of the city, to fail!) It is reported that the fighters refused to leave or let the civilians do so.

The refusal of the western media to report objectively, or to seekidp2 informed information from the thousands of civilians from East Aleppo who are keen to share their stories, whilst granting full credibility to terrorists without any on the ground verifiable information on their claims, is nothing short of obscene.

Everything that I have seen and heard in Aleppo; from civilians in East and West from all communities, and from talking with doctors, faith communities and with Army people as well, and witnessing and risking bombardments on both sides, convinces me that the reports in the western media are twisted fabrications of the horrors that are happening in ‘rebel’ controlled areas. And still, the media refuses to listen to the witness of the people themselves.

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Postscript: Christmas is coming in Syria. In a country and a city in which people of all faiths are free to worship; where mosques and Churches stand side by side; and where Christmas music is playing in cafes and restaurants. And yet the world is mourning the defeat in Aleppo of extremists who destroy Christian and Muslim places of worship, and slaughter any who do not follow their obscene ideology.

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Voting For The Lesser Evil?

 

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Lesser Evil

By David Rovics

Lots of folks keep saying, ever since Hillary
Rigged the nomination of her plutocratic party
That there’s a lesser evil and that it supposedly is her
When asked to demonstrate this, then they’re not so sure
But if we look at the records of the parties they come from
It looks very much to me like a game of zero sum
Both parties love the army, and want to arm it more
Both parties voted to start the Iraq War

Both parties push for treaties that benefit the rich
Both parties let the banksters get off without a hitch
Both parties deport migrants – the Democrats especially
Neither party wants to take many refugees
Both parties vote for Crime Bills that put the poor in jail
Both are mostly led by rich, white males

So I just see two evil people putting on a puppet show
If one of them is lesser, I certainly don’t know

Both parties vote for drone strikes – they both think drones are great
Both parties hold fundraisers for a thousand bucks a plate
Both parties love the pipelines, both parties love to frack
Both parties run police departments that kill you if you’re Black
Both parties love corruption, for that is how they’re run
They both take the bankers’ money to make sure nothing useful will get done

So I just see two evil people putting on a puppet show
If one of them is lesser, I certainly don’t know

Both parties serve the wealthy, both parties say they don’t
They both say they’ll improve things, but the other party won’t
Both parties have supporters that make me want to spew
And with each election cycle, it’s all that I can do
Not to strangle someone who thinks they know the score
That one is the lesser evil, and that’s the one we should vote for

So I just see two evil people putting on a puppet show
If one of them is lesser, I certainly don’t know

noneoftheabove

The Karaoke Decade – Britain in the 90’s

COOL BRITANNIABy Phil Thornton

The Karaoke Decade is a series of essays by author and journalist, Phil Thornton. It attempts to analyse the way in which not only popular culture but politics and society in general became simply a second hand regurgitation of previous themes. The word ‘post-modern’ is of course an oxymoron because modernity is always with us, we live in the moment and yet we often feel as if we live in the past and not even a ‘real’ past but a past that has been moulded by myths and the twistings of events. There can never be anything that is post-modern, only a concept of modernity as something rooted in the past. These essays cover music, politics, sport , technology and recipes (OK, maybe not recipes but there again..) and I hope you will find them provocative and funny, if not then funny and provocative.

Phil Thornton – June 2015

Thatcher and Major 19911 – IN XANADU

The 90’s began on a wave of optimism and energy. The Tories were still in power and Thatcher was still the PM but the acid house revolution had detonated a new era of youthful disobedience. It wouldn’t be long before Thatcher’s Poll Tax concept sealed her fate and soon civil disobedience and even John Major’s underpants would make a mockery of Tory ‘traditional values.’

It was in 1990 that I began writing for The Face, that icon of everything 1980’s. One of my first pieces for the magazine predicted the decade as being what the 70’s were to the 60’s, a mass collective come-down. Events in the old communist bloc, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet era in Russia had provided the capitalist west with a fresh wind. They had defeated the ‘evil empire of the east’ –  if not ideologically, then at least financially, and would now reap the rewards of repressed Commie consumerism. But, at home there was yet another recession after the so-called ‘boom years’ of the late 80’s.

Interest rates soared to record levels and many of Thatcher’s beloved home-owning for-sale-signs1working classes were evicted from their dream houses. This wasn’t in the brochure. Surely Thatcher had liberated us from council estate serfdom? However, with property comes responsibility. You can’t dodge the bank or the building society like you could the rent man. You can’t run up huge arrears when the going gets tough and pay it back a fiver a week. You paid up or you were out on your arse pal. The 90s became the decade when the vested interests of the city began to rule every part of our lives. No longer could you receive your wages, if you had any, in cash. No longer could you hand over this cash to the rent collector or the gas and lecky man. No, the money went into a bank account and banks offered you overdrafts and credit cards and loans and insurance policies to protect these things if it all went tits up. What they did with all this money wasn’t exactly clear. They ‘invested’ it. In what? Shares. Bonds. Hedge Funds. Pensions. If they performed well, then the shareholders got a dividend and the top guys got a chunk o’change and you? You got to be part of the Glorious Revolution and could afford to go on holiday twice a year and a buy a new Beamer. And what if they don’t perform well mister? Don’t you worry your little head about it kid, this is Big Boy’s stuff. We’ve got our insurance policy for such an eventuality, don’t stress about that.

I was married in September of 1989 and moved into a home that once belonged to my mate who had had it repossessed. We had to put down a 1k deposit and the total cost was around 32k. We took out a mortgage over 25 years but soon the interest rates reached 17% and we struggled to meet our re-payments. So, like many others we re-mortgaged with a reputable High Street bank but this new mortgage was a con, and we ended up owing thousands more than we’d originally borrowed. We were paying interest on the interest and had to move home just to pay it off before it got any higher. With property comes responsibility. We began to live in fear; fear of redundancy, of not being able to pay for our homes, our utilities, our poll tax, our vehicles, our loans, our credit cards, our overdrafts. We weren’t the Beat but the Debt Generation and so, many of us (although not me) rejected industrial action and many more rejected trade unionism. We had been conned. We had been trapped. They had us exactly where they wanted us now. Cowed. Fearful. Defeated. The bankers and the hedge fund managers and the brokers, the spivs and the ponces and the gangsters were now unleashed from their City palaces to wreak havoc across the globe. After all they had defeated those pesky Commies with their naïve wealth distribution ideals hadn’t they? It was pay back time.

Oil well fires rage outside Kuwait City in the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm.  The wells were set on fire by Iraqi forces before they were ousted from the region by coalition force.
Oil well fires rage outside Kuwait City in the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm.

‘Greed Is Good.’

It wasn’t that stark of a statement from the fictional Gordon Gecko, the Republican Party Reptile warming his cold blood on the rocks of other people’s misfortunes. Gecko was a winner and nice guys come last. The world aint fair kid, get over it and grab a Coke and a burger. The ‘Greed Is Good’ Brigade made their first move in 1991, when George Bush and his neo-imperialist pals from the Pentagon and Wall St went after that pesky ‘Ay-rab’ Saddam Hussein and his vast stockpile of black gold. If anything underlines the sheer cynicism and double standards of the US Hawks, it is their attitude towards those whose wealth or assistance they covet; The Saudis – Good, the Iraqis – Bad. The Chinese – Good, the Cubans – Bad, the Bahrainis – Good, the Iranians – Bad, The Israelis – Good, the Palestinians – Bad, the Turks – Good, the Syrians – Bad.

Where there was a deal to be cut, the Yanky Dollar Men cut one, regardless of any ethical, moral or philosophical considerations. Where there wasn’t a deal to be made, why, with those pesky Ruskies in free fall, they could do what they Goddam wanted and the United Nations could authorize it or get the fuck out of Dodge. And so it passed that the Saddamites entered into the land of Kuwait and the Lord was displeased and sent his angels of destruction to the desert lands and wreaked great vengeance upon the army of the idolater. The so-called ‘First Gulf War’ was never a ‘war’ but merely an excuse for the triumphant ‘West’ to flex their muscles and send a warning shot out to anyone who dared to stand in the way of the New World Order. That Bush never finished the job he felt entitled to do, was left to his son to complete in the next decade. By which time, American imperialism had de-stabilised most of Eastern Europe and the Middle East but that’s another story. Operation Desert Storm allowed the oil men of Texas and the corporate eco rapists who run American foreign policy to re-group and re-mobilise. The world was theirs for the taking. Who would stand in their way? Radicals? Writers? Artists? Warriors? Guerillas? Thinkers? Theorists? Actors? Poets? Workers? Unions? Socialists? Anarchists? Nah, comics!

billhicks1Texan, Bill Hicks has been lionized after his premature death but at the time of the Gulf War he was perhaps the most important and articulate, not to say funny voices that dared to oppose the American right wing death worshippers. Channeling Lenny Bruce and Richard Prior, Hicks said it like it was, whether that got him punched, arrested or vilified. He picked up early on the fetishisation of ‘the military’ as if these generals and squaddies are somehow separate from the rest of society and cannot under any circumstances be challenged, never mind ridiculed. “Aint y’all just a bunch of hired killers, when we want you to go and blow up a village of little brown people, we’ll let you know.”

The mass protest against Vietnam and the mobilization of the ‘liberal left’ seemed an awful long time ago. Greed was good, war was purifying and those who opposed this New Era, why they were naïve fools, gullible idealists and tree hugging cranks. Whichever way it went, there was always a spokesman on call to ‘explain’, if not an actual politician. The term ‘spin doctor’ became one of the 90’s buzzwords because there wasn’t any such thing as truth any longer, just versions of it. Maybe it had always been the way; all history is selective and open to the revisionists yet ‘spin’ itself became a noble art form, as cynical and calculating as the Greek sophists, paid to write and deliver speeches in order to win votes for their political masters.

The Americans had their hired sophists and over here we had a master in the guise ofcampbell_mandelson Peter Mandelson, a man generally admired for his cleverness yet seemingly hollow inside. ‘Mandy’ was New Labour’s ‘spin master’ and together with Alistair Campbell they controlled the policy and communication agenda with a ferocious zeal. It was easy to see why. Back in the pre-Kinnock era, the right wing press both tabloid under The Sun, mid-market with the Mail and Express and broadsheet with the Times and The Telegraph (with their Sunday editions) waged all out war on the Labour Party. Kinnock was savvy enough to realise that he had to counteract this unjust imbalance in the news agenda but rather than act against the political interests of the media moguls, he and his successors began to court them. Of course they still despised Labour and all it stood for, but by the time Tony Blair had secured the leadership, the party had swung so far to the right that they convinced even Murdoch to back them. Murdoch and the rest of the press of course were only prepared to go along with Blair as long as he worked in their interests and so New Labour backtracked on anything that resembled the dreaded word ‘socialism’ and spoke of a vague type of centre ground politics they called ‘The Third Way.’

The Third Way (TTW) was as meaningless and preposterous as John Major’s ‘Back To Basics’ (BTB) sloganeering of the previous government. Where does the third way lead to? It lead us back to where we started with Thatcher; a prime minister so self-obsessed and fanatical that their egotism outweighed any reason. A prime minister who would sacrifice any number of innocent lives in their vain pursuit of fame and wealth. Their so-called ‘Legacy.’ That they were allowed to do so only shames the other elected MPs and ministers who were supposed to act as a collective decision making executive. In the end they were just another bunch of cowards and careerists afraid of upsetting the apple cart or Alistair Campbell. Campbell and Mandelson now virtually ran No 10’s policy making triumvirate but no-one had elected them to office and no-one, it seemed, was brave enough to take them on. They were ‘winners.’ That dreadful word adopted from American sports. If you weren’t a ‘winner’ you were a ‘loser’ and nice guys come last. Successive election triumphs for New Labour created a culture of cynical media manipulation that managed to inflate Tony Blair into some kind of demi-God, a Nero who now saw himself as a messianic prophet of Third Way theology, whatever that was. In this he was protected by his Praetorian Guard of spin doctors and sycophants, whispering praise into his ear and sneering at grumpy old Gordon Brown, the Stoic senator left out in the rain.

Domeo2If anything symbolized the emptiness and folly of the 90s, it was the construction of the ‘Millenium Dome.’ It was Thatcher’s successor, John Major who first mooted the building of such a structure as a way of marking the 21st century. This was New Britain, the Britain of vision, of energy, of creative style and all those virtues would be channeled into constructing…..a big fuck off Circus Tent, so massive it was visible from space or at least visible from the EastEnders credits. Tony Blair, seizing upon these qualities as reflective of his own dynamism, jumped on board after being elected in 97 and shit millions into the project, ensuring it was actually built in time for the new millennium. What would be INSIDE the Great Dome? Palaces made of ice? Strange and mysterious groves and mercury rivers flowing through tropical gardens where Centaurs frolicked with mermaids or just a load of dead space? Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall. Ah but such scepticism was verboten in the New Labour Reich. To criticize was to ‘Talk Down Britain’ and so Blair declared that the Dome was ‘a triumph of confidence over cynicism, boldness over blandness, excellence over mediocrity.”

What was truly cynical, bland and mediocre was the way in which a coterie of cynical, bland and mediocre politicians and spin doctors attempted to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes, as if simply repeating their trite mantras and soundbites made these statements true. And so, as the clock ticked from one artificial century and millennium to another, the people of Britain rejoiced at the sight of a Labour Prime Minister holding hands with Her Majesty, The Queen beneath a giant aircraft hangar singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ to a faithful audience of obedient drones. In New Labour’s ‘Third Way’ Utopia, we all knew our place and normal service had been restored.

We Are Family, I Got All My Sisters With Me!

In time the Unholy Trinity of Blair, Campbell and Mandelson would have the same attitude towards war as they did for the Dome. There was no plan for what happened after the Big Show. After several failed attempts to fill the place with something culturally or aesthetically valid, they flogged it off to private industry. It had all been spectacle, a flash of lights, a crack of the whip, the ring master and his trusty clowns distracting you from the painful reality of the world outside. Once the circus went away, there was nothing left but a black outline of where it had once stood.Blair-Cool-Britannia

Interventionism versus Democracy

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Watching the recent BBC 2 three part documentary series on The Iraq War I was reminded of the old proverb ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions’ and its alternative form ‘hell is full of good meanings, but heaven is full of good works’.  Asked by Bush to comment on the situation on the ground in Iraq in 2006 his Special Adviser Meghan O’Sullivan replied ‘It’s hell Mr President’. The programme demonstrated the hubris of Western interventionists in the Middle East.

It is worth looking at where Iraq stands today in relation to ten years ago at the beginning of the Iraq War. A sectarian autocrat Nouri Maliki holds the reins of power. One dictator Saddam has been replaced with another Maliki at a cost of 170,000 lives. The U.S. was searching for a strongman it could entrust with leading post-Saddam Iraq. The U.S. settled on Maliki who went along with the Americans as it suited his interests using U.S. firepower to consolidate his powerbase.

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In 2011 following U.S. withdrawal Maliki’s party, drawn from the majority Shia community, was defeated in free elections by the non-sectarian, mixed Sunni and Shia, al-Iraqiya coalition. Al-Iraqiya secured 2 more seats than Maliki’s party in the new parliament. Maliki refused to accept the result and demanded a recount. The recount confirmed the original outcome.  Forced to compromise he accepted a power-sharing arrangement which he subsequently reneged on. He had no intention of ceding power. Instead he accused his putative coalition partners and political adversaries of ‘terrorism’, a catch-all phrase and embarked on a campaign of repression all the while paying lip-service to ‘democracy’.

The consequences have been predictable. Recent months have witnessed a resurgence of sectarian violence reminiscent of the worst days of internecine warfare in 2006 and 2007. In April this year alone 700 Iraqis died in sectarian violence the worst month for five years. Maliki hasn’t a democratic bone in his body. You would think that Western apologists for overseas intervention or ‘humanitarian imperialism’ would have learned a few lessons.

A general view shows damaged buildings and debris in Deir al-Zor

The clamour for military action in Syria against Assad is still strong despite the parliamentary vote vetoing Cameron’s proposals. Labour has said that they do not oppose military action in principle. Miliband merely opposed the timescale. A principled opposition to Western militarism needs to be upheld.

 

Western double standards can be seen at play in relation to the recent government massacres of Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Egypt. The principle of respecting election results is central to any concept of democracy. History is littered with examples of the democratic will of the people being usurped by not only tyrants and dictators but by those who pass themselves off as liberals and democrats. In Ireland in 1918 the democratic outcome of the people’s vote for an independent parliament, the First Dail Eireann, was not recognised by the British government and a bloody War of Independence and Civil War ensued.

In Argentina in 1966 a military coup overthrew a populist, radical administration and the military junta banned the right to strike and reversed progressive labour laws. The Argentine military junta foreshadowed the regime of Augusto Pinochet in Chile seven years later in 1973 following the U.S. sponsored coup that deposed the progressive, democratically elected President Salvador Allende who paid with his life for his commitment to democracy and the people.

g9510.20_Morsi.coverThese are reasons why the democratically expressed choice of the Egyptian people, the government of Mohammed Morsi, should have been defended against the military. Many on the left either remained silent or supported the military coup. Tony Blair did the latter which speaks volumes as Blair is an illiberal liberal and a dictatorial democrat.  The Muslim Brotherhood could have been opposed politically and ideologically by the people, on the streets, by organising grass-roots opposition to any anti-democratic or regressive measures that the Muslim Brotherhood proposed such as curbs on free speech and freedom of expression. However, inviting the army in to act on the people’s behalf was a catastrophic mistake. The result was predictable: hundreds of unarmed protesters massacred. Military juntas and democracy do not go hand in hand.

The situation in Egypt contains echoes of Algeria in the early 1990’s. There Islamists in the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) won a majority vote in democratic elections. The incumbent party refused to recognise the popular will, cancelled the vote and a military regime was installed backed by the elites and professional classes. The FIS party was banned and thousands of its members arrested. A decade long civil war ensued with tens of thousands of fatalities.

It is the people’s choice to elect who they wish. It is their democratic right to elect nationalists, Marxists or Islamists. Every new regional crisis or affront to human decency such as Assad’s alleged chemical weapons use in Syria is met with the same response by the do-gooders: ‘We must do something’ and ‘This time it will be different.’  For genuine supporters of progressive politics, for real democrats and humanitarians the lesson remains the same: Western involvement makes matters worse. It is for the people of sovereign states to determine their own destinies free of foreign interference. Western powers should stay out of the Middle East.

HAL

Twitter: @michael_hal

BLOG FLASHBACK 1: George Galloway MP – TAL Interview, Winter 2003

galloway1This blast from the past is an interview with George Galloway MP, which appeared in TAL Issue 37 from Winter 2003/2004.  TAL’s London Rep. Marxman along with editor Talman met up with the then MP for Glasgow Hillhead who had recently been expelled from the British Labour Party. At the time of the interview a military alliance led by British and US armed forces was an occupying force in Iraq. Other issues that came up for discussion included Palestinian solidarity, the long-term prospects for peace in Ireland, sectarianism and anti-Irish racism in Scotland, and of course, the future of Celtic FC.  

 

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Currying Favour With George Galloway

We meet George Galloway MP for the Respect Party at London’s Euston Station. George suggests going for veggie curry at one of the nearby Indian restaurants. He asks if we want to go to the one with alcohol or the one without alcohol. We opt for the alcohol free place, its nearer and, anyway, we’re on our best behaviour. We’ll get pissed after the interview. To the restaurant we adjourn, paper, pen and dictaphone at the ready. But first there was food to be eaten…

There’s something about the experience of veggie curry served in large dishes for ‘sharing’, in fact, any kind of food served anywhere in big ‘sharing’ bowls is just hippy madness, in my opinion. I know it’s all Buddhist and Eastern to ‘share’, but feck it, when it comes to grub, my plate’s my own. And with vegetarian food, you’re always left feeling like somebody else must have eaten all the best bits – sorry veggies. Marxman, sitting beside me, is a big lad and could easily have devoured the whole bowl himself. So there we were, two starving fat guys from a football fanzine in a highly recommended Indian vegetarian restaurant in London to interview the firebrand left-wing MP and we couldn’t talk for having a silent battle for supremacy over the curry portions.

I don’t know if it’s a Dundonian thing – and who am I to cast aspersions – but given the ample proportions of the company present maybe more than one solitary bowl of curried potatoes to share was in order? I didn’t get a look-in, between the two of them guzzling spicy spuds, I had no chance. I was suspicious that George had plated well over his fair share of curried potatoes. At one point, I considered just going for it and forking a couple off his dish, then I had a momentary flash of John Reid landing on his arse in the House of Commons and I remembered that George throws a mean jab, so I left my belly to rumble and George to scoff the tatties…

After all, the Milky Bars (or at least the curries!) were on him.

In relation to the war in Iraq George Galloway was absolutely convinced of the correctness of his political stance against the US/British invasion and subsequent occupation of the country.

“Everything the anti-war movement predicted has come true. We said that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction and there aren’t. We said that Iraq was not a threat or danger to anyone else, either in the West or even to its Arab neighbours, and it wasn’t. Let’s face it, it couldn’t even defend it’s own capital city for more than a couple of days.”

During the course of the interview Galloway, who has an insight into Iraqi politics that few other politicians on these islands possess, ominously predicted the large-scale resistance to the western military occupation that has become all too real in recent days and weeks. He was also scathing of the reasons given by Bush and Blair for the war, stating as the real reason for the conflict the quest to plunder the rich oil fields of Iraq by multinational corporations allied to the determination of the US political/military establishment to create another bridgehead of political control in the region outside of their client state, Israel.

“ We said that the war would increase rather than decrease Terrorism in the world and it has. We predicted that the level of hatred towards Britain and the USA would increase and it most certainly has. You only have to look at the British Foreign Office’s own website to see that the number of countries now considered to be dangerous for its nationals to travel to has greatly increased as a result of the war.

“And the real reasons for the war were apparent almost immediately as American companies lined up to receive the contracts that would allow them to strip the country of its wealth. All the prime contracts have been sliced up and handed out to the corporate friends of the Bush regime, including among them the Vectra Corporation whose day job incidentally is the privatisation of London Underground.”

He is also pessimistic about the prospects now for an early withdrawal of troops from Iraq given the massive damage that has been done to the infrastructure of the country by the invading forces.

“This is Vietnam all over again. There is going to be no easy way out for them now. They are seriously considering privately the prospect of an occupation force that could be in Iraq for as long as 5years, 10years or maybe even longer.”

We decided to tackle George about the continual criticisms of him in the media for his alleged contacts with the Saddam Hussein regime. Did he think that it was justified for him to have travelled to Iraq and met the dictator in the past?

“I met Saddam Hussein twice. That’s exactly the same number of times that Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is that Rumsfeld was meeting him on behalf of the US Government to sell him guns whereas I was there to try to persuade him to destroy guns.

“Neither do I buy the idea that just because I met Saddam it somehow means that I supported his regime, but it sometimes amazes me that people are taken in by the tabloid attacks on me. I’ve even had a wee bit of abuse at Celtic Park. I was on my way into the ground for a match and one guy shouted at me, ‘There’s the Tripoli Shamrock!’  A bit of a lapse in geography there. I’ve also been accused of being ‘Gaddaffi’s Friend’ even though I’ve never been to Libya and I’ve never actually met the Colonel!”

The MP for Hillhead is nothing if not philosophical about the tabloids’ view of him. A recent issue of The Sun newspaper ran a headline accusing him of being a “Traitor” and demanding that he be tried for treason.

“Funnily enough, the first time The Sun ran a “Traitor” headline against me was in 1990 when I marched in Dublin alongside Gerry Adams. Their line then was that no-one should be meeting or speaking with Adams.

“What’s better, talking to people in order to reach an agreement and avoid war or having a war where thousands of people get killed?

“If the British government had met the Irish Republican Movement earlier and dealt with the political demands of the nationalist community we may have avoided years of war and violence and many people who are not with us today might still be alive.

“And exactly the same is true of Iraq.”

George Galloway has for many years been a supporter of the cause of Palestine. His solidarity with the Palestinian people goes right back to his early political career in Dundee. It’s an issue that is familiar to TAL readers and supporters and despite the years that have passed and what appears at times to be an almost insoluble political situation he remains passionately committed to the rights of the Palestinians.

“A gratifying development in more recent years for me has been the realisation among many Celtic supporters of the importance of the Palestinian issue; how it’s not something that is foreign to them; that the Palestinians are fighting against the same forces that have so destroyed and stultified Ireland and the Irish people. Forces that have driven the Irish to the four corners of the world, just as the Palestinians have been driven to the four corners of the world.

“I am so happy when I see Palestinian flags flying among the crowd at Celtic Park. I feel a particular satisfaction about that because I have been so involved with that issue going back to the early 1970’s.”

As one of the few MP’s who has consistently campaigned for British disengagement from Ireland he also derives some personal as well as political satisfaction from the current political process that has pushed republicans to the fore in their efforts for a political solution to the conflict.

“It generally takes a long time to be vindicated in politics especially when you’ve taken a stand that is widely reviled at the time you first argue for it. In the case of Ireland, when I was being roundly condemned as a traitor for speaking with Gerry Adams in public, it turns out that all the time Mrs Thatcher and her representatives were speaking to him in private! It just goes to show the total hypocrisy of the British state in this regard.

“I’ve always believed that Britain should disengage from Ireland. For someone from my own background, as the grandson of Irish immigrants, it really isn’t possible for me to have taken any other view. Britain doesn’t have an Irish problem – Ireland has a British problem.”

It won’t surprise TAL readers to hear that due to his forthright views on Ireland Galloway has been a target of hate for loyalists in Scotland. Even the baptism of his grandson Sean managed to create controversy when it was publicised that the baby’s christening was the first Catholic baptism ceremony to be performed in the House of Commons since the days of Guy Fawkes. Despite the threats and abuse he has received over the years, he remains committed to peace in Ireland and to resolving sectarian conflict in Scotland. He imparts some advice to loyalists in the 6 Counties about the choices that they face.

“I concur with the advice given to them by Tim Pat Coogan, that they should ‘cut a deal’ before it’s too late. Essentially that was the conclusion drawn by the whites in South Africa. Unfortunately it’s not a position that has been adopted by the Israeli settlers and you can see the results.

“In the same way that the South African solution enshrined the rights of minorities, even the rights of the formerly dominant white minority, so too must any arrangement reached in Ireland preserve the rights and interests of the two traditions. The interests of all of the people of the island must be guaranteed.

“It would be just as intolerable for the nationalist majority in Ireland as a whole to treat the unionist minority badly as was the reverse in the Northern Ireland statelet for so many decades.

“I’d say to the loyalist population that they should stop fooling themselves that Britain has any interest in maintaining their supremacy. What you share in common with the rest of the people in Ireland far outweighs the things that you don’t have in common.

No-one wants to take away your churches or your orange halls. You can live as you want to, but you must also accept that other Irish people are your equal and they have a right to elect a government of their choice and as long as that government is one that respects your human rights as a community and as individuals. That is the best option available to unionists as a community because the British fell out of love with Ian Paisley & Co a long time ago.”

We asked George about his perceptions of “sectarianism” in Scotland and what he thinks of the Scottish Parliament’s proposals regarding the banning of marches that are deemed to be sectarian.

“I don’t want to see any marches banned. Where possible we should seek to accommodate all views within communities. Banning marches is not the way to address views that you disagree with or object to. Obviously a slightly different approach has to be taken if a march is proposed to go through an area with the specific aim of provoking trouble – as is the case in areas of the 6 Counties – but even then they are sometimes allowed with conditions placed upon them.

“You cannot equate republican marches with those of the orange order. There is certainly a difference between republican politics and religion. Michael Davitt was Protestant; Wolfe Tone was Protestant. You do not have to be a Roman Catholic to be an Irish republican. Republicanism is not a religion it is a political tenet, one that is shared by a very large number of people. Of course it’s not sectarian to be a republican – it’s the opposite of sectarianism.”

Finally we got down to the issue of football and despite our suspicions that George was in fact a Dundee United sympathiser (he has a soft spot for ‘the Arabs’ from his time in Dundee) he professes a life long affection for The Bhoys. Not surprisingly, as a Celtic supporter, he is as passionate about how our club is run as he is about how the country should be governed.

“I had a disagreement with Fergus McCann some years ago when he came down to London to address our Westminster branch Celtic Supporters Club. I challenged him about his description of the fans as customers. I said that ‘customers’ can choose to change brands if they are dissatisfied with the product but as supporters of our club it’s impossible for us to make that kind of consumerist approach. As Celtic supporters we can’t change to another brand because WE are the club and WE support them through good, bad or indifferent times.

“It’s a cultural thing that means everything to so many people. It’s our lives, so please don’t call us ‘customers’ because it’s an insult. We’re not buying chocolate biscuits – this is Celtic we’re talking about.

“As I said to McCann at the time, ‘This club and its supporters were here long before you and they’ll be here long after you.’ “

George Galloway said a lot more about his ideals for the club and those that he thought would be in the best position to take it forward. He cited his friend Brian Dempsey, as being “Celtic through and through” and expressed disappointment that there is still no place for Dempsey in the structure of the club.  He also expressed agreement with TAL’s position of supporters having a greater say in the running of the club.

“I strongly support greater involvement of supporters at every level of the club. That is ultimately how the club should be run. We need a genuine coalition of Celtic people; the rich ones who can provide the necessary finance and the ordinary Celtic supporters who, come rain or shine, through thick and thin, remain the backbone of the club.”

Love him or loathe him, George Galloway remains a figure of political controversy, but he is also firmly committed to the issues in which he believes. His views on Ireland and Palestine may be more popular nowadays but it wasn’t always so. He has recently helped to establish a new electoral organisation called the Respect Unity Coalition. Our thanks to him for agreeing to be interviewed – and for paying for the curries when the bill came around!

(c) TAL & George Galloway

This Interview first appeared in TAL Issue 37