Socialist Worker

Spann was at work

Issue No. 1780

The newspapers and politicians have made great play of a video which allegedly shows Osama Bin Laden admitting his role in the 11 September attacks.

The British media has paid hardly any attention to another video, which provides evidence of the US's role in the massacre of Taliban prisoners of war. The tape's existence was revealed by Newsweek magazine, and a partial transcript was published.

It shows an American CIA agent, Johnny Michael Spann, interrogating a 20 year old US citizen, John Walker Lindh, who converted to Islam and then enlisted in the Taliban militia. He was among the hundreds of foreign Taliban who surrendered at Kunduz and were then trucked to the Jala-i-Qanghi prison in Mazar-e-Sharif.

Walker told Newsweek, 'Early in the morning they began taking us out, slowly, one by one, into the compound. Our hands were tied, and they were kicking and beating some of us. He saw 'two Americans taking pictures with a digital camera and a video camera. They were there for interrogating us.'

These two were Spann and a second CIA agent known only by his first name, Dave. The transcript of the videotape records the following remarks:

Spann: 'Where are you from? You believe in what you're doing here that much you're willing to be killed here?' Then the second CIA agent is clearly heard, speaking about Walker.

Dave: 'The problem is he's got to decide if he wants to live or die, and die here. We're just going to leave him, and he's going to fucking sit in prison the rest of his fucking short life. It's his decision, man. We can only help the guys who want to talk to us. We can only get the Red Cross to help so many guys.'

The footage, with its clear death threats, explains precisely why the captured Taliban revolted. Spann was one of the first casualties of the revolt.


The 'Direct Communications Unit' at 10 Downing Street might need some guidance on English literature.

A man called Bernard Roberts recently wrote to Tony Blair quoting ten lines from William Blake's poem 'Jerusalem'. Back came the reply, reading, 'Dear Mr Blake, the prime minister has asked me to thank you for your recent poem...'


EU've been nicked

Details have been released of the offences for which people will soon be automatically deported from one EU country to another. They include not just serious offences but also 'fraud' (of any size), 'cyber-crime', 'assault and battery' (such as allegedly hitting a police officer), and 'swindling' (which could cover virtually any alleged financial crime).

Simply by naming someone as a suspect, EU countries can demand people are delivered to their courts. Anyone who takes part in an anti-capitalist demonstration, such as the protest in Genoa this year, could find themselves dragged off from Britain without any recourse to a legal hearing.

The legislation, finalised at the Brussels summit, is scheduled to come into force in 2004 in Britain after a debate in the Commons.


Caught out by the rush

Post Office bosses have been surprised by a sudden rush in demand for stamps-at Christmas. On Thursday of last week offices were scrambling for the last second class Christmas stamps because headquarters had run out.

Consignia management said, 'We didn't expect them to go so fast.' Of course, no blame could possibly be attached to the brilliant managers who run the operation and blame the workforce for all the problems.


It's good to sack

BT, the crisis-ridden telecom giant, has just appointed a new chief executive. Ben Verwaayen's salary package could add up to £10 million over three years. His basic pay will be £700,000 a year. He will also receive £1 million of shares as a 'golden hello'.

Verwaayen's contract also entitles him to an annual bonus of up to 130 percent of his salary, which will be matched by another bonus paid in shares. The new chief executive has agreed to invest a spare £1 million of his own in the company, which will be matched by BT with £1 million of shares. BT is in the process of getting rid of 13,000 workers.

Verwaayen will fit in well. He is a former boss of Lucent, the US corporation that went belly-up earlier this year.


An Asian employee at a top public school who was told that 'niggers are not welcome' has won undisclosed damages. Aliya Smethurst said she was a victim of a race hate campaign. She was a mentor at the £15,000 a year St Christopher's School in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset.

Aliya told an industrial tribunal that senior staff at the school spread unfounded rumours about her, slammed doors in her face, and ignored her concerns about racist bullying amongst pupils.


Partnership in action

A man was crushed to death at Westbury's manufacturing plant in Birmingham recently, just weeks after the company had snubbed a safety meeting with the construction union UCATT.

The unnamed man died at the Space4 plant in Castle Bromwich when his chest was crushed by a foam injection machine. UCATT officer Joe Cairns had earlier asked the firm to discuss health and safety issues, and terms and conditions.

Westbury's human resources manager, Keri Ashton, rebuffed the offer, replying, 'Space4 is a manufacturing facility with good industrial relations based on mutual trust and respect, and employment procedures modelled on best practice. 'I feel it is inappropriate to arrange a meeting with yourself or a representative from UCATT.'

Production has been suspended at the plant. Westbury is bidding to raise the number of prefabricated houses constructed at the plant from 700 to 5,000 a year.


Things they say

'I do like Tony Blair, but he is not like a normal politician. Blair comes into his own in great moral crusades such as Kosovo and the war on terrorism, where there is a clear choice between good and evil.'
KEN LIVINGSTONE, mayor of London

'As I tried to explain on a number of occasions, it is not possible to do that, but paradoxically, because it is not possible to do it, it is not reasonable to suggest that we cannot do it.'
DAVID BLUNKETT, clarifying why he was accepting House of Lords amendments to the civil liberties legislation

'It is utterly unfair that I alone among all local authority leaders should be singled out and ordered to pay for promoting the right to buy.'
DAME SHIRLEY PORTER, found guilty of the misuse of power by five law lords

'It was the same scanner, in the same hospital, with the same people.'
CHRISTOPHER DENNE, who spent £180 to have a cancer scan because equipment in his local hospital was rented to private patients

'I think it is very appropriate we are standing outside a police station the day after the chief constable of North Wales called for the legalisation of all drugs.'

Lib Dem Euro MP CHRIS DAVIES, who got arrested for possession of cannabis

'We don't do peace.'
US DIPLOMAT on Bush's contribution to peacekeeping in Afghanistan

'When it first happened we were completely freaked out and terrified and upset, and obviously got all the Chomsky books out and were reading like mad.'
KATE BECKINSALE, star of Pearl Harbor, on the aftermath of 11 September


If you enjoy Socialist Worker, please consider giving to our annual appeal to make sure we can maintain and develop our online and print versions of Socialist Worker. Go here for details and to donate.

Article information

Inside the System
Sat 22 Dec 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1780
Share this article


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.