TO JUSTIFY war in Afghanistan George Bush and Tony Blair claimed they would liberate the country's women. They even wheeled out their respective wives, Laura Bush and Cherie Blair, to talk about how the war would end the oppression that Afghan women suffered. Yet a new report by the Human Rights Watch organisation reveals that Afghan women are now suffering mounting abuses and restrictions on their rights. 'Women and girls are still being abused, harassed and threatened across Afghanistan, often by government and officials,' says report author Zama Coursen-Neff.
Government troops and officials regularly target women and enforce Taliban-era restrictions. These include forcing women to continue wearing the all-encompassing burqa. The report focuses on the increasingly harsh restrictions on women and girls imposed by Ismail Khan.
Khan is a warlord who was made governor of Herat in western Afghanistan and who is backed and financed by the US government.
His police have arrested women seen alone with men. Women are taken to hospitals and have been forced to have medical examinations to determine whether they are virgins.
'Ismail Khan has created an atmosphere in which government officials and private individuals believe they have the right to police every aspect of women's and girls' lives,' says Coursen-Neff.
WAS Edward Heath a friend to the Ugandan Asians? Recently released files show the 1970s Tory prime minister was not. Heath got some credit for allowing Asians kicked out of Uganda by dictator Idi Amin into Britain.
But the British government was actually plotting to send the desperate refugees off to the Falkland Islands. Some had British passports and were entitled to come to Britain but the government did not want them.
Foreign secretary Alec Douglas-Home insisted on looking for a British protectorate somewhere in the world. The Solomon Islands, Ascension Island and the Seychelles were considered as well as the Falklands.
A pay rise ...for some
THE government has continually accused the firefighters of making an unreasonable wage demand, and has offered them just 4 percent. Strange then that at the end of last year one group of public sector workers was offered pay rises of up to 24 percent. The rise will also be backdated to August 2001.
They have also won an extra eight days annual leave and a reduction in working hours from 39 to 37 hours per week. Their job? They are part of the Emergency Fire Service which overhauled the fleet of Green Goddesses used during the firefighters' strikes.
Is this peacekeeping?
THE UNITED Nations presents itself as the 'peacekeeper' in the Balkans and other parts of the world. That's not how it looks in Eritrea, east Africa. An Irish soldier serving with the UN in Eritrea has been jailed because he was caught making pornographic videos of a local woman.
The soldier was returned to Ireland and sentenced to 16 days detention by an army court. This sounds very reminiscent of the way British troops humiliated and subjugated women and local people across the British Empire.
An Eritrean government spokesman said, 'These people call themselves peacekeepers, when in fact all they want is a long holiday and a chance to fool around with our women. They did not respect our country, our culture or our people.'
THE US's fighter planes are operated by pilots who have been instructed to take drugs by their superiors. The US Air Force recently admitted that its pilots are routinely given amphetamines (speed) on combat missions.
Fighter pilots are told they will be regarded as unfit to fly if they do not take speed, or 'go pills' as they are nicknamed, before going on long raids. Many commentators now believe the widespread use of amphetamines is connected to the high number of 'friendly fire' incidents involving US pilots.
THE Post Office has signed up four new non-executive directors who will be paid £2,500 a day. They will work one day a month and get £30,000 a year. A delivery post worker outside London is on a basic £261.93 a week.
The four lucky directors come in from a variety of private sector companies, including the BAA, W H Smith, Unipart, and Masterfoods.
'WHEN THEY came to lunch, even the few remaining kids were sent home. The children on free school meals had to do without while all the Jarvis people and their guests were having a wonderful time stuffing their faces.'
That's how Julie Davies, secretary of the National Union of Teachers in Haringey, north London, describes a party to celebrate the government's PFI. The do was to open the new technology block of the White Hart Lane School, built by a PFI consortium headed by construction giant Jarvis.
Jarvis brought in 500 swanky guests who included fat cats from McDonald's, W H Smith and Claridges. The school sent home over 800 children to make way for Jarvis's VIP guests.
Things they say
'THE PM is caught up in the worldwide power game.'
Tony Blair's local Catholic priest FATHER TIMOTHY RUSS
'I AM the person who gets to decide, not you.'
GEORGE W BUSH when a reporter asked him if war is inevitable, 1 January 2003
'EVEN now Saddam could end his defiance and dramatically change directions. He has that choice to make.'
GEORGE W BUSH explains that war is actually Saddam's decision, 3 January 2003
'I MADE up my mind that Saddam needs to go. That's about all I'm willing to share with you.'
GEORGE W BUSH, April 2002
'THE greatest danger might not arise in fighting Hussein's forces but in the aftermath in a region that would see itself unmistakably under the domination of the US, the protector of Israel.'
Ex Tory foreign secretary DOUGLAS HURD
'AS GREAT as finding an Eskimo in the desert.'
Tory MP JOHN BERCOW on the Tories' chances in the next election
'IF the government attempted to do this to trade unions there would be general strikes.'
VISCOUNT TORRINGTON, one of 64 peers suing the government for the loss of their hereditary seats
'IN Glasgow there's an old saying that you speak to the engineer and not the sweatrag.'
Speaker of the House of Commons MICHAEL MARTIN attacks Labour's spin doctors
'A NUMBER of us would see this as the point at which Mr Blair has to be challenged.'
Labour MP ALAN SIMPSON on the launch of a war