Trouble on t' moor
There have been some strange goings-on on the moors of North Yorkshire. Two weeks ago members of the Scarborough Coalition Against War And Globalisation (SCAWAG) got wind that the local Labour MP, Lawrie Quinn, would be holding a consultation meeting. It was about the upgrading of the Fylingdales base as part of Bush's Son of Star Wars scheme.
The venue was not Scarborough or Whitby, or indeed any population centre threatened by the Fylingdales upgrade. It was held at the Inn on the Moor at Goathland, a remote village whose best claim to fame is its location role in the TV drama series Heartbeat. And the time of the meeting? Why, lunchtime of course-the most convenient time of day possible for working people, students or anyone else with a busy daytime schedule.
And the meeting was by invitation only with a fixed agenda. Then on Monday morning we learnt that the North York Moors were awash with police in preparation for the arrival of Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary. Three of our members set off for Goathland, suitably equipped with a tape recorder.
As a result, we're now in possession of a full record of what transpired at the Inn on the Moor. There was a great deal of concern and apprehension about the handover of Fylingdales to the US from those present at the meeting.
Among them was the chairperson of the local Constituency Labour Party, who spoke up vociferously.
Input from our group helped the Scarborough Evening News run an editorial highly critical of the stage-managed meeting. The message to Geoff Hoon and his minion Lawrie Quinn from the people of North Yorkshire is simple.
The very least we expect is that you engage in genuine, broad-based, democratic discussion of the issues. Focus-group consultation over tea and biscuits high up in the moors is yet another instance of New Labour control-freakery seeking to stifle real debate. We didn't let them get away with it.
SUE RAM, Scarborough
Fined to fund further nukes
ACTIVIST Allen O'Keefe was ordered last week to pay £750 compensation to the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston for cutting a small piece of fence at the site.
He took part in the Trident Ploughshares disarmament camp there in May 2001. Allen says of his trial at Newbury magistrates' court: 'The magistrate was obviously attempting to make an example of me. I will not be paying the order, especially since the cash would go to the Atomic Weapons Establishment. There is no way I am contributing to a factory whose purpose is to make Trident warheads which are appalling weapons of mass destruction. The compensation order bears no relation to the slight damage that was done and I am considering an appeal.'
Ulla Roder, a Danish Trident Ploughshares pledger currently living in the UK, will now be tried on 18 February on a charge related to Aldermaston. Allen's compensation order brings to over £52,000 the total of fines, compensation orders and court costs imposed on Trident Ploughshares activists since the campaign began four years ago.
Very little of that has been paid. Campaign members remain determined to challenge Britain's deployment of illegal nuclear weapons.
DAVID MACKENZIE, Trident Ploughshares
Britain's colonial legacy
THE PEOPLE of Iraq have suffered from continuing sanctions since the 1991 war. This has resulted in the deaths of over 6,000 children a month, according to the United Nations. That number does not include those who have been killed by the various bombing campaigns launched by the US and UK over that period.
I dare not think how many times this figure of 6,000 will be multiplied if this seemingly inevitable war is allowed to occur. Opposition to the war now includes the pope and top celebrities like Susan Sarandon and Johnny Depp.
But too many of our leading politicians seem to be basing their judgement on their own interests and not on the reality of what war will mean. Iraq is a former colony of Britain. The British were the first to use chemical weapons against Iraqi people.
The people of Iraq, and of the rest of the Middle East, will not take kindly to being treated as pawns in Mr Blair's game of returning to old methods to resolve international disputes.
HUSSEIN AL-ALAK, Coalition Against Sanctions and War on Iraq
MOST politicians are liars, tricksters and scumbags. But none are more corrupt than those who wield power in the US. The scandal that has emerged around one of George Bush's biggest hawks, Donald Rumsfeld, shows that.
As you reported last week, he now stands accused of supplying Saddam Hussein with the ingredients to build chemical weapons in the 1980s. He says he is making no comment about these allegations.
The collaboration between the administrations of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher with Saddam is well known. But Rumsfeld must stand out as the prince of hypocrites.
Football fans determined to hammer the racists
AS A West Ham fan for 25 years I am disgusted at the signing of Lee Bowyer. There has always been a small Nazi element among West Ham supporters, but the majority want nothing to do with racism. I leafleted for West Ham Against the Nazis, both in the 1970s against the NF and in the 1990s against the BNP. Our leaflets were well received and we sold many badges.
The club supports Kick Racism Out of Football, and makes noises about involving the local Asian community. It is ideally situated to be the first Premiership team to establish Asian players, in the way that Clyde Best led the way for black players when he played for the Hammers.
How can this happen with a person like Bowyer in the team? In December 1996 Bowyer was found guilty of affray after verbally abusing Asian staff at a McDonald's in east London and throwing a chair. He was fined £4,000 for that incident.
He was accused in January 2000 of attacking Asian student Sarfraz Najeib outside a nightclub. He was found not guilty but a civil case is pending between the Najeib family and Bowyer. His signing is a snub to the Asian community and will only gladden the hearts of the racists.
Anti-racists will continue to campaign at Upton Park. I will not be cheering if the cost of Premiership survival is making a hero out of Lee Bowyer-the club should admit its mistake and send him packing.
SUE CALDWELL, North London
Support begins at home
SUNDAY'S Channel 4 documentary Mugabe's Secret Famine showed that food is being used as a political weapon in Zimbabwe. But it was made by right wing journalist Peter Osborne of the Spectator. This is the Tory rag which opposed sanctions on apartheid South Africa and is currently cheerleading New Labour's racist attacks on refugees.
David Blunkett's new legislation is making the lives of asylum seekers hell. Just before Christmas he callously shut the main escape route from Zimbabwe. Many black Zimbabwean refugees are highly politicised and refuse to become victims. They include workers whose revolt against neo-liberalism built the opposition MDC from below.
Now they find themselves criminalised, dispersed and forced to struggle again. We must ensure Zimbabwean asylum seekers are welcomed here and integrated into our struggles against racism, war and the market. This includes building a campaign against the Asylum Bill which is led by refugees and actively supported by the labour movement.
We should also support the weekly Saturday vigil outside the Zimbabwean embassy, which has become a focal point for the exiled opposition movement, and pass trade union motions that condemn Mugabe's repression and Blair's hypocrisy in equal measure.
The right must not be given a free run on Zimbabwe. Genuine solidarity includes stepping up the fight with the enemy at home.
GAVIN CAPPS, Southampton
EVERYONE I know who saw Bremner, Bird and Fortune's attack on the war on Iraq on Channel 4 recently agrees it was brilliant. It's an easy thing to lampoon what George Bush and Tony Blair are saying. But these three comedians did much more.
They used hilarious sketches to explain the history of Western involvement with Iraq going back to the First World War. If anyone you know videoed it, get a copy. Better still, organise a showing to build support for the anti-war movement. Are there any plans to put this show on live?
GEDIZ HUSSEIN, Merseyside
EVERYONE should tune in to Jeremy Hardy Speaks to the Nation at 6.30pm on Radio 4 on Wednesday evenings. Radio 4 presents some interesting material, mostly at times unsuited to working people.
Michael Rosen's five-minute talk (tucked in between a load of waffle on a Sunday morning) explaining the war against Iraq to school children in 20 years time was brilliant. Please add forthcoming items on radio to the TV/book/ music page.
JULIE BOSTON, Bristol
I AM looking for anti-war, political or socially aware poems with a view to publishing them. If you're interested contact Emmylou Books, 24 Ferrymead, Canvey Island, Essex SS8 9TT.
BOB CHAPMAN, Essex