Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1951

Peter Brierley and his daughter Helen, Tony Hamilton-Jewell and his wife Eileen, at the event organised by Military Families Against the War last week (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Peter Brierley and his daughter Helen, Tony Hamilton-Jewell and his wife Eileen, at the event organised by Military Families Against the War last week (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Our legal challenge

It took a long time for the truth to finally start to come out, but the world now knows that Tony Blair lied to take us into an illegal war on Iraq.

Me and my family have thought that for some time. The revelations just before the election about the attorney general’s advice and Blair’s meeting with George Bush have confirmed it.

That is why Military Families Against the War is taking legal action against Blair.

Two days before the election we handed in a legal letter to 10 Downing Street. It gave Blair 14 days to set up an “independent and effective public inquiry” into the whole basis for going to war.

The whitewash inquiries authorised by the government have ignored that fundamental question.

Those of us who have lost loved ones in Iraq are determined to pursue Blair over this. We are not going to let him get away with it.

When we set up Military Families Against the War a lot of the media either ignored us or said we were unrepresentative. Since then more and more military families and serving soldiers have got in contact with us and are joining the campaign.

Tony Hamilton-Jewell, whose brother Simon was one of the Red Caps killed in June 2003, was at our press conference and came to hand the letter into Downing Street.

Peter Brierley, whose son Shaun was killed very early in the war, contacted us after a newspaper gave him our details and is also part of our action against Blair.

Ten families in all are bringing this action. We are also getting e-mails from army wives and serving soldiers — including one who has been told by his insurance company that it will not pay out if he is killed in Iraq, because the war is illegal.

Over the coming weeks we are going to be campaigning hard around this legal action. We’d ask for the support of Stop the War groups and everyone else who has stood by us up to now.

All those who have been killed in this terrible and unnecessary war deserve justice.

Rose Gentle, Glasgow

The terrible toll of depleted uranium

Eighty eight young men serving this country have given their lives because this present Labour government lied about the reason why it wanted to go to war against Iraq.

This shows how little respect this government has for the men and women who serve this country. It is willing to get them killed for its own ends and not the good of this country.

Not only is it responsible for killing our own people, but also with the aid of the Bush government in the US it is killing the men, women and children of Iraq.

The deaths of these innocent people in Iraq are due in part to the type of ammunition that we and the US are using.

Depleted uranium weapons explode and leave a radioactive dust behind. It only takes one hundredth of a gram to be inhaled to cause cancer, lung and kidney problems and severe birth defects in children.

Depleted uranium has a half life of 4.5 billion years. This means that long after the forces have left Iraq the innocent people of that country will still be dying.

Tony Flint, ex-serviceman

Education facing cuts

Once again the most vulnerable in our society — the young and low paid — are being attacked by New Labour in Northern Ireland.

Barry Gardiner, the direct rule minister for education, operating from Stormont, has imposed drastic spending cuts on the five education boards.

This year over £31 million will be wiped off school spending followed by even larger cuts in 2006-7.

Thousands of jobs will go among classroom assistants, cooks, catering assistants, janitors, maintenance workers, cleaners, play supervisors, school bus drivers and school crossing patrol workers.

Special needs children will be forced into mainstream education without the help of special care teachers or services and cross-community programmes to tackle sectarianism will be lost for ever.

The four main trade unions operating in the education system — T&G, GMB, Nipsa and Unison — have been left with no choice other than to ballot their members for industrial action, and were scheduling a one-day strike for Friday 13 May.

Sean Smyth, Belfast

No to new weaponry

The news that Labour was intending to upgrade its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction with a new £10 billion nuclear weapons system to replace Trident made me even more determined to vote against Blair last week.

The Trident nuclear weapons system cost £30 billion at a time when hospitals and schools were cut back and pensioners left in poverty.

Who is this sytem to protect us from, or to be used against? Even Tony Blair could not claim that such weapons will halt terrorist attacks on Britian.

Now after the election we need a big campaign to stop any new expenditure on nuclear arms. That should begin with the anti-nuclear mobilisations planned as part of the G8 protests.

Jane Squires, Liverpool

Scandal of a system that distorts our votes

Ken Coates (Letters, 30 April) raises rather more than the fraud arising from the postal voting system and its consequences.

He opens a whole can of worms regarding the electoral system and the way it keeps the wishes of the workers from true expression.

And yet it is this system which continues to be supported by the people who have the most to lose by its continuation.

For 100 years and more this country has suffered governments which only twice in all that time — the 1931 and 1935 national coalitions — took power with more than half the votes.

Only now, when an obvious flaw in the system has shown itself, is anyone making a fuss.

It is about time the majority of the electorate understood that the system is patently undemocratic.

The electoral system must be changed in accordance with the Jenkins Report, which was commissioned by the government and then conveniently forgotten.

Our voting system will then conform to the methods used by most of the democratic world which has long abandoned the first past the post system.

Ted Jones, Erith, Kent

You can fight the drug patent laws

The opinion piece by Prabir Purkayastha (Socialist Worker, 5 May) points to the way that the drug multinationals and Western governments act to keep drug prices high.

But I think we need a far more aggressive approach to the issue than simply “making use of the flexibilities” in the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (Trips) agreement, and negotiating within the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

There is an extreme human emergency caused by Aids. We need not just cheap drugs (which may still be beyond the reach of many in Africa) but free drugs. It would be an immensely important step for India to confront the Trips agreement and supply drugs cheaply or free.

The WTO might well seek to hit back. But India could then mobilise hundreds of millions, billions perhaps, for its position. I am not sure how long the WTO could stand up against, say, Nelson Mandela speaking out for people not profit.

There is a problem if countries say that because of international factors they can do nothing to challenge the prevailing order. As well as campaigning internationally, we have to confront the WTO at the national level.

Alison Hayter, North London

Remember resistance

I read with interest Tom Behan’s article (30 April) destroying the myth that it was solely the allied armies that liberated Europe from the Nazis.

I lived in Padova, Italy, for five years and worked in the Zona Industriale. By the stop where I caught the bus, next to a factory fence, were two stone crosses.

These crosses marked the spot where two partisans aged 22 and 18 were shot down by the Nazis in 1944.

Each year on the anniversary of the deaths, and before any of us had started work, large bunches of flowers were draped over the crosses.

Another myth that needs to be destroyed is the one that says there was no resistance to the Nazis in Germany. It is fair to say that by the beginning of the war most Jews, socialists, communists and trade unionists were either dead, in exile or in the concentration camps.

However, resistance did continue and especially among German youth — specifically, the “edelweiss pirates”, a loose federation of German youth with groups thoughout Germany.

John Spink, Edinburgh

Vote early, vote wrongly?

I received my postal ballot form before the revelations about Blair’s misuse of the legal advice about the war.

Such revelations could have a big effect on how an individual votes. This is another argument for restricting postal votes to very special cases.

Margaret Marsh, Huddersfield

The farce of US democracy

The US has installed “death squad democracy” in Iraq. All that Bush wants is a facade of an elected national government, not an actual one. It used to be called gunboat diplomacy.

The US has never been for democracy or human rights, otherwise it would not have subverted and terrorised every democratically elected government from Mossadegh in Iran to Allende in Chile to Aristide in Haiti.

Zara, Toronto, Canada

Union and the Cardiff Three

Socialist Worker's recent coverage of developments following the Cardiff Three case (23 April) reminded me of the union backing for the campaign to “free the boys”.

My union branch — Cardiff City Council Nalgo — invited Lloyd Paris, brother of one of those wrongly convicted, to speak at a meeting and voted to back the campaign.

The case was then widely publicised in the branch’s newssheet. The region of the union also backed the campaign.

Branch members lobbied our union’s national delegate conference, persuading delegates to back the branch motion and put the weight of the whole union behind the campaign, together with a sizeable donation.

Our branch banner was ever present on the local marches and protests — and at the court of appeal when the boys eventually won their freedom.

Branch members marched alongside such diverse characters as US black activist the Reverend Al Sharpton, Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four, and actor Corin Redgrave as the campign intensified.

Union support is crucial for all campaigns for truth, justice and respect.

Terry James, Cardiff

Taxed, but no votes

I am 16 years old. If I get job I will be taxed, but I have no control though the electoral system over how that money will be spent.

I hope that Socialist Worker readers will add to the pressure to get votes at 16.

Politics should not be denied to those of us who are younger.

Sandra Bailey, Peterborough

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Article information

Sat 14 May 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1951
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