Socialist Worker

Letters

Issue No. 1952

War resister Jeremy Hinzman with his family

War resister Jeremy Hinzman with his family


These troops say no

A serious crisis is developing in the US military. Thousands of US soldiers are AWOL, refusing to fight in Iraq — including 37 army recruiters. A growing number of deserters are seeking refuge in Canada.

They are receiving support from trade unions, faith groups and peace activists across the country. Ten US soldiers have now applied for refugee status in Canada. Three served in Iraq. Their eyewitness accounts corroborate what the peace movement has been saying over the past two years — the US is committing war crimes in Iraq.

Despite growing evidence of these crimes, Jeremy Hinzman, a former paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division, was recently denied refugee status. But that decision is being appealed, and there is a real confidence that he will win his case when it is heard by the federal court.

Two other war resisters — David Sanders and Brandon Hughey — will have their cases heard by the immigration board. Public support for these courageous young men is growing every day.

The War Resisters Support Campaign is calling for the Canadian government to make provision for US war resisters to have refuge in Canada, regardless of the decisions of the immigration board or the courts.

Several prominent Canadians have voiced their support, including Naomi Klein, David Suzuki, Maude Barlow and many others. The Canadian Labour Congress — equivalent of the TUC — has endorsed the campaign, as has the leader of the Federal New Democratic Party, Jack Layton.

The anti-war movement has repeatedly stopped Canada’s involvement in Bush’s imperialist adventures, first by preventing Canadian troops going to Iraq, and more recently by stopping Canada’s involvement in ballistic missile defence.

The strong opposition to the war in Iraq is feeding into support for US war resisters. With a federal election looming on the horizon, the anti-war movement is preparing to raise this issue in every constituency across the country.

Michelle Robidoux, War Resisters Support Campaign, Canada
For more information, see www.resisters.ca


Harry Stanley case exposes police

I have been reading about the shoooting of Harry Stanley by the police, who said they believed the unarmed Scottish man with a table leg in a plastic bag was an Irish man with a gun.

As a Scot living in London who is also at times mistaken for an Irish man, I would like to express my support to the family.

The case clearly demonstrates the corruption of the justice system and the fact the police can act with impunity — and that ordinary members of the public have no redress for injustices or mistakes committed by police officers.

It clearly exposes a “shoot first, ask questions later” attitude within the police. This is an attitude that our media like to attribute to US law enforcement, an attitude that is the product of poor leadership at the highest levels of the police.

The case also highlights the alienation and resulting “staffing problem” faced by the police. Gung-ho idiots should never be put in such a position of responsibility.

Unintelligent and easily led are the attributes of police officers. When you add to this a jumped-up ego, fuelled by the environment and training given to firearms officers, the result is clearly depicted by this sad case.

Paul, South London
See I’ll fight on, vows Irene Stanley in Reports round-up for the latest developments in the campaign


Vanunu in new ban

Despite a second year of campaigning by supporters of nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu, the restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities on the former technician were renewed last month.

Mordechai blew the whistle on Israel’s secret nuclear weapons programme in 1986.

In April 2004, following his release from prison after an 18 year sentence, he was banned from speaking to foreigners, giving interviews, or leaving Jerusalem without police permission. The new restrictions are even tighter — Mordechai is now forbidden to use the words “nuclear weapons” and “Dimona”, the site of Israel’s nuclear reactor.

The campaign to win Mordechai’s unconditional freedom continues. As he has told Socialist Worker, “I have served my full sentence and demand my unrestricted liberty. I shall never give up the struggle against nuclear weapons.”

Sabby Sagall, North London
For more information, contact the Campaign to Free Vanunu and for a Nuclear-Free Middle East on 020 8808 7568 or send an e-mail to campaign@vanunu.freeserve.co.uk


Long fight for justice

Paul Blackburn was convicted in December 1978 for the attempted murder of a nine year old boy. Paul himself was just 15. After 25 years’ delay his appeal against the conviction will finally begin on Tuesday of next week.

He had been interrogated for five hours without a solicitor. He did not match the description of the attacker and there was no forensic evidence to connect him to the brutal crime, which had been committed in broad daylight.

Paul Blackburn has spent 25 years in prison — ten years longer than the usual tariff for murder — because he refused to admit his guilt. Now it is easier than ever to jail the innocent. Paul Blackburn’s supporters believe he is one of thousands wrongfully convicted each year.

L A Naylor, East London


Bush attacks ordinary people at home, too

Anindya Bhattacharyya’s article about George Bush’s attacks on social security (Socialist Worker, 14 May) was very good.

Bush is doing everything in his power to destroy all social programmes and funnel more and more funds from the middle class to the wealthy.

This president has done more to harm this country than any president in our history. His budget deficit policy is providing big tax cuts for the wealthy — and money to waste on his war.

The concept of private social security accounts is ridiculous, as it would do nothing to correct system shortfalls and would put individuals at risk.

It would also cost over $2,000 billion for the transition to a new system, which would be charged to our grandchildren.

Those who would choose private accounts would receive a reduced benefit from the traditional system. If the market goes sour at retirement, these people get a double whammy.

Only the Bush administration would be reckless enough to come up with this plan, and the masses are smart enough not to buy it.

Social security is an insurance plan and a safety net for the elderly, the disabled and survivorship situations.

It is not a retirement plan as such, and was never meant to be. A few adjustments could correct the system and make it viable for many years to come.

James M Smith, Wisconsin, US


Our union branch backed Respect

As reps and activists from the Stratford No 1 branch of the rail workers’ RMT union, we wish to extend our congratulations on Respect’s brilliant results in Tower Hamlets and Newham, as well as George Galloway’s historic victory.

Stratford No 1 branch voted to support Respect in our branch’s geographical area — which covers Galloway’s seat and West Ham, where Lindsey German stood for Respect — after a fantastic debate over two branch meetings.

We listed both New Labour’s positions and Respect’s — over the Iraq war, privatisation (including PPP on the tube) and the attacks on our civil liberties — and compared them to our union’s policies. Respect’s platform adhered to our union’s policies. New Labour was diametrically opposed.

We are proud of our support for Respect. You can count on our support for the council elections in Tower Hamlets and Newham next year.

Respect has relit the torch of radical east London. Our flag stays red. Together we’ll keep it flying.

Fiona Prior, Unjum Mirza, Andy Whitecross, Terry O’Neill, Kat Stelzner, Tim Afzal, Mo Azad, Waseem Malik, Gary Wilson, Michael Mungroo, Ali Miah, Sunesh Sivadasan


Galloway had the last laugh

The most encouraging aspects of this election are the failure of the BNP to win a seat and the victory of George Galloway in Bethnal Green & Bow.

I am very happy in particular that George had the last laugh over Bliar and New Labour, and I wish to pass on my heartiest congratulations to both him and to Respect.

Patrick, by e-mail


Scepticism is blown away

As someone who campaigned first for Labour then the Greens in the 1980s, I know how difficult it is for radicals to make any impact in our stitched-up electoral system.

While backing Respect I was frankly sceptical of an immediate breakthrough. How wrong I was! No wonder New Labour is in full-on spin mode against us.

Ben Drake, York


Janet’s won my respect

Congratulations to Janet Alder, the Respect candidate in Tottenham, north London, who won 6.4 percent of the vote.

I have followed her campaign since her brother’s death at Queen’s Gardens police station and attended the farce of the later court hearing, so I already know of her courage. She’s certainly someone I respect.

Marion Tennison, Hull


Now we must go and recruit

George Galloway’s victory is a reflection not only of his politics but of the hard work of many others.

This is the time to reinforce the base of our new party.

We should be arguing within Respect to go out and recruit people to it. It is very important that we don’t wait until the next election to show our faces again.

Carmela Ozzi, West London


The racists failed here

When the BBC election bus came to Swansea they described it as divided by asylum issues. They pointed to a racist murder as proof of a groundswell of racism and anti-immigration sentiment.

But in fact all the anti-immigrant parties failed here and the BNP received one of its lowest votes in the UK.

Martin Chapman, Swansea


BNP’s leader got nowhere

The crushing defeat of BNP fuhrer Nick Griffin in Keighley was the result of a long campaign by Keighley and Bradford TUCs in conjunction with Searchlight.

A staggering 190,000 leaflets were delivered to homes across Keighley by local trade unionists. A day of action saw 33,000 tabloids distributed by 170 volunteers.

Griffin had bragged of coming second with 20 percent. That he came last with only 9 percent is a great victory in the battle against fascism. We would like to thank all the volunteers who helped us over the past months.

John Coan, Keighley TUC


Why couldn’t I cast my vote?

I was omitted from the electoral register and the polling station would not let me vote, despite proof of my registration and address.

It seems that if a council cannot be bothered to list your name, then tough luck — you are disenfranchised. Councils threaten to fine us £1,000 for

non-registration, yet what financial penalties do they face?

Suzanne Mendez, West London


Change this voting system

Thirty six percent of the vote to run the country cannot be right. Surely now is the time to introduce proportional representation?

Bob Miller, Labour Party member, Chelmsford, Essex


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Letters
Sat 21 May 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1952
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