From El Salvador to Iraq
Recent leaks in Britain and the US promising troop reductions in Iraq should not be taken as a weakening of Anglo-American commitment to winning a protracted war.
The leaks are intended to appease hostile public opinion. They also indicate changes in US strategy. Peter Maas, a well-informed commentator writing in the New York Times, has referred to the “Salvadorisation of Iraq”.
While the Iraqi army and police may not be up to much, US efforts are in fact concentrated on building up a covert counter-insurgency capability, recruiting former Baathist police and military into heavily armed death squads.
These are a law to themselves and are already carrying on an unrestrained “dirty war” against the insurgents and their supporters.
Advised by the CIA and other agencies, these units will torture, murder and massacre in the worst traditions of the Salvadorian War.
Maas identified James Steele, a veteran of El Salvador and “one of the US military’s top experts on counter-insurgency” as one of a number of Americans advising these killers.
The US, Maas insists, is moving or trying to move to a “Salvador-style advisory role”. This will keep down US casualties and distance them from future atrocities.
There will not be another Abu Ghraib because in future the torturers will be Iraqis — although US and British personnel will, of course, be within screaming distance.
It was this strategy that John Negroponte was put in charge of Iraq to implement.
John Newsinger, Leicester
An injustice that is still continuing
Oliver Campbell, a young black man with learning difficulties, was convicted in 1991 for the murder of Baldee Hoondle, an off licence owner, during a robbery in north east London in July 1990.
He was released on life licence in 2002.
The BBC’s Rough Justice programme presented clear evidence that Oliver’s prosecution and conviction were a miscarriage of justice.
The programme showed how the police abused their power with regards to a person with learning difficulties.
It also showed that a crucial piece of evidence was a baseball cap dropped by the murderer as he ran from the off licence.
Oliver’s fingerprints were not found at the scene and hairs from the cap were not his. Not one shred of forensic evidence was found linking Oliver to the scene.
At the identity parade, neither of the two witnesses picked out Oliver.
Oliver’s conviction was based wholly on a confession extracted in the absence of his solicitor and following false claims made by police that his hairs were found in the baseball cap and his fingerprints were found at the scene.
Ever since the “confession”, Oliver has consistently protested his innocence.
His current limited freedom is under threat.
The Criminal Cases Review Commission has recently rejected Oliver’s appeal.
We strongly believe that this case is yet another miscarriage of justice and demand that Oliver Campbell gets justice.
Simon Lee, Dan Wood, Pat Carmody and Rene Bravo, Justice for Oliver Campaign
Lives being destroyed
In the aftermath of 7 July Muslims again became the focus of attack by people who felt that all Muslims were to blame for what had happened. The vast majority of the Muslim community, including myself, were shocked by and condemned what happened. This fell on deaf ears.
The government, in a frenzy to prevent further attacks, is further eroding the civil liberties and human rights that Muslims should have in this country.
Government proposals include passing further legislation to increase the custody time for suspects to three months. This would destroy the lives of innocent victims.
They are working to further demonise the Muslim community and lump everyone together to be “guilty until proven innocent”.
They did the same to the Irish community in the early 1970s and then to the black African-Caribbean community in the 1980s.
There has been a backlash against innocent Muslims which it appears is being brushed under the carpet. Unfortunately, the situation will not improve until the government addresses the heart of the issue — their own foreign and domestic policy.
It is the anger and hurt that so many Muslims feel over these issues that push a small minority to express it in extreme ways.
This demonisation of the community will only worsen community relations and feed the recruitment of people who carry out such tragic acts as those of 7 July.
Just as terrorists say that the whole of British society will have to accept that they are going to be targeted due to the actions of their government, home office minister Hazel Blears said that Muslims will have to accept the reality that they are going to face more stops and searches.
Whole societies are made to pay for the actions of a few. This will not help the situation. That requires the root causes being addressed seriously by politicians who seem to be focusing only on symptoms.
Mrs Ahmad, www.freebabarahmad.com
Don’t fall for the hype over ‘Islamofascism’
Laura Nere asks if the SWP and the anti-war movement will “stand up” to Islamist terrorism (Letters, 6 August). I’d like to know what “standing up” means in this context.
If it means joining in the anti?Muslim hysteria being whipped up by Tony Blair and the right wing press, then the movement should play no part.
If it means standing side by side with Muslims against war and imperialism — thus building a militant mass movement offering a real alternative to terrorism — then I’d say the SWP and anti?war movement are doing just that.
I’d also take issue with Laura’s description of Al Qaida style terrorism as “fascist”. This bogus notion of “Islamofascism” is being pushed by the warmongers. The left should reject it unequivocally.
Every apologist for imperialism since the Suez Crisis has tried to paint its opponents as “the new Hitler” in order to make out that their murderous wars are justified.
In truth the desperate indiscriminate violence of Al Qaida and their ilk has far more in common with that of the Red Brigades or 19th century anarchist terrorism.
Terrorism is wrong, politically and morally. But that does not make it “fascist” — and calling it that muddies the water and weakens the struggle against both imperialism and the genuine fascists of the BNP.
Andrew Bartleby, East London
Police said I might become terrorist
I have just had a disturbing insight into the minds of those leading the “counter-terrorism” campaign.
I was visited at my home by two members of Special Branch.
They told me that they knew I had been on Socialist Worker stalls at my university. Presumably they also knew I am studying Middle East politics.
They said I fitted a profile of someone who might be “vulnerable” to conversion to acts of terrorism, citing the shoe bomber Richard Reid.
When I told them this was plainly ridiculous they changed tack, talking about the infiltration of groups such as Stop the War Coalition and the SWP by people who might want to commit violence.
Again I told them this was patently absurd. Before leaving they made a offensive “joke” to my girlfriend that she should watch me in case I “got out my mat and started praying five times a day”.
The experience was partly comical but also deeply worrying. Special Branch works closely with the government, and some seem to be connecting opposition to imperialism with terrorist activities.
Jonathan Maunder, Exeter
We must fight all racism
I was not surprised by the article about the rise in racist attacks on Muslims (Racist attacks on Muslims are rising, SW, 6 August). Here in Leith we have had at least two racist attacks.
One was on two youngsters of 16 and 11 where the elder was pushed to the ground and punched.
In the other ten thugs surrounded a car with two Asians in it, threw a hammer through the windscreen and injured the passenger.
In the latter the bombings were mentioned. I have lived in Leith for 21 years and nothing like this has happened here before.
It is in this climate that the Nazi BNP will grow and we have to combat all racism wherever we meet it.
Adrian Cannon, Edinburgh
Galloway stunned US
George Galloway is the spokesman for all of us that have no voice or are afraid to speak out. Here in California, as in all of the US, there is a climate of fear.
We were stunned to hear him speak so bluntly to the US congress, even though coverage was minimal in the US.
Maria Kalscheuer, St Helena, US
Why was I stopped?
I am a bicycle courier in London. Straight after work two weeks ago I went to a picket outside Downing Street in memory of Jean Charles de Menezes, the innocent man shot dead by police.
During the picket I made a call walking a away from the protest so I could hear. Two police officers approached me and told me to end the phone call.
They then asked me what the contents of my courier bag were. The officers proceeded to search my bag. After the search I was asked my name and address. I refused because they had not told me why they were stopping and searching me.
I demanded to know under which law they had stopped me, which they seemed unable to answer.
A third officer intervened and told me that under the Anti-Terrorism Act 2000, I had to give my name and address or face arrest.
Reluctantly I complied. The first officers asked me if I would like a receipt for the stop and search.
The receipt stated that I was suspicious because I had a CB radio and a bag, which they knew are the tools of my trade. Maybe I was perceived as a potential threat because I can be mistaken for a Brazilian.
Richard Garratt, East London
Keep Dritan in Britain
We would like to thank everyone for contributing to Kosovan asylum seeker Dritan Dauti’s campaign to remain in Britain.
Some 140 people attended a recent benefit evening in Hackney, east London, raising £400.
This is much appreciated. We would particularly like to thank the people who organised the event.
Dritan had his appeal hearing last week for his right to remain in Britain.
Hopefully the campaign will get good news when the judge makes his report in the next six weeks.
Derek Allen and Dritan Dauti, East London
Top cop’s 19th century views
No one becomes Britain’s top policeman holding enlightened views but it’s worth noting some of head of the Metropolitan Police Sir Ian Blair’s opinions.
In a lecture to the thinktank Civitas in February 2004 he blamed the causes of crime on dysfunctional families and increased disposable income, which he said was being spent on alcohol.
When he spoke of those having too much surplus cash he was not referring to City bosses. He meant ordinary people — revealing prejudices straight from the “Victorian values” handbook.
F Wood, East London