UK Afghanistan Feature Archive
The trial in the Court Martial of Welsh-American WikiLeaks Whistleblower Bradley Manning is finally scheduled to begin on Monday 3 June 2013 at Fort Meade, Maryland, US after an unprecedented three years of pre-trial detention. The mistreatment of Bradley Manning in prison including almost a year of torture by the US authorities that was condemned by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has to be seen in the context of the vast, 'secret' Grand Jury conspiracy and espionage investigation into WikiLeaks and the pressure that must have been exerted on Brad in a sustained but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to persuade him to testify against Julian Assange, who the US authorities very badly want to get their hands on.
Read or listen to Bradley Manning's statement to the court (extracts below) and his chat logs to see why he felt that the information he found himself in possession of should be shared with the world and what he hoped might happen as a result of risking his life and liberty to do this.
There are 22 charges against Brad including 'Aiding the Enemy' that potentially carries the death penalty although the prosecution has said it will not seek this sentence. Brad has already pled guilty to 10 lesser charges that could themselves result in a 20 year jail term and the government has accepted his lesser plea on just one count but not on any of the other lesser charges, for which it will still bring evidence. During the final pre-trial hearing on 21 May, Judge Lind announced that portions of the trial dealing with 24 witnesses, including US Ambassadors, will be held in closed session, with redacted transcripts provided afterwards.
The US, aided and abetted by Britain, is pursuing a permanent 'War on Terror' and continues its project of creating and escalating conflict around the globe at terrible cost to human life. The significance of the anti-war actions of Bradley Manning and Julian Assange can be judged by reference to the zeal with which both are being persecuted by the US authorities and the extent to which they have been variously misrepresented, vilified, smeared, ridiculed or ignored in the mainstream media. As anti-war activists or war resisters, they deserve our support and solidarity.
Join existing or create your own solidarity actions on Saturday 1 June and throughout Brad's trial, expected to last into August unless there's an early plea deal. 1 June solidarity is currently planned for London and Cardiff.
Previous features: December 2012 (Torture hearing) | April 2011 (Call-out for solidarity)
On the newswires (recent): Thanking Bradley Manning in Kabul | Bradley Manning's in jail for us, We're on the streets for him | 1 June call-out for Cardiff | Vivienne Westwood supports Brad | London solidarity in run-up to trial | Solidarity at Chester May Day | Downloadable flyers for 1 June | London solidarity/Report from Fort Meade | Brad nominated for Nobel Peace Prize (again) | Wrexham solidarity on 1000th day of detention
Two women from Oxford are amongst a group of peace activists visiting Afghanistan this month. The delegation aim to spend time meeting and making links with ordinary Afghans, and then raise awareness back in the UK of what they discover.
"We are traveling as friends and equals of the Afghans we will be visiting, not to fix Afghanistan but to fix UK perspectives on Afghanistan" -Mary, one of the group.
Nine years ago another local peace activist, Paul, moved to Afghanistan to work with the UN, and sent a series of personal reports, providing a revealing first-hand account of life there.
UK Peace Activists Visit Afghanistan | From Cowley Road to Kabul | First days in Kabul | Kuchi Refugee Camp in the Shah's Back Yard | Oxford Man in Afghanistan
VCNVUK blog | Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers | Global Days Of Listening | RAWA
While over seventy countries now possess drones, so far only the UK, the US and Israel are known to have used armed drones. The UK has launched over 300 drones strikes in Afghanistan but there is little public information about these strikes. Israel regularly launches drone attacks in Gaza and the US has been using drones in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. It is suspected, but not confirmed that US drones have also undertaken strikes in Mali and Philippines this year.
On the newswire: Ground the Drones Week of Action announcement | Drones Week of Action events listings | The faceless face of military drones at Menwith Hill: 9 October | Veterans for Peace action at General Atomics | Terrorist drones come to Lincolnshire – drones peace walk | Drones and Thrones – A London Diary
On Monday 16th July 2012 Smash EDO held a Citizen's Weapons Inspection' of EDO. Kent, Sussex and Hampshire Police used new Police Liaison Officers and a steel wall against demonstrators.Despite this, activists dressed in white suits managed to breach the police cordon and hang banners outside the factory gates and close down the industrial estate by locking-on to the police cordon.
On Sunday 15th July Smash EDO hosted a gathering against the G8, launching a new network. There will be a workshop to plan action against the G8 at Earth First and the next gathering will be 22nd September in Birmingham.
At 1pm on Monday 16th July a group of concerned citizens from Brighton and beyond will be attempting to inspect the EDO MBM factory in Moulsecoomb to further highlight the factory’s complicity in the murder of innocent civilians around the world.
It has long been known that this local company has links with illegal and immoral arms deals and Smash EDO intend to hold them to account. In January 2009 six activists broke in and successfully decommissioned the factory and then waited to be arrested by the police. At their later trial a jury found that their actions were entirely legal as they were acting to prevent war crimes against civilians in Gaza.
This mass action is part of an ongoing 'Summer of Resistance' which has seen almost daily actions by protesters against the factory in May and June and which will continue until the end of July.
Demonstrators will converge at the Level at 1pm.
A call has been made to FITwatchers to kettle the police and to sabotage their new tactic of using Police Liaison Officers to pacify the crowd.
The day before the demo anti-capitalists will be converging in Brighton for a day of plotting and scheming against the 2013 G8, to be held in the UK
Local Contacts for the Weapons Inspection: London: email@example.com | Bristol: firstname.lastname@example.org | Manchester: email@example.com | Swansea: firstname.lastname@example.org
The UK antimilitarist movement is building fresh coalitions against new developments in state militarism. In March activists converged in Bristol to confront an unmanned drones conference and a ‘Disarm the National Gallery’ campaign was launched in London to end arms trade sponsorship of the gallery. This week delegates visiting the annual Counter-Terror conference were met by a counter-protest and Vince Cable's speech at the UKTI conference was disrupted.
Smash EDO, who have campaigned to shut EDO MBM down for eight years are launching three months of action, from May 1st to August 1st, next week with a mayday noise demonstration, a bad music demonstration and a phone and twitter blockade to name just a few of the planned events.
Smash EDO Summer of resistance reports: Picket of Barclays - 27/4/12| A few words on sensationalist journalism, protest bans and the local rag| The Summer of Resistance starts here| Mayday! Mayday! The Summer of Resistance Day One| Day Two: Face the Music| Day Three: Hot on the Wire| Day Four: Surprise! Surprise!| Smash EDO Summer of Resistance Week Two begins| Bikes not Bombs: Smash EDO Summer of Resistance hits the Pedals| Ratchet up the Racket: Summer of Resistance Continues| Summer of Resistance Targets Barclays
As the Taliban prepares to open a political office in Qatar, the US stalls on releasing Taliban prisoners and a leaked US military report alleges that "the Taliban's strength and morale are largely intact despite the Nato military surge, and that significant numbers of Afghan government soldiers are defecting to them", the UK is witnessing a small upswing in anti-war activism over the raging conflict.
Last month peace activist Maya Evans returned from a month-long delegation to the country with US activists from Voices for Creative Nonviolence, and she is now embarking on a speaking tour around the UK. Whilst in Afghanistan she helped deliver over £2,000 worth of aid, raised by NUJ members at the Financial Times and the readers of Peace News, to internally displaced Afghans in the capital. She is believed to be the first British peace activist to visit the country since 2001.
Meanwhile, photojournalist Guy Smallman - himself recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan - will be speaking alongside ex-soldier Ben Griffin at an event in London on 9 February, and activists are preparing to re-establish a peace camp outside RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire in anticipation of the UK starting to use the base to pilot its Reaper drones in Afghanistan later this year. In September last year, the RAF announced its 200th drone strike in Afghanistan. British drones are currently piloted by RAF pilots based in the US. In December, Catholic Workers occupied the entrance to Northwood Military HQ in protest at the ongoing occupation of Afghanistan.
Thoughtful observers have long pondered the question why, given the undoubted horrors of the war in Afghanistan as well as its deep unpopularity with the general public, there continues to be so little UK activism focused on the war. Indeed, for many years the only UK-based protests marking the anniversary of the 2001 invasion involved a tiny handful of people [ 1 | 2 | 3 ]. Similar actions took place on the tenth anniversary last October [ 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 ], as well as a Stop the War rally but even the latter was a relatively small affair compared to earlier 'national' Stop the War demos.
Whether recent events herald a change on this front remains to be seen.
Ever keen to get an up close and personal look at the world's most troubled regions, SchNEWS was fortunate enough to sweet-talk Brightonian Al Jazeera journalist, Medyan Diarieh, recently returned from reporting in Afghanistan. As a Palestinian who has extensively covered the conflicts in the occupied Palestinian territories, Iraq and Turkish Kurdistan for many years, he's a man with a useful perspective on events on the ground in what's become Britain's longest war since the days of Empire. Medyan has become a well known figure amongst pro-Palestine and anti-war protesters, informing the public in the Arab-speaking world of the UK's solidarity movements.
Interviewer: So what was it like arriving in Afghanistan?
Medyan: When I arrived in Kabul I could see even from the plane that it is a very poor city. When you walk from the airport you can see Turkish army and American armies, but the airport is very small and the electricity is cut off for half an hour at a time. Once I went to the street, I knew everything about this country. There is no life at all. The electricity is sometimes on sometimes off, no clean water, no sanitation at all. And this is in Kabul. Outside the city is nothing, most people don't know what a cooker is - they just cook on wood. Most of the roads in Afghanistan have not been concreted. The water you see on the street is sewage water coming from the houses since no proper sewage system is in place. Some of the streets I visited have a stream of dirty water running, and they are really hazardous. The houses are very poor. This is Afghanistan.
Also in SchNEWS 708: A HONDURAN LOBO-TOMY 'Return to democracy' sees the coup leaders holding on to power and upping the repression | INSIDE SCHNEWS Decommissioner James Elijah Smith is moved again, this time to Sheppey | STOP 'N SUE Kingsnorth Climate Campers win in the High Court against unlawful police stop and searches, protesters expect big payouts | VOULEZ VOUS COUCHE? No Borders and SoS Soutien open an autonomous safe space in Calais | TREADING A FINE LINE RBS branch in art attack, this time because of tar sands | DIAMONDS ARE FOR NEVER Top jeweller Tiffany subjected to protests for their involvement with Botswana's ethnic cleansing of the Bushmen | OVER THE MAINSHILL? Report of last week's eviction of the Mainshill Solidarity camp | BLAIR FACED CHEEK Anti-Blair demos outside the Chilcot Inquiry | ..AND FINALLY.. Swordfish sabotages Total Oil pipeline in Algeria