Some 5,000 US troops are in Jordan this week to participate in the multi-national exercise dubbed Eager Lion. The US forces include an Army unit with a Patriot missile battery, and the Navy's Expeditionary Strike Group 5. Other participating nations include the UK, France, Canada, Turkey, Bahrain, Iraq, Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
A group of activists calling themselves "Lukashenko Busters" held a demonstration outside the London Stock Exchange June 7 to protest the trading in companies that do business with state-owned enterprises in Belarus. Ruled for nearly 20 years by Alexander Lukashenko, "Europe's last dictator," Belarus faces sanctions in the US but not the United Kingdom. The protesters pointed out that London-traded firms ENRC, METINVEST and Ferrexpo all do business with Belshina, Belarus' parastatal industrial giant. "Do the millions of pension savers know that their pensions funds Lukashenko's war on the opposition?" organizers asked in a statement, charging that Belarusian state companies fund Lukashenko's KGB, which has overseen a wave of harsh repression since contested elections in December 2010.
The UK government on June 5 reached a settlement agreement with thousands of Kenyans tortured by British colonial forces during the 1950s. Negotiations began last October after the Queen's Bench Division on the High Court of England and Wales ruled that three elderly Kenyans could sue the British government for torture they suffered while in detention under the British Colonial Administration. The victims alleged they had been tortured and sexually assaulted by their captors during the Mau Mau uprising. A formal announcement on the exact number of victims and amount of compensation included in the settlement is expected later this week. The agreement marks the culmination of a legal struggle that began in 2009.
London-based Public Interest Lawyers on May 29 accused the UK military of holding at least eight men without charge at the UK temporary holding facility in Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. Their clients have allegedly been held for over eight months without charge and without access to lawyers in what could be a breach of international law. Applications for habeas corpus were issued on behalf of two of the men in April, and the military has ordered a hearing in July. UK Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond insisted that the holdings are in compliance with international law and that there are regular inspections by the International Committee of the Red Cross. He explained that standard military procedures, which required the detainees to be released to Afghan forces after 96 hours, were changed in November due to suspicions about the use of torture on prisoners by the Afghan forces. According to the Ministry of Defence, the detainees are being held in Camp Bastion until a safe path through the Afghan system could be assured.
Here we go again. Following the 2005 London Underground bombings, we had to call out the depressingly polarized media reactions—voices on the anti-war left making the point that such attacks are a reaction to the counter-productive "war on terrorism," and voices from the right or fashionable post-left urging that militant Islamism is a totalitarian threat. All these years later, the slaying of an off-duty soldier on the streets of London by two young men who apparently spewed much extremoid jihadist verbiage elicits precisely the same reaction—as if these two theses were mutually exclusive. The choice of target this time—a soldier—should dampen the usual chorus that such attacks aren't about "foreign policy," as if the anger that animates Islamist militancy were merely arbitrary. But the voices that emphasize imperialist wars as the context for such attacks are often equally problematic—offering little and lukewarm recognition, if any, of the deeply reactionary nature of contemporary jihadism, and sometimes bordering on actual apologia for the attacks. Two depressing cases in point...
Britain's The Telegraph on Feb. 13 reports on a document reportedly found by their reporter in the ruins of a Gendarmerie Nationale barracks outside Timbuktu that had been used by the jihadists and then destroyed in a French air-strike. The document, purportedly the notes from a March 18, 2012 leadership meeting of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), chaired by AQIM "prince" Abu Musab Abdul Wadoud, is said to lay bare AQIM's plan to consolidate control of northern Mali, stating: "We had to think of the necessity to draw a plan to command and control the jihad activities there at this critical moment and target all efforts to achieve the required goals." The supposed document is portrayed as especially expressing concerns over Ansar Dine, the faction that controlled Timbuktu, as too independent.
Argentina's President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner on Jan. 3 issued an open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, published as a paid advertisement in British dailies, urging the UK, a "colonial power," to abide by a UN resolution to "end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations" and return the Malvinas/Falkland Islands to Argentina. In The Telegraph, Nile Gardiner, a former aide to Margaret Thatcher, responded by charging the letter is "stuffed full of falsehoods and has no regard for reality." Gardiner asserts: "The Falklands are not a colony, but a self-governing British Overseas Territory." (The Guardian, Jan. 3)
As Islamist miltias have established Taliban-like rule in northern Mali since taking the vast territory in March, regional powers have been muddling towards military intervention. On Nov. 21, Reuters reported that "military experts from Africa, the United Nations and Europe have drafted plans to retake control of northern Mali." We are told that "African leaders will this month seek a UN mandate to send a mainly West African force of some 4,000 to Mali to...back military operations to retake swathes of the Sahara desert from rebels." Quoted is Stephen O'Brien, the UK's first special envoy to the Sahel, speaking from Nigeria: "This deep insecurity... we have to recognize that, unless it is checked and it is not met, then it will have the potential for export." He called the Mali crisis was "a universal threat" with "the capability of threatening interests outside the...region." While no other European countries are mentioned, we may assume that France will play a leading role.