22.6.10£20bn: Bill for Iraq and Afghan conflicts
BRITAIN's continuing military commitments in Afghanistan came under increased scrutiny yesterday after it emerged the cost of the nation's presence there and in Iraq over the past decade has soared beyond £20 billion.
On the eve of an emergency Budget, government figures revealed the vast bill for Britain's ongoing fight against international terrorism.
With the death toll among our armed forces in Afghanistan one short of the grim milestone of 300, defence analysts warned the eventual military, diplomatic and reconstruction costs would be even higher.Opponents of the wars condemned the "obscene" cost to taxpayers and pointed out that Britain's involvement in Afghanistan remained very expensive, at a time when the government was having to make billions of pounds of savings.
The bill for the British presence on two front lines since the terrorist attacks of 11 September, 2001, includes £18bn for military operations, on top of the normal defence budget, as well as hundreds of millions of pounds on aid and security for UK officials.But it does not cover expenses such as troops' basic salaries or long-term care for the seriously wounded.
Between April 2001 and March 2010, the UK's expenditure in the two war-torn countries was at least £20.34bn, the Whitehall figures show. Of that, £9.24bn was spent in Iraq and £11.1bn in Afghanistan.The Treasury provided £8.22bn out of its reserve for the military mission in Iraq between 2002-3 and 2009-10, in addition to the core Ministry of Defence budget, which was £35bn in 2009-10.
Operating in Iraq also cost the Department for International Development £557m between 2002-3 and 2009-10 and the Foreign Office £283m between 2002-3 and 2008-9. A further £147m went on spending in Iraq through cross-government programmes such as the "global conflict prevention pool".
Funding the military in Afghanistan accounted for £9.9bn from the Treasury reserve between 2001-2 and 2009-10. The UK also spent £1.2bn on humanitarian, reconstruction and development assistance for the country over the same period, according to the Foreign Office.
With 10,000 British troops still in Afghanistan and no end in sight to the bloody Taleban insurgency, the total cost will continue to rise.Former chancellor Alistair Darling said in March that more than £4bn was being allocated from the 2010-11 Treasury reserve to pay for military operations in Afghanistan.
The Foreign Office set aside £118m towards its efforts in Afghanistan for this financial year.Professor Malcolm Chalmers, a defence analyst with the Royal United Services Institute, calculated that about 30 per cent of the UK's total defence budget was currently devoted to operations in Afghanistan.
"They have been long and sustained operations in difficult geographical locations with often quite determined enemies," he said. "Simply maintaining thousands of people in such a location takes a lot of money on logistics before you have even started."
On top of the cost of the military mission, there will be extra expenditure over the decades to come to look after troops who have been badly wounded or suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, he said. "There are long-term costs, but we don't know how big they are," he added.
Prof Chalmers said the Treasury would be looking closely at expenditure on the British military mission in Afghanistan and he predicted it would probably become cheaper in the years to come.The influx of 20,000 United States Marines into Helmand Province allowed the UK to concentrate its forces in the centre of the province, reducing the cost of maintaining remote bases.
Prof Chalmers added: "I think questions are being asked about the scale of our commitment to Afghanistan and the timing of any withdrawal."It's not simply a case of whether we should be there or not, but how big our commitment should be."As well as the huge expense of the wars, the cost in UK troops killed and badly injured has been very high.
A total of 179 UK personnel died in the Iraq conflict between the March 2003 invasion and the end of combat operations in April last year.The British death toll in Afghanistan since the start of operations in October 2001 currently stands at 299.
Critics questioned why the UK was spending so much on the conflict when the public finances were in such a dire state.Ken Livingstone, who is bidding to be Labour's candidate in the next London mayoral election, said: "The true cost of our policy of international adventures is now being shown."
Lindsey German, convener of the Stop the War Coalition, also condemned the cost of Britain's involvement in the conflicts.She said: "People will be astonished that the government has the cheek to call for public spending cuts when such an obscene amount has been spent in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union, said ministers could not cut jobs and services while the "grotesque waste of money" in Iraq and Afghanistan was allowed to dominate spending priorities.He said: "While new hospital schemes are scrapped, young people are consigned to the scrap heap of the dole and key transport projects are kicked into the long grass, billions are being poured into the death and destruction of wars many miles from home.
"The money that's been drained away on illegal war-mongering is only outstripped by the cash ripped off in the bankers bail-out."John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, said: "Health workers, firefighters, teachers, police officers and many other public service workers will now be paying for the legacy of this war with their jobs, as services are cut to make up the cost of this disastrous mistake."
Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MP for Islington North, said: "More than £20bn, half a million dead, Britain's foreign policy besmirched all over the world – what have we achieved?"A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "Afghanistan is the government's highest foreign policy and national security priority. It is essential that we contribute to the international campaign there.
"PM calls on public to back military 'more loudly and proudly'
THE public should express its appreciation of Britain's military "more loudly and more proudly", David Cameron has said ahead of next week's Armed Forces Day.The Prime Minister said the country had a "social responsibility" to shows its thanks – invoking the spirit of the two world wars.
And he called for "an explosion of red, white and blue" across the country on Saturday when celebrations will be held across the country – with the main event in Cardiff.Mr Cameron said his recent trip to Afghanistan had been a powerful reminder of the risks faced by troops.
And he said he was determined not to allow the conclusions of the Bloody Sunday inquiry to "cloud the reputation of our armed forces and the pride they inspire".Citing a number of military heroes from the Afghan conflict, he said: "These people know all about duty – they've lived it. Now we as a country must do our duty by them.
"Over the past few years, there's been an increasing appreciation of what our armed forces do. But still I believe that we should do more."He said the government was playing its part through policies such as doubling front-line troops' operational allowances, renewing the military covenant, improving health and housing services for families and better co-ordinating treatment for veterans suffering mental illness.
"But supporting our armed forces isn't just a government responsibility – it's a social responsibility," he said."In the First World War, those at home didn't just sing 'keep the home fires burning', they practised it. In the Second World War, the military occupied a huge place in the national consciousness, partly because everyone knew someone in uniform.
"I believe as a country at war we should see the same appreciation today, with the military front and centre of our national life once again."There is huge respect for the armed forces community out there, and I want that expressed more loudly and more proudly."
By MARTYN McLAUGHLIN, The Scotsman
Posted by Iraq Solidarity UK at 5:32 AM 1 comments Links to this post UK death toll in Afghanistan conflict reaches 300
The number of UK service personnel killed as a result of the Afghanistan conflict since 2001 has hit 300, after a wounded marine died in hospital.
The MoD said the man, from 40 Commando Royal Marines, died in Birmingham's New Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Sunday. His family has been informed.
He had been injured in a blast in the Sangin district of Helmand on 12 June.The prime minister said it was a moment for the whole country to reflect on the sacrifices the armed forces make.David Cameron said the marine's death was "desperately sad news" and another family was suffering "grief, pain and loss".
"The 300th death is no more or less tragic than the 299 that came before," he said."But it's a moment for the whole country to reflect on the incredible service and sacrifice and dedication that the armed forces give on our behalf."About 10,000 British military personnel are in Afghanistan as part of a 45-nation Nato-led force.
It was deployed in the wake of al-Qaeda's 9/11 attacks on the US, with the aim of unseating Afghanistan's then Taliban rulers said to be harbouring those responsible.Mr Cameron, who recently warned the UK to expect more casualties during the summer of this "vital year", acknowledged that many people questioned the country's role.
"We are there because the Afghans are not yet ready to keep their own country safe and to keep terrorists and terrorist training camps out of their country."UK forces would withdraw as soon as Afghanistan could ensure its own security, he added.Afghan President Hamid Karzai's spokesman said he recognised the forces' sacrifices "to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan, to the region and to the rest of the world".
It was nearly seven years before the UK's dead in Afghanistan numbered 100 but the past two years have seen an increasing casualty rate.Last year was particularly bloody, largely because of the proliferation of insurgents' increasingly sophisticated roadside bombs, with the 200th death marked in August and more than 100 over the calendar year.
It has taken just 10 months for the total to increase to 300, with about 4,000 British troops involved in Operation Moshtarak, aimed at shoring up government control in southern Helmand.British military spokesman Maj Gen Gordon Messenger said the threat of makeshift bombs, known as IEDs, was a daily part of life for troops."The threat is getting more lethal in that the IEDs - that is the weapon of choice - are widespread on the ground. We are also on patrol more," he said.
Troops were operating "in areas that would be of no surprise to the Taliban" to deliver security to the population, he added.Some 34 of the 300 deaths have been from accidents, illness or non-combat injuries.Another 1,282 UK military and civilian personnel have been wounded in action since 2006, including about 388 who suffered serious or life-threatening injuries. Of those, 120 lost limbs.
The Ministry of Defence has no clear record of how many casualties there were before then, although statistics show 10 were seriously hurt.Speaking about the latest death, 40 Commando spokesman Maj Renny Bulmer said: "Our thoughts are with his immediate family who were with him at the hospital.
"His courage and sacrifice will not be forgotten."
The death was announced as it emerged three Australian commandos and a US soldier had been killed in a helicopter crash in Kandahar province. Seven other Australians were injured, two seriously.The US has suffered the most fatalities of the coalition partners, losing 1,125 personnel since 2001 according to the independent iCasualties website, although its presence numbers 100,000.
However, countries with much smaller military force in the country have suffered significant losses.For example Denmark, whose presence numbers 750, has suffered 33 fatalities, while 147 Canadian personnel have died from its force of about 2,800.The chief of the defence staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, said personnel from across the world were "putting their lives on the line" every day and that people owed them their backing.
Defence Secretary Liam Fox said the UK's resolve to see through the mission and prevent the creation of a "security vacuum" in Afghanistan remained "steadfast".The British deputy commander of the Nato-led force, Lt Gen Nick Parker, said individual tragedies must not be allowed to affect the mission's plan."What people want is definable progress so that we start to bring sustainable security to Afghanistan, and that's what we're doing," he told the BBC.
However, shadow foreign secretary David Miliband said the government must have a "clear strategy" to bring the conflict to an end."That can't be done by military means alone. It needs a political settlement," he added.
Meanwhile, at a protest outside Downing Street on Tuesday, the Stop the War Coalition will demand troops are withdrawn immediately.Convenor Lindsey German said: "This is obviously a very sad occasion but... the government should now admit there is no justification for British troops to be in Afghanistan and bring them home."
Labour MP for Newport West, Paul Flynn, told the BBC it was a "complete myth" that fighting in Afghanistan could stop al-Qaeda."They already can work in those areas where the Taliban occupy in Afghanistan. We're only there in a small area, and they can also operate in Pakistan, and in the Gulf, and in north Africa."
Posted by Iraq Solidarity UK at 5:30 AM 0 comments Links to this post Video shows housing cop beating Veteran
The first police-baton blow to he head easily doubles the suspect over.But the blows keep coming — two, three, four — sending him crashing to the lobby floor, where he curls up and writhes as the baton rises and falls again and again, striking his head, his neck, his shoulders.
On Day Two of testimony in a chilling police-brutality trial, Manhattan prosecutors today released the first images from a video that caught the 2008 police beating of a suspect in a West 93rd Street housing project.
Housing cop David London — a 15-year NYPD veteran and married father of three kids — had been on routine patrol when he noticed the front door of the Hostas Houses complex had been propped open and left his squad car to shut it.
That’s when he ran into Walter Harvin — a young Army vet who had recently returned from the battlefields of Iraq.Harvin, wearing a white doo-rag and t-shirt, is seen on the tape rushing to enter the building, where his mother lives, before London shuts the door.
That’s where the two begin an encounter that would end with Harvin drenched in blood and bruises from more than 20 baton blows and kicks to his upper body — the final few of which rained down on him even after London and his partner had managed to handcuff the injured man.
"Everybody in America should see that video," said Harvin’s mother, Cora Page, 46, during a break in court."But I don’t want to see it," she added.And she didn’t, remaining in a courthouse hallway as it was screened again and again for jurors."People need to see it so they can see how cops treat people," added Harvin’s uncle, Earl Jones, 55.
The multiple cameras in the housing project hallway clearly capture the lead-up to the beat-down. Harvin pushes past the cop to enter the lobby, and the two exchange words in apparent anger, though the video has no audio.
"I’ll f—- you up! I’ll kill you, mother f—-!" the suspect shouts, according to London’s partner that night, Mohammed Khan, who testified today.At one point, as London prevents Harvin from going into the lobby elevator, Harvin shoves the cop’s chest with both hands.
The two are then seen staring eye-to-eye as London raises his baton for the first time. The first blow, to the left side of Harvin’s head, causes Harvin to crumple in two. But the blows continue, and even as they do, Harvin still screams and taunts, the partner told jurors."I came from Iraq!" the partner remembered Harvin shouting."I was in the Air Force, too!" the cop answers, still swinging.
Defense lawyers say the missing audio — the taunts, the threats and the fact that Harvin keeps thrashing, even in cuffs and even in the police car as he bleeds from his injuries en route to the precinct — show that London’s force was necessary.
Prosecutors counter that nothing justifies 20 blows to a man who, at least mid-way through, has clearly become incapacitated.Traumatized by the incident, Harvin has disappeared, his family said. He is not expected to testify.
by the New York Post
Posted by Iraq Solidarity UK at 5:29 AM 0 comments Links to this post Dallas Court attacked by solidarity protestors
Manchester and Salford’s immigration reporting centre for people seeking asylum was attacked in the early hours this week by protestors. A group broke into the car park at Dallas Court where they sabotaged the vehicles used by the UK Border Agency’s notorious ’snatch squads’.
According to reports, the vans were immobilised and defaced with spray paint, while the access gate to the car park was also put out of action. Stickers reading “This vehicle has been tampered with” were left at the scene to notify staff.
In a statement the group said: “The action was taken in solidarity with detainee resistance. In the past months media reports have covered the hunger strikes in Yarl’s Wood, protests in Harmondsworth and struggles against chartered deportation flights. These are acts of resistance against an arbitrary system of control and surveillance policed by the UK Home Office and European immigration authorities.”
Dallas Court is home to officials from the UK Border Agency. The snatch squads which operate from the centre often head out in blacked-out vans early in the morning to detain those asylum seekers whose claims have been rejected. They are known for kicking in doors before the children go to school in order to catch the entire family at once. Asylum seekers are also made to sign in at Dallas Court at regular intervals, not knowing whether or not they will be detained on the spot.
When arrested, detainees are taken to detention centres such as nearby Pennine House, the holding facility at Manchester Airport, where they wait indefinitely until their cases are resolved. After long periods of incarceration, despite having committed no crime and having had no trial or sentence, most detainees can expect deportation back to the countries from which they fled.
This is the second time in recent years that Dallas Court has been targeted by campaigners seeking to obstruct dawn raids and disrupt the centre’s day-to-day activities, which today’s protestors described as a symbol of the “constant uncertainty and fear” that asylum seekers and migrants live under.
They said: “Every person has the right to fight against these conditions irrespective of circumstance, and as long as these policies exist people will struggle against them. New arbitrary controls such as the immigration cap proposed by the new government will only intensify resistance. Such resistance will centre on the frontline of border security at sites like Dallas Court and Pennine House.”
By The Manchester Mule
Posted by Iraq Solidarity UK at 5:29 AM 0 comments Links to this post Destitution isn't an acceptable outcome of the asylum system
As dawn broke over Baghdad on Thursday morning, some 40 asylum seekers found themselves back on the very soil they had tried to flee. Deported from Britain after their asylum applications had been rejected, and against UNHCR advice, they were flown back to Iraq in a shroud of secrecy and politely "sent on their way". Or, to paraphrase, "sent packing".
If the British government is to be believed, the lives of these failed asylum seekers are not in danger, because they are being returned to parts of Iraq that are now safe. Parts of Iraq? Now herein lies the problem.
If, and this is a big if, as we are told, parts of Iraq are safe what about the other parts of the country where there are still high levels of violence and human rights violations. How can we be sure that these 40 some deported asylum seekers do not stray into these parts? The fact is, we can't.
There is no mechanism in place to provide information about the whereabouts or safety of a failed asylum seeker deported to their home country. Once deported they are no longer deemed the responsibility of the country who did the deporting – they have effectively washed their hands of them.
And because there is no follow-up support system in place, or even a system to gather information on the outcome of returns, we can never be sure if a correct decision has been made over an applicant. Of course, mistakes often go unrecorded as the applicant is conveniently lost in the ether – we are not looking at the overall outcome.
For some estimated 500,000 refused asylum seekers however, returning home is simply not an option. In their new report, Not Gone, But Forgotten: The Urgent Need for a More Humane Asylum System, the British Red Cross suggests the following reasons for wanting to stay in the UK:
• They cannot leave the UK through no fault of their own (eg they are stateless and have no country to return to, their government will not provide them with travel documents, they are too sick to travel or there is no viable route to return home)
• They have been in the UK for a long period and have developed some ties with the UK (eg entering relationship and having children)
• They think it is unsafe and fear death or persecution if they return
Once an asylum application is refused and all appeal rights have been exhausted, asylum support for applicants is withdrawn after 21 days, and often even earlier. Existing in a state of destitute limbo, the individual has no access to housing or healthcare, is denied the right to work and survives on the handouts of refugee organisations, charities, churches and the good will of friends, while fearing deportation. Like the lives of Abdi, Haile and Mimi and Muhammad documented in G2 this week, this is no way to live – it is barely surviving. The UK government makes even minimal support dependent on a willingness to return to country of origin. It's a Catch 22.
Offering a solution to this growing problem, the British Red Cross have suggested the following changes to the asylum system:
• The adoption of the principle that destitution should not be an outcome of the asylum system
• Additional support for all destitute refused asylum seekers with dependent children
• An end-to-end asylum support structure, including permission to work, until the applicant is either removed or granted leave to remain
• An entitlement to healthcare throughout the asylum process until removal or granted to leave remain
The criteria for refugee status are tough to fulfil, but there are other categories of protection. We need to find a status for those who cannot be returned – even the European parliament thinks so. Asylum seekers are not guilty of anything. They do not choose to leave their homes; they have been forced out because their lives have been put in danger through war, conflict, political persecution: the impact of climate change will become an increasingly important element.
So, in Refugee Week and in this the European Year of Combating Poverty consider this: if the UK really is such an easy ride for illegal asylum seekers why do some many live destitute? And, if their claims really are phoney why then do they choose to live in squalor rather than return home to those nice safe parts we have been told about? Surely, caring for those currently living in limbo is as much a part of development aid as digging wells elsewhere.
by Jean Lambert
Posted by Iraq Solidarity UK at 5:28 AM 0 comments Links to this post