Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Welsh Soldier's death: Rhodri Morgan's silence

With another Welsh soldier dying in Iraq, anti-war campaigners have angrily accused Rhodri Morgan of failing to represent the people of Wales and are launching a mass campaign to demand that the Assembly Government and the new Labour/Plaid administration take a clear anti-war position and call on the UK government to pull the troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Adam Johannes from Cardiff RESPECT said:

"Another Welsh soldier is coming home from Iraq in a pine-box, yet the Assembly remains silent on the war.

The Mayor of London and the First Minister of Scotland unequivocally oppose the war, yet the First Minister of Wales shamefully refuses to take a position on it.

With more Welsh soldiers fighting and - in some cases - tragically dying in Iraq and Afghanistan it is time for Rhodri Morgan to show some principles and represent the overwhelming majority of Welsh people who want an end to our involvement in foreign wars.

Wales has some of the poorest communities in the UK, yet billions that could have been spent on pensioners, hospitals and eliminating child poverty is being spent on the illegal wars that Rhodri Morgan refuses to oppose.

The Iraq War has now created twice as many refugees as the Darfur crisis. Up to a million people have died joining the million who perished due to the UN administered genocide of sanctions in the 1990s. Half the population live in absolute poverty, while even more are unemployed: You can almost imagine some well-meaning liberal calling for Western intervention - only this is Western intervention"


The following debate took place between RESPECT and New Labour AM Jeff Cuthbert, during the Assembly elections, in the Western Mail; after First Minister Rhodri Morgan appealed to voters not to punish him because of New Labour’s role in Iraq -

Anti-War vote has a home on May 3rd

Rhodri Morgan was dead wrong when he suggested that voters who wanted to give Labour a bloody nose for the war in Iraq should wait until the next general election, rather than on May 3.

Perhaps he is still guilt ridden after his shambolic performance on Question Time last year, when he refused to make a commitment either way on the basis that the war "wasn't a Welsh issue".

He should try telling that to Reg Keys in North Wales, who lost a son in Iraq, or the numerous other Welsh families that have lost sons, daughters and loved ones in a needless war.

May 3 would be the ideal date for punishing Rhodri for impersonating a jellyfish on such a crucial issue. The only problem is that the mainstream parties are more interested in bartering for a place in a coalition government and will therefore sidestep any discussion of the war during the Assembly elections.

That is why it is so important that RESPECT is standing in the South Wales West and South Wales Central electoral lists.

RESPECT emerged from the anti- war movement, and stands against the neo-liberal policies of Blair and Brown.

We have played a key role in campaigns against racism and war and in defence of public services and council housing.Those who have voted with their feet and demonstrated against the war in South Wales can now vote at the ballot box for a party that believes the billions of pounds wasted on war should be invested in our hospitals, our schools and our communities.


This shabby tactic will not fool Wales - New Labour responds

I refer to the letter of April 11 from Des Mannay, of RESPECT. He criticises Rhodri Morgan for not stating a view on Iraq.

But it is Mr Mannay and not Rhodri that is at fault.When Rhodri speaks he does so as First Minister (that was certainly the case on Question Time).

It is unfair and unreasonable to hound him to state "personal" opinions.

Someone in Rhodri's position will always be judged as a public figure and not as an individual.

What Mr Mannay and his friends are trying to do is to shift the focus of this election campaign away from the true issues. By that I mean the areas of devolved government that the Assembly is responsible for.

Mr Mannay, and others that use the same tactic, are simply being opportunist.They do this because they know that the record of Welsh Labour is a good one. Our investment in education, healthcare and our communities is huge and has increased markedly over the past few years.

There is no evidence to support Mr Mannay's claim that spending in Wales has suffered because of UK Government actions.

But they do not want to debate the real issues so they switch to issues that they know are outside the scope of the Assembly. This is a shabby tactic and will not fool the people of Wales.

JEFF CUTHBERT, New Labour Assembly Member for Caerphilly

RESPECT stands with all those fighting for a better world

Labour AM Jeff Cuthbert states in his letter of April 13 that RESPECT are wrong to try to suggest that Rhodri Morgan should take a position on the Iraq War in public since it doesn't fall under his remit as First Minister.

The same could be said of Labour's elected Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, yet he is able to make the war a point of principle - why should things be different for Rhodri?

The fact is that this illegal war has diverted money that could be spent on public services to maintain an occupation that has seen the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of coalition troops.

Mr Cuthbert lauds the Assembly's investment in health and education, seemingly not realising that Labour's slavish devotion to market solutions to social issues has led to much of this investment being frittered away on overpaid management and consultancy. The result? Hospital cuts and massive waiting lists. An excess of school places becomes an excuse to close schools rather than use that excess to drastically cut class sizes.

Rhodri Morgan's slavish devotion to New Labour as opposed to working people has left him sitting idly by while the party is transformed into a party of sleaze, war and big business.

By contrast, RESPECT stands with all those fighting for a better world. This means supporting those who campaign against war and racism; and public service workers fighting to defend our essential services.

It also means supporting the council residents of Swansea who magnificently defeated the privatisation that the Assembly government and city council tried to force on it, or the kids who came out of Cantonian High School to protest against the cuts and closures that have become the hallmark of Labour in Cardiff and Westminster.

JONNY JONES, RESPECT Wales Steering Committee


Greg Lewis said...

You'll be interested to know that BAE Systems has just announced a first-half profit rise of 27 percent.
Thanks to its upgrades of Bradley fighting vehicles for the US army in Iraq and production of fighter jet parts, its net income rose to £515m.
A company statement puts the massive rise down to the "high tempo of military operations" in Iraq and elsewhere.

alanindyfed said...

The National Assembly should take a stance and declare Iraq to be a terrible mistake, not in deposing Saddam but in the aftermath. It should call for an immediate disengagement and recall the troops.
Wales as a nation has no quarrel with other sovereign nations and any well-considered interference should be under strict U.N. auspices.

Respectable Citizen said...

Cheers for that Greg, you may be interested in the ongoing campaign against the selling off of Iraq oil to western politicians, see the website of "Hands off Iraqi Oil"

To Alanindyfed, we should remember that the Ba'ath Party came to power in a CIA backed coup, the West were happy to arm Saddam. There is evidence that the CIA even set up a radio station that broadcast the names and addresses of prominent Iraqi trade unionists and communists (at that time Iraq had the biggest Communist Party in the middle east) who were summarily executed by Ba'ath Party death squads.

On your second point, in the event that Wales ever became independent you would hope that the government wouldn't support imperialist wars. But there is no guarantee. Certainly we wouldn't have the same military capacity as the British State, but across the water, the Irish anti-war movements have held massive demonstrations outside Shannon Airport in "neutral" Ireland which is used as a base by the US military to bomb Iraq and Afghanistan.

Given that Plaid have fully and slavishly supported the St Athan's Military Academy there is no reason to believe that the government of an independent Wales would not support imperialist wars.

And we know that Plaid in power would be little different to New Labour.

Hence, the importance of the kind of grassroots socialist politics that RESPECT is trying to build in Wales