Issue #70 - March 5th - 11th 2004
Natural Causes and No Third Parties?
The beauty in the way that we are living (installment 5)
The Mystery of Love: Sherlock Holmes and Valentine's day (Part 3)
Natural Causes and No Third Parties? -
The Hutton report was not the only Whitewash by the British Ministry of Defence (MoD). There has been an alarmingly high death rate among recruits to the British army - especially at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey, England. Now there are disturbing reports from journalists and human rights organisations of alleged torture and killings of civilians and prisoners by coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan which have continued since the war in Iraq 'ended' in May 2003. Internal investigations by the MoD frequently come to the conclusion that the cause of death was 'natural causes' or 'suicide' whether the deceased are Iraqi civilians or British soldiers.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented widespread killings of civilians by coalition forces in Iraq in shootings at checkpoints, raids on villages and towns, and in the repression of Iraqi demonstrations for jobs, welfare payments, elections and the end of the occupation. There are also allegations that Iraqis are detained without trial and even disappeared - often beaten sometimes resulting in death - and deprived of sleep, food and water. Paul Bremer, US Governor of Iraq recently released around 500 prisoners - but admitted to holding at least 9,000 others. Independent trade unions are banned and their leaders jailed. Polls by the American Zogby polling firm show most Iraqis want the occupying forces to leave within months .
Baha Mousa and 7 other Iraqis were detained by British troops near Basra in September 2003. Survivors say they were beaten and kicked over two days and nights by British soldiers who laughed as they screamed in pain. Other British soldiers confirm witnessing this. Mousa was found dead in a toilet. A post-mortem found he had suffered 50 serious injuries before death. Another survivor suffered kidney failure. A Ministry of Defence internal investigation has brought no charges against anyone involved.
Privates James Collinson, Cheryl James, Sean Benton and Geoff Gray, were all British army recruits aged between 17 and 20 who died at Deepcut barracks, Surrey, England between 1995 and 2002. All died from gunshots to the head. MoD internal investigations found that they died as a result of 'suicide'. Inquest was inconclusive and an investigation by Surrey police effectively gave a verdicts of suicide by stating that there was 'no third party involved' in any of the deaths. An independent investigation by a forensic specialist contacted by the families of found it 'highly unlikely' that their deaths could have been suicides. Other recruits alleged that they and the four dead recruits had been subjected to bullying, threats, assaults and sexual harassment by officers.
Iraqi primary school teacher Abdel Mousa died in May 2003. His son alleges British troops dragged him away while beating him with the butts of their rifles after finding his Kalashnikov rifle in his house (almost all Iraqi families have weapons for protection against looters). His son - who was also detained - alleges he heard him screaming during the night. An MoD investigation claims he died of a heart attack. In a similar case teacher Rahdi Neama died after being detained by British forces - an MoD investigation found he had also died of a heart attack and brought no charges against anyone.
Afghans Dilawar (22 years old) and Habibullah (30 years old), held by US forces at Bagram air base near Kabul, were found by a US army coroner to have been killed by "homicide" in December 2002 with the dead men both having suffered "blunt force injuries" in one case "complicating coronary artery disease". In other words any heart attack was brought on by beatings. Amnesty International has criticised the Pentagon's inquiry, which concluded that both men died of 'natural causes'.
There is no justification for torturing or killing civilians or Prisoners of War, nor for refusing an independent inquiry into the deaths of army recruits. President Bush claimed in his address on the capture of Saddam that 'The torture chambers and the secret police are gone forever'. Instead there are allegations that such abuses continue - now by the occupying forces - and that the Pentagon and CIA are recruiting a 10,000 strong Iraqi secret police force under their control - including many former members of Saddam's notorious Mukhabarat. No transition to democracy will be possible if these alleged abuses are taking place and continue.
Lawyers Phil Shiner and Rabinder Singh are taking legal action against the British government on behalf of 13 Iraqi families - including Baha Mousa's family, demanding the MoD admit responsibility for the deaths and hold an independent inquiry into the deaths of their relatives. The families of the soldiers who died at Deepcut. Amnesty International have called for independent inquiries into deaths in Afghanistan, Iraq and at Deepcut.
What you can Do
If you live in the UK
Hold independent external inquiries into alleged killings and torture of PoWs and civilians by British forces in Iraq, and the high rate of unexplained deaths and 'suicides' of British soldiers in army barracks in the UK
Allow the formation of independent trade unions in Iraq
End prolonged detention without trial in Iraq
and demand the US government do the same with regard to Iraq and Afghanistan
If you live in the US
Hold independent external inquiries into alleged killings and torture of civilians, PoWs and journalists by American and British forces in Iraq and Afghanistan
Allow the formation of Independent Trade Unions in Iraq
End prolonged detention without trial
AND/OR Withdraw US forces from Iraq as polls by the American Zogby polling firm show a majority of Iraqis want the occupying forces to leave within months.
If you live in another country
Addresses and Email addresses (If emailing incude your postal address if you want a reply)
Your MP (UK only)
The UK's Ministry of Defence
The Prime Minister of Britain
The President of the United States
The US Secretary of State for Defence
The US Secretary of State
For More InformationAmnesty International
Human Rights Watch
International Federation of Journalists
Stop the War Coalition
The beauty in the way that we are living, installment five
January and February are hard times. Through January I get desperate because spring seems hopelessly far away (and exams hopelessly close); through February I get desperate even though spring is coming closer, even when exams are over. I've been feeling more or less flat, under-motivated and under the weather for what seems like ages even though it's only a few weeks. All this time beauty has been hard to come by. It's not that it wasn't there, no, and it's not that I didn't notice it, either. It's just that somehow it didn't get through, most of the time.
I kept notes about it all the same.
30 .01 .04
"We're at Tristraton. Wanna join us?"
I do, so I call him for directions. I mean directions from where I am to where they are, but they get confused and give me directions from somewhere else to where they are. I can get to that somewhere, but I reckon that going that way will mean walking in a big circle and I try to explain it, but I know my phone battery is dying. Also, I am convinced there is a shorter way.
"Forget it, I'll find it myself!"
And I do. I hang up and set off in the direction that seems better feeling like a ten-year-old on an adventure. Oh, this is why I like Athens: there's so much to discover about it! I walk on picking which corners to turn almost randomly, based on the way they make me feel and half-remembered memories from a summer walk, happy in the knowledge that this is fun and safe, too (the worst thing that can happen to be is getting lost, and I can always ask for directions) and before long I'm there. Now we can all sit together in the corner of the cosy, rather expensive cafe while the weather decides on sudden rain and watch people run in it, trying to keep as dry as possible, all of them suddenly seeming to regret their choice of clothes that morning.
It's a rather dull, uneventful afternoon and yet I can say I'm delighted to be here. I'm delighted I'm not locked up at school or work, delighted I have time to sit in cafes on Friday afternoons and notice the colour of the sky (a bright shade of grey at the moment), delighted I have friends who want to sit with me even when we have nothing much to say, just because. I wonder if I will ever be thankful enough for these things and if I will ever manage to show it. And if I do, if it will be to the right people.
31 .01 .04
09 .02 .04
I don't feel like a student, either. My head is filled with thoughts of indiepop, the people I love and of how I wish I were having coffee with a friend (now, that would make the day perfect!) instead of having to climb to the second floor of this ugly building to sort out notes for the imminent exam. I hate exams, I hate notes and I hate this building. I wonder if this makes me swallow - more swallow than I think I am: studying is work (albeit, work I don't care about), having coffee is leisure (even though I will probably learn more from it - an hour shared with someone you love is worth a lot more than knowing the succession of kings in the early Hellinistic kingdoms, at least in my world it is, but still) and I only seem to care about the second.
I wonder if I should worry about that. I think that most people would think I should, which worries me in itself, but I reserve further judgement myself. Instead, because I have to wait for the notes to get ready (photocopying 279 pages takes a while) and despite my tired, guilty and grumpy self I decide to look at my hometown as a foreign city. Would I hate it if I had to wait for nearly an hour in London, or even Dundee? No, I wouldn't: I would get some coffee and sit on the steps of that church I saw on the way here and look at the sky change colours as -and after- the sun sets. And pay a tribute to a boy I used to love who loved me back and who, when I met him, told me this was his favourite hour of the day and that he was in a good mood all night if he got to watch the sky change colours.
It's no wonder I fell in love, is it?
09 .02 .04
And then something strange happens -or maybe extraordinary is a better word for it. Something I would like to be able to describe without getting poetic on you, but how can I make you feel what it's like to idly sit on a bench at twilight under a circling flock of birds? I don't know what sort of birds they are (they're pretty generic, dark-feathered, neither small nor big, just "birds" really) or what they're doing. They seem to be playing, but do birds play? Do they play in big groups? And why would half a thousand of them or so decide to spend a late evening drawing an assortment of circles and eclipses over a couple of university buildings, some streets and trees and houses? When I was younger I used to believe this sort of thing is too beautiful to be meaningless. Now I just sit and stare in awe, aware I am in the presence of something rare, feeling almost like I've been given a present. Like when I get to see a falling start.
When my notes are ready I throw the idea of going home to study out of the window once again and walk across the city centre to where the aforementioned boy works. It turns out to be a good decision - he even makes me coffee.
The Long Lost Diary of Miss S L Gleaden
The diary of Miss S L Gleaden had peacefully travelled the world with the dippy but loveable adventurer. Its life had been interesting and slightly unpredictable, but no matter where it was S L Gleaden provided a safe corner in her rucksack. Until fate insisted that the pair should part company catapulting the diary into a whirlwind of bizarre and slightly random situations. Eventually though the diary washed up on the shores of a small town in the long forgotten county of Cumbria. Locals were impressed by the story contained within, not to mention the book's ability to wash up on the shores of a landlocked town, and after many hours were able to track down the explorer herself and made sure that the book returned to her but not before they had read it from cover to cover of course...
You'll have to excuse my erratic handwriting but I can hardly bare to look at the page in front of me. I think it is safe to say that I am not the sea-fairing type. Maybe I should have known. After all my last venture off dry land involved a small blue paddle boat on a boating lake and that ended in disaster. Actually the word lake is too strong a word for what was little more than a puddle with ideas above its station. The voyage came to a watery end when the boat sank and I shame faced waded to the shore.
Since I boarded this ship there hasn't been a single moment when I have been free from a feeling of overwhelming nausea. The only comforting thought comes from the knowledge that I am suffering from the same ailment as the intrepid explorer and revolutionary scientist Charles Darwin.
Perhaps the seasickness is the cross that all great minds have to bear.
I and E who has taken to life at sea like a duck to water couldn't help but voice his own words of wisdom on why I'm feeling so ill:
"You can't expect to put springs on a donkey and expect it to walk in a straight line."
I don't really know what that is supposed to mean but in my fragile state I did not take kindly to being compared to a donkey.
He also kindly pointed out that I am the greenest person he has ever seen.
I then told him what I thought about his wise words and I haven't seen much of I and E since. By all accounts though he is becoming very popular amongst the ships crew. His ability to cook in the ships gully which is quite frankly only just large enough to swing a half starved kitten in, never ceases to amaze me.
Molly has been visiting me on every occasion possible. Encouraging me to drink a little water or try and eat dry biscuits, telling me stories of her home in Burma and how that all of this will be over in a blink of an eye and that soon we will be in India. "No longer will we be illegal immigrants!" she says, "but citizens of the free world…with genuine fake documents to prove it!"
I really wish I could share her optimism but whether it is the seasickness or my brief phone call to Harry before we boarded I can't help but feel I'm leading these two people from one disaster to the next.
Harry had taken several minutes to come to the phone and when he did finally get there he was sounding rather sheepish.
"So how's it going old girl?" he had asked
"Good Harry. Good. We should be in India in a day or two. Not bad wouldn't you say?"
"Er that's great." Harry paused. It was pause filled with meaning. Harry did not share my excitement. Something was wrong.
"There's nothing wrong is there Harry? Your contact can still meet us in India can't he? We'll still get our fake papers and travel documents? Please tell me there isn't a problem!" My voice had become unnaturally high and my heart was racing. I looked around and saw I and E and Molly holding hands and looking out to sea. What on earth was I doing to these poor people?
"Calm down ducky, just keep going. We'll talk about the next step when you get to India. Just out of curiosity, this guy you are travelling with… he'd fair well in a fight would he? And the woman… she's the strong tall muscular type right?"
The phone began to crackle. Or rather Harry imitating the phone began to crackle.
"Harry stop that! What do you mean? we are not heading for trouble are we?"
My words came to late and the line was dead.
I keep telling myself that this is all a learning experience and maybe I'll look back on it all and think about how much I learnt, but right now all I want is to be back at home in my own bed on dry land. It's not too much to ask now is it?
You'll have to forgive me now dear diary I really must leave you. I have an urgent appointment with Uncle Hughie to attend to…
to be continued...
On Thursday she told me that my brother was pregnant and that my cousin, who actually is pregnant, was six MONTHS overdue. She then accused another cousin who, having contrived to marry a solicitor and, as such, wasn't short of a few bob, of stealing off her own mother. Then she saw a horses leg on the bed and accused me, on Friday, of stealing everyones beef stew. On Saturday, she said
that she slept with her dead son, and saw another pair of legs on the bed, but at least they weren't horses legs this time, they were merely a pair of dancers legs. Dancing. On the end of the bed. In silver tap shoes.
At first I didn't want to go in. I stood outside the visitors toilets, ostensibly perusing a notice board devoted to osteoporosis. A gaggle of nurses passed by me in the corridor, giving me the cursory once-over. I tilted by back slightly, so as to give the impression that there really was something wrong with my back, that there really was a reason for me hovering outside the visitors toilets on the aptly named Bishops Ward.
I thought about crossing over to the other side of the corridor and reading the notice board devoted to agrophobia, but then I thought why on earth, indeed, how on earth, would an agrophobic find his way into the middle of a busy, bustling hospital ward? I then decided that all of this thinking had made my throat very dry and thought about going to the hospital cafeteria, until finally I thought fuck it altogether, and made my way back along the corridor and out of the revolving door.
Nana's immortal, you see. Nana's a rock, a gargantuan slab of working class womanhood, who's seen more, who's fought more than any fat old queen or pompous, perfunctory politician. She's fought off burglars no more than a fifth of her age, took a beating off my grandad and gave him ten times as much back. She's untouchable.
Which is why I don't want to see her as she is now.
I'm stood in the doorway a long time. I must look like I've escaped from the loony bin across the road, as the door revolves again and again and again, and here's me shuffling along with each revolution. Finally I find myself shambling along the corridor again, and the osteoporosis notice board dangles it's carrot in front of me but I look on, walk on, straight ahead, and soon I'm at the open doors of the Bishops Ward, and the upper half of my body is already turning the other way but my feet carry on, carry me and my contortionists body, carry me right to the room on the ward and the bed where she lays, asleep, and it's funny because her hair seems to be going blonde again and, with her face swollen by drips and drugs, the wrinkles have disappeared and she looks about twenty years younger.
"Your hair's going blonde" I whisper, as I stroke her velvet hand. Her eye's open slightly. She focuses as best she can on the person stroking her hand, and you have to get really close but you can just about hear her slur something to you, and it takes a while to work about, but when you do, it's close to life-affirming:
"That other lady stinks of piss" nana says. And you know she'll be around for a while yet.
The Mystery of Love: