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Peace News log archive: September 2011

Articles from the Peace News log.
For archive articles from the whole site, look here

Patrick Nicholson gives a view behind the barricades of organising resistance to the Dale Farm eviction

After much dithering, we ended up driving North on Sunday night heading for Dale Farm, ducking under the Thames at Dartford, and emerging in Essex, new and alien ground for us. Breaking right towards Basildon and then onto back roads, we were anticipating blocked roads and searches, and parked discreetly some distance from the site. We needn’t have worried. Walking in, there was an extraordinary air of calm, with a few quiet words of welcome and thanks from Travellers as we walked in the growing darkness up the approach road to the main gate, below the looming scaffold towers and banners. Just a few hours later, that same route in would be blocked by an array of barricades, several massive lock-ons, and a young woman chained by the neck to the outer gates.

With no time to get bearings, we caught the tail end of a legal briefing within the walls of Camp Constant, the activist hub, then joined our friend at the Red Team meeting. Different colours were used to designate the different areas of the site for the co-ordination of the defence: Red Team, we found out, covered the main gate and a substantial length of the rather exposed-looking right flank of the site. The main gate scaffold tower gave way to an extended scaffold, tyre and wire wall, plugged with anything heavy and rigid from doors to sofas to fridges. The red team meeting was a pretty efficient affair, well-facilitated, and as inclusive and indulgent as the time and situation could permit, but with a fair few of those overenthusiastic and totally infeasible last minute suggestions that only 20 year old guys seem to capable of coming up with. Ah, to be young again! We talked about the lock-on crews and their “guardian angels”: folk whose role was to look after the locked-on with food and support, and make sure the bailiffs and police understood their precarious situation. We talked about rotas, communications, possible scenarios, the availability of blue boiler suits and masks for those wanted to remain anonymous, the presence of legal observers, about the shields that would allow us to form mobile barriers, and protect ourselves, as and when needed, and the need to stay calm and act together.

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ImageThis is the first of a series of drawings from DSEi 2011.

As the world’s largest arms fair, DSEi is part of a wider shift in the commercialisation of war. Although arms companies have always profited from conflict, military production was previously linked to the perceived needs of the state.

In the 1990s this changed. Arms companies responded to the reduction of military budgets at the end of the Cold War by expanding beyond state boundaries, merging into multinationals and selling to almost any country willing to buy. Caught between the national and multinational, promising defence while selling war, the international arms trade is riddled with contradictions.

Arms companies sell military equipment to opposing sides of border disputes, to developing countries at inflated prices, and to repressive regimes for ‘crowd control’. Many of these deals take place at DSEi.

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Milan Rai interviews a key speaker at the 2011 Rebellious Media Conference.

Taesun Kwon was a co-founder of South Korea’s only non-corporate national daily newspaper, the Hankyoreh, born of South Korea’s democracy movement in 1988. She is now executive editor of the paper, which has a circulation of 300,000 (South Korea has a population of 49 million). Taesun Kwon will be speaking at the Rebellious Media Conference organised by Peace News, Ceasefire, the National Union of Journalists, Red Pepper, Undercurrents, and visionOntv. Peace News interviewed Taesun Kwon by email ahead of the conference.

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Tony Telford writes on brain structures and western thinking

All is one

All is one

Back in July, Le Monde Diplomatique carried a fascinating article by Guillaume Pitron. It was, of all things, about gum arabic, the resin of the acacia tree. Gum arabic is mentioned in the Qu’ran and the Bible. These days, labelled as E414, it’s an essential additive in many sweets, medicines, cosmetics, textiles, foods and drinks. It’s an especially important ingredient in Coca-Cola. Without this resin, the black colouring in Coke would rise to the surface. So every can and bottle of Coke contains tiny quantities of a substance which was used in the mummification of the pharaohs.

Gum arabic comes from the “gum belt”, a swathe of acacia trees running across Africa from Senegal to Somalia. The best resin, and half of the world’s supply, comes from one country alone: Sudan. In fact, Sudan’s acacia resin is so important to the West that trade in it was quietly allowed to continue despite the trade embargo imposed on the country in 1997. Nothing, it seems, can be allowed to interrupt the vital supplies of E414 – not even human rights abuses in Darfur.

Or terrorism. In 1996, a memo from the US State Department “confirmed” that Osama bin Laden had “a quasi-monopoly in Sudanese gum exports”. In September 2000, Senator Frank Wolf told Congress: “It is still possible that every time someone buys an American soft drink they are helping to fill Osama bin Laden’s coffers.”

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A report from the anti-militarist gathering in Sweden

ImageFor the last week of July along with other pink clothing we took a dayglow pink dustpan and brush to help sweep up the militarisation in the north of Sweden and make it NEAT. We went to join the ‘War Starts Here’ peace camp to protest against the development of this into part of an ‘Arctic NATO of the Baltic Countries’. This heightened activity in North Europe is explained by an increased interest in the Arctic and its natural resources and the US missile defence system.

Ofog and WRI organise this pink event brilliantly so that altogether people from 17 countries were able to participate in the mass action on Tuesday 26th July at the boundary of the prohibited area of the largest military testing range in Europe. In the last two years Ofog [an early Swedish word meaning mischief] had had previous manifestations at NEAT, the Northern European Aero Testing range, but this was by far the largest action they had organised in this relatively isolated northern part of Sweden 150 Km north west of the town of Lulea. We were transported there by two coaches, five minibuses and 15 cars. It was a marvellous sight seeing this convoy making its way to this militarist site. Altogether 190 people plus those who set out the evening before, were involved in this pink event. I felt it was really symbolic to use the colour pink against the war machine.

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