Tag Archives: afghanistan

Wikileaks and Assange – complicated but compulsory reading

I’ve let my thinking about Julian Assange and Wikileaks swing one way and then the other in the last 10 days – and make no apologies for what you might call being quick to change position but I’d rather say is being open minded. The work done by Wikileaks and its founder is so important that it bears time and attention to work out what’s going on as best we can.

Assange’s publisher Colin Robinson added some excellent perspective today in the Guardian, following on from what was a lengthy but revealing and insightful recent piece by would-be Assange ghost writer Andrew O’Hagan. It prompted me to write the following comment in response to the Guardian piece.

Great to have this counter point to O’Hagan’s piece – this is valuable material.

I disagree with you on this bit, the second sentence:

O’Hagan’s LRB piece is no part of an organised dirty tricks campaign. But by focusing as it does on Assange’s character defects, it ends up serving much the same purpose.

O’Hagan’s piece is essential to understanding where all the confusion arises from in all things Assange.

I read it as a huge admirer of what Assange has achieved. I concluded it thinking that Wikileaks and/or its founder were done – too difficult to work with to the point of taking themselves out of the equation on these issues.

Your piece has re-opened my thoughts on this – so I’m grateful for that.

Must get my copy of Cypherpunks.

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No jobs, no money – ordinary Afghans pay the costs of war

(Photo: Traditional market in Herat Afghanistan. 25-5-09
Copyright © Guy Smallman. All rights reserved.)

I spent a fascinating evening in London on Thursday listening to two men who have stepped away from mainstream political thinking and policy on Britain’s military adventures in Afghanistan, both of them having experienced the place for themselves.

The first was Ben Griffin, an ex-SAS soldier who served tours of duty with the British army in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2005, after three months in Baghdad, he quit in protest at the tactics being used by occupying forces in that country. He went on to set up Veterans for Peace UK, whose aim is to resist war through non-violent action, to support persecuted war-resisters and to counter militarism in society through education.

He spoke alongside the British photojournalist Guy Smallman, one of the few to work unembedded in the country, which is to say out on his own without military minders. Smallman’s choice of subjects breaks the mould of most UK press coverage out of the country, which focuses on British troops. He looks instead at the everyday lives of Afghans and the ways in which war and occupation have left many of them destitute.

“The big problem in Afghanistan is povery, poverty and unemployment. They affect everyone,” he said.

Smallman showed excerpts of an exhibition and a short film he compiled to mark the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan. It is now available for groups to host by contacting the Peace News office on +44 (0) 20 7278 3344.

Below is a brief smartphone video interview I did after the event, inspired by the VisionOntv mobile template. I got an audience member to shoot the pictures while I asked a couple of questions. The idea is to practice, and have others practice, doing the sort of public-interest citizen journalism I promote in Fraudcast News. The sound is more dogby than dolby, my fault, a problem I’ll have to remedy next time.

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Silence is not the answer – Afghanistan behind the headlines

Good to see some people working hard at keeping Britain’s military activities in Afghanistan and other war theatres in the public eye. If you’re not vocally against these actions, you’re silently in favour by default.

This week offers a chance for Londoners to learn more about the work of a couple of them – photographer Guy Smallman and British army veteran Ben Griffin:

7.30pm, Friends House, 173 – 177 Euston Road, NW1 (opp. Euston station).
Co-hosted by Peace News and Quaker Peace and Social Witness.

The following video features former SAS solidier Ben Griffin talking about the three aims of Veterans for Peace UK, which are:

1. Resist war through non-violent action
2. Support persecuted war-resisters
3. Counter militarism in society through education

Can’t say fairer than that.

Ben Griffin of Veterans For Peace UK from Jason Gleeson on Vimeo.

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