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Online Free Expression Day

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Reporters without Borders today launch the first Online Free Expression Day. This will be an annual event happening every March 12 to help protect bloggers who are increasingly targeted in countries with state controlled media. The campaign focuses on Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, North Korea, Tunisia, Turkmenistan and Vietnam,
“Today, the first time this day is being marked, we are giving all Internet users the opportunity to demonstrate in places were protests are not normally possible. We hope many will come and protest in virtual versions of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, Cuba’s Revolution Square or on the streets of Rangoon, in Burma. At least 62 cyber-dissidents are currently imprisoned worldwide, while more than 2,600 websites, blogs or discussions forums were closed or made inaccessible in 2007.” link
Participants can 'protest' by adding their words to the interactive demonstration here.


ajit8 | March 13, 2008 12:37 PM

Never mind Vietnam, China or Cuba.... I'm British.....in Britain..... where's my comment gone?

JOHN WIGHT | March 13, 2008 12:42 PM

Why I don't support the troops

(Wednesday 12 March 2008)

JOHN WIGHT looks at how our attitude to soldiers can affect the war.

The recent furore in the media over the revelation that RAF personnel stationed near Peterborough have been the subject of verbal abuse while walking around the town in uniform has raised the important issue of how those of us who are opposed to the presence of British servicemen and women in Afghanistan and Iraq should regard those serving there.

Of course, the story carried in the media contained more hype than fact, but, nonetheless, the issue involved is crucial to our ongoing efforts to succeed in challenging the government's ability to continue Britain's participation in both these ignoble military adventures.

Received wisdom on the left has it that the troops are, by and large, workers in uniform - economic conscripts - and that, as they have been ordered to go to either Iraq or Afghanistan by the government, they are absolved from bearing any direct responsibility for being there.

I wonder if I'm the only one who disagrees with this analysis, which, in the current period, has always struck me as overly simplistic.

While it may hold true when involving a major conflagration such as the first world war, where mass conscript armies of industrialised nations were pitted against one another, comprised almost entirely of each respective nation's working class, it strikes me as insufficient when it involves imperialist adventures such as those that are taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The best outcome in the Middle East for internationalists and oppressed peoples everywhere is that the occupying troops, including British troops, suffer a resounding military defeat.

Recall the scenes at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 when the US embassy in Saigon was evacuated from the roof via military helicopters as the US beat a hasty and ignominious retreat.

Such a total defeat inspired other anti-colonial struggles that were taking place around the world at the time, but, more importantly, it resonated throughout US society in the form of a period of social and political convulsion.

Moreover, a major factor in the US decision to withdraw from Vietnam was the fact that troops in the field were demoralised and, in growing numbers, refusing to fight.

A large contributing factor in their demoralisation was the anger being directed at them by an increasingly politicised and radicalised anti-war movement at home.

The growing connection that had been drawn by a significant section of the anti-Vietnam war movement between this colonial war overseas and social and economic injustice at home reached the troops in the form of pressure to stop fighting this rich man's war and return home to fight on the side of their class or race for black liberation and equality.

The movement didn't accede to the government's line of supporting the troops, rather, it chastised the troops, letting them know in no uncertain terms that they bore responsibility for the carnage taking place in Vietnam and, as such, were morally obligated to stop.

This served, undoubtedly, to demoralise more and more US troops, with the end result of an army that was plunged into crisis, leaving the US ruling class with no choice but to abandon the field and end the war.

Meanwhile, on the other side of this equation, history serves us up another lesson that we ignore at our peril, this time in the form of a warning of the dangers of regarding the troops as the heroes which the government cynically and shamelessly attempts to portray them as.

Remember the Falklands? This was another imperialist adventure, but, unlike Vietnam, one which ended in a military victory for a British ruling class embodied in the person of one Margaret Thatcher.

It was a victory that allowed Thatcher and her cohorts to ride a wave of patriotism and reaction as they set about their mission of destroying the trade union movement and devastating working-class communities the length and breadth of the Britain.

Such an outcome in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan today would be just as disastrous for the working class now as it was then, especially in a time when we are under a sustained assault that threatens to return millions of us to the inequality and privation depicted in the pages of Dickens.

The fact of the matter is that the troops and other service personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan are not heroes and are not engaged in acts of heroism. But they could be if they found the moral courage to refuse to fight, just as Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall Smith did some time ago.

Some claim that the troops don't have a choice, that they have to go and have to fight because they are ordered to.

But this isn't true. They do have a choice - a hard choice, yes, but a choice nonetheless. They can refuse.

Indeed the only people who don't have a choice in this equation of carnage are the Iraqi and Afghan people, currently suffering at the hands of our troops in towns and cities that have been verily ripped apart and destroyed, in the process dislocating the social, political and economic landscape of both countries.

It is for this reason that we should begin to bring pressure to bear on our troops over their role in these occupations, calling on them to refuse to fight and letting them know in the process that their real enemy is at home in the shape of the billionaires, the corporations and a government that governs on their behalf.