smhwpf: (No power)
[ profile] shreena asked "What are you most proud of?"

I think this would have to be being involved in the solidarity campaign for East Timor in the 1990s. It's one of the campaigns I have been most intensively involved in and, unlike a lot of others, actually saw a positive outcome.

A brief history: as for links, well you know where to find Wikipedia as well as I, or here is the history as given by the Timor Leste government website.

history )

As I say, I got involved in the campaign after seeing a video of John Pilger's 1994 film, along with a group of fellow activists at Warwick, in 1995. We were starting a local Campaign Against Arms Trade group, and also started a student East Timor solidarity group, which we sought to expand nationally.

In Britain, the campaign largely revolved around the UK's sale of arms to Indonesia, including armoured vehicles, and Hawk Trainer/Light ground attack aircraft, exactly the sort that had been used to such effect by Indonesia in the past. A clearer case of siding with evil by a western government would be hard to find. (Well, there are a fair number of as-clear cases mind you). My good friend Chris Cole, who has been willing to put far more on the line than I ever have, went to prison for breaking into a BAE base and hammering on the nose cone of a Hawk destined for Indonesia. The women of the Seeds of Hope Ploughshares group also broke into BAE Warton in Lancashire in 1996 and smashed up a Hawk; they were acquitted by a Liverpool jury on the grounds that they had acted to prevent a greater crime.

As for me, I got involved in national CAAT when I moved to London, with the arms to Indonesia being one of the key campaigns. I and a friend also started up a Christian-based solidarity movement for East Timor - playing on the fact that the East Timorese were predominantly Catholic, and the prominent role of the Catholic Church in the peaceful resistance. All in all, it kept me pretty busy, though to how much effect is of course always impossible to say. I was particularly active, with the British Coalition for East Timor, in the run-up to the referendum and its appalling aftermath.

The credit for Timor Leste's freedom lies first with the East Timorese, who endured unimaginable horrors and still stood firm to demand and win it. Second with the Indonesian people, who created an opening for change when they overthrew Suharto. But I think the international campaign made a real difference - a swing vote if you will. Like I said, it meant that when Indonesia was transitioning to democracy, there was enough of a noise and a smell over East Timor that it wasn't something they could ignore, and then the post-referendum violence became something the 'international community' couldn't ignore.

I played my part in that; a minor one in the scale of things, but not a negligible one in terms of time and energy. I met Xanana when he came to speak in London. He thanked all of us who had been part of the solidarity movement.

This one, we won. Timor Leste is free. I am proud of that.
smhwpf: (Buffyanne)
I was delighted to learn today that Campaign Against Arms Trade has been awarded a Right Livelihood Award by the Foundation of that name.

The awards are sometimes known as the "alternative Nobel prizes", and tend to go to individuals and organizations working for peace, social justice, human rights, the environment, etc. This years other awards went to Hayretting Karaca, a Turkish environmental entrepreneur and activist, Sima Samar, an Afghan human rights (and especially women's rights) campaigner, and Gene Sharpe, an American academic who has massively developed the theory and strategy of non-violence.

Very well-deserved, in my highly non-objective opinion. :-) I know just how much work and creativity the staff and volunteers of CAAT put in on the back of very limited resources to make CAAT the sort of organization to even be considered for such a thing.

And yeah, very proud to have been an active part of it myself for many years. :-)

Hopefully see some of the CAAT folk in Stockholm in December, though only a few of them I know these days...
smhwpf: (Winter is coming)
This story stirs up some old, and not especially good, memories. It concerns an undercover policeman, Mark Kennedy, who infiltrated a whole bunch of environmental and other activist groups, and indeed became one of their leading organizers - in that sense as much an agent provocateur as merely a spy. It seems, though, that he 'went native' - becoming convinced of the environmentalist case, apologising to the former comrades he'd betrayed and - it is suggested - causing the collapse of the trial of one group of activists when he offered to testify for the defence.

When I was involved in Campaign Against Arms Trade, one of my closest colleagues, Martin Hogbin, who was first a very active volunteer and then later employed as National Campaigns Co-ordinator, turned out to be a spy for BAE Systems. What hurt most was not so much the information he supplied to BAE, but the way he messed with our heads and spread poison through the group.

There's a CiF article by Emily Apple that's certainly stirred the raw memories. She knew Kennedy fairly well, but was around CAAT at the same time as me, and was far closer to Martin Hogbin than I ever was, and thus hurt far worse. She's one of the one's I referred to in the older posts as one of the people he was still messing with, who still believed in him, though clearly now this is no longer the case. So I can well sympathise with her feelings and scepticism over Kennedy's supposed repentance. Though I would like to believe - indeed as a Christian I do believe - that even individuals as base and honourless as Mark Kennedy or Martin Hogbin have the capacity to change.

Reading the comments (always a bad idea) I see that there are plenty of assholes saying "But the police should do all they can to stop lawbreakers like these wicked enironmentalists. Undercover operations like this are perfectly justified." And at least one asks, but wouldn't you applause someone who infiltrated, say, the BNP or EDL? (Or, one might well ask, BAE Systems).

To which I would give the blatantly inconsistent reply that, yes, I would applaud those infiltrating organizations doing what I consider to be evil to attempt to prevent their evil. (Though even so, there are limits to what can be justified). I might even consider such a person to be worthy of honour. But where police or paid informants like Hogbin infiltrate groups I consider to be working for the good of humanity, and most especially with people who are my friends, who pretend friendship, mess with their heads, impede their work, possibly place them in danger of arrest, such individuals I indeed denounce as the lowest of traitors.

Yes, this is a double standard. Sue me.
smhwpf: (Angel)
Just because the one thing the world really needs at the moment is more and better weapons, Spearhead Exhibitions (owned by Reed Elsevier) in association with the UK MOD have organised the Defence Systems Equipment International arms fair (DSEi), from 13th-16th September, at the ExCel Centre in London's Docklands.

The exhibition, heavily subsidised by the UK taxpayer, claims to be the world's largest arms fair. It brings together the major buyers and sellers of arms, and is a crucial meeting place where deals are made or set in motion. Exhibitors at DSEi 2005 include most of the world's major arms companies, including Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northropp Grumann from the US, Britain's BAE Systems, France's Thales, and the Franco/German/Spanish company EADS. The guest list of buyers has not yet been made public, but in the past invitees have included numerous countries involved in conflict and/or responsible for serious human rights abuses and/or violations of international law, including Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Colombia, India and Pakistan. (And of course the US, who pretty much come under all three categories). More (biased and partisan) information about DSEi can be found here. The full Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) briefing on DSEi can be downloaded here.

A week of action against the arms fair is being co-ordinated by Disarm DSEi, along with CAAT. The main demo is on Tuesday 13th September, to coincide with the opening of the arms fair. The full list of events is:

list of events )

Disarm DSEi have a Call to Action that can be downloaded from their website, printed and distributed. However because the site uses frames I can't link to it directly.

In addition, or if you can't make any of these events, you could write to Reed Elsevier to call upon them to stop organising arms fairs such as these. And of course, writing to your MP is always an option. CAAT are making a specific call to close down the Defence Export Services Organisation, a branch of the MOD dedicated to promoting UK arms exports at the taxpayer's expense, and which is heavily involved in organising DSEi.

ETA: Naturally, forward at will.
smhwpf: (Treebeard)
In other news, we launched Bristol Campaign Against Arms Trade yesterday (technically two days ago now), with a day-conference.

It went surprisingly well. There were about 24 of us there, as well as two speakers from the national CAAT office in London (including Nick, an old friend from my volunteering days there); there was also a lot of energy and enthusiasm, with people volunteering to do stuff. I mean, apart from the five of us who'd been doing the organising for the day. Reasonably hopeful that there'll be a good few people taking things forward. Oh, and my press release got into the Bristol Evening Post, and there was a photographer from them at the conference, so hopefully some more coverage. Yay me!

The sessions also seemed to go well, and generated interest. We started with Ann from national CAAT talking about CAAT's new campaign, which is highlighting the enormous influence of arms companies within government. The traffic between government and the arms industry - the so-called 'revolving door' - is far greater than any other industry; and the Blair government in particular has created a plethora of 'advisory bodies' within government, composed of civil servants and industry figures, and very few if any outside voices, again far more than is the case for other sectors. The overall effect is that any voice that might come from a different perspective to that of the military-industrial complex is excluded, and the government's interests become very much bound up with those of the industry. Hence (former UK Foreign Secretary) Robin Cook's comment in his autobiography that he had never known Tony Blair to take a decision that would inconvenience BAE Systems.

Then I formally launched the group, God bless her and all who sail in her, emphasising the "target-rich environment" we have in the Bristol area for campaigning, with most of Britain's major arms companies, including BAE and Rolls Royce, having bases in or near Bristol. Then workshops after lunch, I did an "arms trade for beginners session" that seemed to go down well, and then a final plenary when we discussed ideas for campaigning, with quite a lot of people seeming to be up for stuff. There was one UWE student there, but several from Bristol Uni. Anna Stavrianakis (currently the group Secretary - I'm nominally Chair, though that doesn't mean a great deal), who's a PhD Politics student there seemes to have brought along a whole bunch of her students. One of them, T., I also know from ISM circles. He's got a group of eight Bristol students together to go to Palestine in September. Eight! And Bristol has a rep. as a right-wing uni.

Conference over, quite a few of us went on the inevitable pub trip, which later turned into dinner for a subgroup, and after that Paul (my academic colleague and ex-supervisor) and I went back to T. & his friend's house and drank whisky and talked about Educaishon and stuff. They also alerted me to a pub on their street that is about 5-10 minutes walk from mine, and that apparently serves forty-two Single Malt Whiskys. *drools in anticipation*

So, all in all ended up somewhat hungover this morning, but a good day. Hopeful this group might be going somewhere.
smhwpf: (Treebeard)
Well, it's been a busy, and reasonably productive, if rather mixed-up week.

Yesterday, we (ISM Bristol) had a couple of activists talking at the local Palestine Solidarity meeting; they were from two groups of Middle Eastern activists touring Europe under the title of "Marhaba Europe", coming from a collective in Spain called Escanda. (Marhaba means "Hello" in Arabic). Each tour group includes (or is intended to include) a Palestinian activist, an Israeli dissident, a Lebanese activist and a European activist working in the Middle East. We just had two last night; the Lebanese person had visa problems, and Heidi, an ISMer from Germany, was exhausted. They've been touring for a couple of months, just a couple of days in each place. Planning to go on till Easter.

So, we had Saif, a Palestinian ISM co-ordinator who splits his time between Balata refugee camp near Nablus in the West Bank, where he's from, and Spain, where he has residency; I know him from my trip to Palestine earlier in the year; and Itay, an Israeli "refuser", that is who refused military service in Israel, as he did not want to be part of an oppressive occupation of the Palestinian territories.

on the meeting itself )

Of mice and men )

After the meeting, and some food, I had the honour of playing host to Saif and Itay for the night before they went on to their next stop in Birmingham. And guess what they wanted to do when they got back to my humble abode?

Watch Buffy videos! Yay! Saif had only seen up to the end of S3, and Itay had also seen S7 but missed much of the intervening; so we stayed up watching the first four episodes of S4. Saif was staying in the front room, so I think he might have carried on after I went to bed.

It reminded me how much I really want to go back there. Easter. Or summer. Will have to go ahead with that name change. I have decided on Alfred Bickersteth by the way.

This week I'll have had stuff on every evening; Wednesday and Thursday I've already described. Monday evening a group of us met to set up a local Campaign Against Arms Trade group; six of us, all up for doing stuff, which is a darned good start. Looking forward to a launch in the new year, Jan/Feb probably. Tuesday was choir practice (the UWE Singers). Tonight is the dress rehearsal for our concert, which is tomorrow evening at 7.30pm in Bristol Cathedral. We are singing the Bernstein Chichester Psalms which are quite wierd but quite gorgeous too, and Constant Lambert's The Rio Grande which is very swingy and boppy. The orchestra are playing, amongst other things, a Rachmaninov Piano Concerto.

I joined the choir just this term, first time I've been in a choir for several years, and the previous one, which I was in maybe 2.5 years, was my first. I have a reasonable voice, but my sight-singing is poor, and I need a lot of practice. I think I am just about there with these pages, though there are still a couple of dodgy entries. Should be OK. The choir as a whole seems to be coming along nicely with the pieces, though even I am not the weakest link. (When some other people in the bass section want to stand next to me - Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.)

On which (possibly slightly flat or mistimed) note, I had better be off home and then onto the cathedral.
smhwpf: (Owl)
Well, I have referred to it somewhat cryptically in previous posts, but it is now all in the public domain.

The Guardian reported today (page 2 in fact!) that Campaign Against Arms Trade is taking legal action against our former National Campaigns Co-ordnator, Martin Hogbin, for passing confidential information, alleging that he was a spy for BAE Systems. This followed revelations in the Sunday Times last year that BAE were paying a consultancy, La Chene, to infiltrate CAAT.

Read more... )
smhwpf: (Me)
It is most gratifying to read that BAE Systems are being investigated for corruption involving massive 'slush funds' for bribes to Saudi Princes and the like to win arms contracts. The investigation now seems to be involving the BAE Chairman himself.

BAE's corrupt relationship with the brutally repressive Saudi government, the UK's biggest overseas arms customer has been overlooked for far too long. As far back as the early 1990s, a National Audit Office report into alleged 'commissions' paid by BAE to the Saudis to win the £20 billion Al Yamamah arms deal, commissions possibly amounting to as much as 15% of the deal, was suppressed - the only NAO report never to be made public. And, aside from the corruption, it gives me great pleasure to see BAE in trouble - a company that has for so long sold arms to some of the world's nastiest regimes, and which - on a more personal note - paid to have Campaign Against Arms Trade, for whom I volunteered for many a year, inflitrated at the highest level.

However, whether this actually leads to anything, or whether the investigation gets quietly dropped, is another matter. BAE have an exceptionally close relationship with the British Government, which has protected them in all sorts of ways in the past. In fact, I wonder whether this investigation happening now may be a negotiating ploy on behalf of the government. The relationship between the company and the MoD has turned sour recently, due to cost overruns. BAE has meanwhile tried to play the card of being Britain's 'national champion' arms supplier to twist the government's arm into giving them contracts. Most recently, in the contract to build Britain's 2 new aircraft carrier, where the Government has decided that BAE should share the work with Thales of France, based on Thales' design, BAE have threatened to pull out altogether if they are not made the prime contractor.

So maybe the government is, unusually, allowing this corruption investigation to take place as a way of coercing BAE to play ball, and that if and when BAE knuckle under, they will step in to have the investigation halted, or at least endure that no serious charges are brought except possibly against low-ranking officials.

Or maybe I'm just being too much of a conspiracy theorist here.

At any event, I'm sure the CAAT campaigners protesting at the BAE AGM today and asking questions in the meeting as shareholders will be having a field day. (I couldn't be there myself due to teaching committments). It will be rather nice, as it will be the first time in several years that BAE, hopefully, will not have known the questions they were going to be asked in advance, supplied by the traitor bastard who was organising the protest! Of course, they may have someone else in there by now, though I doubt at such a high level.
smhwpf: (Wesley)
Stayed at home today. The cold that started coming on a week ago, as I was coming back from [ profile] andrewwyld's gig seems to be sticking around, and as I didn't have any specific commitments at uni, thought I'd try to shake it off. Not got much done today. A few things. Just had a darned good tinkle on the keyboard, getting a bit nearer to having that trio of Scarlatti sonatas I've periodically wrestled with over the years properly under my fingers. Sustained practice, that's what it needs! Mostly wasting time on the 'net. Generally still feeling under the weather in an annoying sort of way.

Quite a weekend coming up. Tomorrow I will be going to Beccie's birthday party on a boat in the Thames in London - she's the one organising the trip to Palestine at Easter I'd have been going on were it not for my sister's wedding, and also will be Campaign Against Arms Trade's Local Campaigns Co-ordinator from when they get back in April. Somehow most of my social life, when it isn't on the internet, seems to be in London, or at any rate, not here in Bristol. Really need to do something about that. Then on Saturday, up to Newcastle for my sister's fiance Zander's stag night. (Don't get too jealous, [ profile] mara_sho - at least he spells it with a Z rather than an X!)

Great. Two party nights, and I've given up alcohol for Lent. Would it be legitimate to swap this Sunday for the Saturday? What do you Catholics and Anglo-Catholics out there reckon? (OK, OK, it's blatant cheating, I know.)

Well, various people such as [ profile] gnimmel and [ profile] fluffymark have been proclaiming the arrival of Spring lately. I was sceptical, and my scepticism would seem to have been well-founded. Nasty, sleety cold today. Yuk.

Thoughts on Spain )

I'm in an optimistic mood today, can't you tell!

God be with the victims, families and friends. God have mercy on us all.
smhwpf: (Treebeard)
As numerous others have already commented, a marvellous occasion! Thanks to [ profile] the_alchemist and [ profile] fluffymark for organising, and [ profile] snowleopard for her wonderful hospitality, providing tea, coffee, toast and cuddly toys!

A bravura Hook by [ profile] the_alchemist, who does Evil so well. The transformation from sinsister, dark-haired Hook to the fair, Galadriel-haired Catriona is remarkable. A truly Jekyll-and-Hyde character is our Catriona. Hm. I can see a story here. By day, a respectable, kind-hearted, bespectacled intellectual priest, by night, a fearsome, black-hearted, hook-handed monster, skulking the gaslit streets of Cambridge looking for victims. The Revd. Mackay and Cptn. Hook.

And yet again, a superb pairing of [ profile] yvesilena as a most moving, big-hearted Wendy, and [ profile] mirabehn as a sulky, offhand, insensitive, yet still noble Peter. Somehow those two always seem to get cast in closely-related roles for these readthroughs, such as Frodo and Sam, and Edgar and Edmund in Lear. And they always go so well together. I think I'm a bit of a [ profile] mirabehn-[ profile] yvesilena 'shipper. (Though I would stop short of actually slashing my friends. Unlike Hook.)

And really nice to meet recent LJ friends for the first time, [ profile] robert_jones, [ profile] libellum, [ profile] neonchameleon, [ profile] compilerbitch and [ profile] doseybat for the first time, as well as seeing again, as well as the various above-mentioned worthies, [ profile] evil_nick, [ profile] andrewwyld, [ profile] ixwin, [ profile] leonato, [ profile] borusa, [ profile] taimatsu and apologies to any who may have temporarily slipped my mind and who will no doubt pop back into it the moment after I post.

Today, was still in London for Many Meetings related to Campaign Against Arms Trade, of which I am not at liberty to say too much at the moment, but of which I may be able to speak more before too long, at least friends-locked. But things seem positive in many ways. More so than they have seemed to me in a good long time.

In other news, [ profile] mara_sho, that is Shona, the Moderator (or "Listy-Mom") of the Buffy Beeb Boards and related fic group BBBFic , notable fanfic author and all-round good egg, has recently opened the aforementioned LJ. Always nice to have another LJ-friend!

Well, better head bedwards. Start the week on a semi-sensible cycle.
smhwpf: (Buffy fire)
On Saturday I received... well not legal proof, but sufficient evidence for practical purposes, to confirm that someone in an organisation in which I am involved, who I trusted and considered a friend, was in fact all along, over 7 years, a traitor who was spying for our greatest enemies, informing on all of us. More than that, I believe, he was deliberately exacerbating differences within the organisation, playing us, fucking with our heads. He certainly did with me. He still is with some people who still believe in him and refuse to believe he could possibly be a traitor.

It's all beginning to sink in, but it's hard to grasp. The fact that he was someone completely different to the person I thought he was. That that person I knew, worked with, chatted with, drank with, didn't actually exist. A fictional character. It's wierd. One possibly good aspect is I don't feel any hatred towards him, because... who is there to hate? The person behind the mask, I don't actually know anything about. Well, I know he's a very clever, nasty, cynical, deceitful, manipulating arsewipe, yes, but that's just saying I know there is a person of those qualities who goes by the name (probably) and appearance of this fictional character I knew, but I don't know that person. If that makes any sense.

I'm certainly angry, though mostly just left cold. I think I'm most angry at what he's doing to people now, the people who are (or think they are) closest to him. One guy who is one of the best people we've got, but who seems convinced this is all a big mistake or even a conspiracy. He's still in contact with the traitor, he's been, so I get the impression, the person on whose shoulder the traitor has been crying about his infamous ill-use by the organisation. Getting him to fight his battles, stirring him up into a state, twisting him round his finger, perpetuating yet more division and strife. He (the traitor's victim) must be torn in two by all this. I don't know if I should speak to him, try to convince him. One friend in the organisation with whom I've been discussing things has advised me not to, that he won't be amenable to reason. But I don't know, it may be worth trying, and I don't see what harm it would do. It would reveal where I stand now, but I think he'll have more than an inkling of that by now.

Still trying to work out my feelings towards the traitor... I guess it still hasn't really sunk in, in that there's still this total mismatch between my memories of him (haven't seen him in a while), which are still in many ways warm ones, and what I actually now know. Still trying to process al those memories and reinterpret them in the light of who he actually is. I think I need to do this to be able to forgive, because I need to know who to forgive. It is too easy to forgive the fictional character, I forgave him many times when he let me down in various ways when we worked together, which I put down at the time to weakness, but now view in a more sinister light. He's easy to forgive. But I need to be able to forgive the real person, whoever that is, not the fiction.

Part of me not feeling all that forgiving. Finding it sort of reassuring that in the 9th Circle of Dante's Inferno, traitors are encased in ice for all eternity. (Dante in fact expounds a curious theory that when a person turns traitor, their soul is immediately taken down to hell and replaced by a demon. Hmm, not sure I go with that.) But when I read Psalm 109 , I found I couldn't actually wish all those things on him, so that's something.

Of course, the question could be asked, is he really a traitor? A traitor is someone who turns coat, changes sides, sells out his country/cause/friends, no? But he didn't do that. He never was on our side. But he did betray the trust of people who had become his friends, colleagues, employers. I think that counts.

Raises all sorts of questions about trust, whether you actually know people, etc. I think my default will remain to trust people and assume that they are who they say they are unless I have good reason not to. Perhaps I'll be a little bit more careful about whom I trust with what. In fact, who should I be allowing to access this post, have I been too trusting on the basis of too little knowledge of people? No, I haven't, but I'm thinking the fewer know about all this the better at this stage. *further restricts group* The more know, the more danger things inadvertantly get out. So maybe I should make it a private post. *switches entry to private* I've already talked about it with some people. I must resist the urge to display my feelings and traumas before an audience. Not the time or place for it. Or shall I make it available to just one or two? Well, yes, I've already talked about it with one of you, so may as well. *switches back to even more restricted group* Sort of makes all the cryptic language above rather superfluous. But please don't go spreading this. I shouldn't really be talking about it.

But back to the point I was on,you can't live always suspecting your friends of being someone else, you'd go mad. Anyway, outside the campaigning organisation context it's not really an issue. And within an organisation, how can you know? You can't have people followed or bugged. You can only check their background so much. We can't start behaving like MI5. Gah! I suppose you just have to be aware of the possibility, and be careful.

So you, XXX, how do I know you're not a spy, infiltrating Unite 4 Peace on behalf of BAE or MI5 or the MoD? You're nice and wonderful? So did the traitor appear. Well, in your case you were actually brought up in the peace movement, so you'd actually have had to have been bought at some point, rather than infiltrating from outside. In fact, you'd have had to decide to go along to them one day and say "Hey, I'm in this peace group, but I want to sell them out, what can you offer?". It all seems vanishingly unlikely. There's all sorts of other things I can think of, that make me think "surely a spy wouldn't do that!", but then how can I rule out the possibility that all this is designed to make people think just that?

I can't. It seems pretty bloody unlikely that anyone would go to such efforts, but I can't say it's impossible.

And you, YYY, I have an even harder task in proving you're not working for the enemy. (Not that you don't have the nice and wonderful things going for you also, just the imbibed peace movement with mother's milk thing.)

But don't worry, I still choose friendship and trust over paranoia. :-)

Then again, how do you know I'm not a spy? I'm not sure I can think of any really convincing arguments.

You see how this all shakes the head up, upends the worldview? But I don't think this will make me a suspicious, paranoid, swivel-eyed crazy, incapable of trust and forever looking over my shoulder.

Just a bit sadder and wiser maybe.


smhwpf: (Default)

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