Britain's Watergate

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The British ruling class is increasingly on the back foot. With rising opposition over domestic policies and acknowledgement of failure abroad it now encounters serious questions and resistance.

From attempts to wreck the welfare state to doctored progress reports on its brutal occupation of Afghanistan, it faces increasing examination.

A weak and barely united establishment maintains a public posture which asserts shared cultural references of "British decency" and "democratic values" to confirm that "we're all in it together". However it is now all starting to unravel.

Over prisoner abuse, state-sponsored torture, military atrocities and complicity in war crimes, as with social policy, this "band of warring brothers" and their system rolls from crisis to confrontation while finding it ever more difficult to square the circle of outward self-assurance against increasingly nasty class survival strategies. Britain remains, insists Cameron, "a great power".

In October, MI6 head Sir William Sawers declared that torture was "illegal and abhorrent", and last month Cameron pontificated on human rights to Chinese students - "we have sincere and deeply held concerns".

But Cameron now, and Labour previously, remain complicit in Guantanamo and Bagram prison camps - despite Cameron's declared opposition to Guantanamo detention. On Bagram he and Obama say nothing.

The subsequent announcement of around £8 million compensation to former British detainees held oversees, tortured by and on behalf of the US, was admission of responsibility and failure to act to end torture. The government avoided court disclosure of Whitehall documents exposing known specific authority for this from the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence and, crucially, Tony Blair. Britain's Watergate is gradually being revealed.

Related to all this domestically has been the creation of suspect communities, racism and a climate of fear. The challenge is to link the issues of rights and justice, so central to minority communities, to cutting the wars - for jobs at home rather than bombs abroad.

Hence the important public protests over the critical case of London resident Shaker Aamer. Aamer is Britain's last Guantanamo prisoner. He has been awarded compensation while still in his Guantanamo cell! He remains incarcerated, making protest pressure vital.

Close Guantanamo and Bagram. Free Shaker Aamer. Saturday 11 December 2010. 12 noon rally at site of new US embassy, Ponton Rd, Nine Elms, London SW8 5BA. March to Battersea Arts Centre public rally.


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