Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

Chilcot Report

July 7, 2016

Jeremy Corbyn made his first assessment of the Chilcot Inquiry in Parliament on Wednesday, a statesman-like address to the House of Commons. It was damning, yet touching, in equal measure – and without vindictiveness.

The Labour leader was one of the most prominent voices of opposition against the Iraq War at the time, leading protests and actively raising his grave concerns in Parliament.

Concerns that were shared by millions of people around the world, but tragically fell on deaf ears.

Corbyn opened by saying that:

I would like to remember and honour the 179 British service men and women killed, and the thousands maimed and injured during the Iraq war and their families, as well as the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have died as a result of the invasion and occupation launched by the US and UK governments 13 years ago.

He then began his assessment by giving cool criticism of what he called “the extraordinary time it has taken for the report to see the light”, saying it “is frankly, clearly a matter for regret”. But when it came to the subject of the decision to invade Iraq itself. He did not mince his words:

The decision to invade and occupy Iraq […] was the most significant foreign policy decision taken by a British government in modern times. It divided this house, and set the government of the day against the majority of the British people.

Corbyn’s criticism became even more overarching. Directly attacking Tony Blair’s government …

the war was not in any way […] a last resort; frankly it was an act of military aggression launched on a false pretext, as the inquiry accepts, and has long been regarded as illegal by the overwhelming weight of international legal opinion.

Questioning the legality provoked a furious reaction from some MPs. However Corbyn continued with his criticisms:

it led to the deaths of 100,000 people […] it devastated Iraq’s infrastructure and society; it fostered a lethal sectarianism […] that turned into a civil war. Instead of protecting security at home and abroad, the war fuelled and spread terrorism across the region.

He cited Sunday’s suicide bombing in Baghdad, which killed 250 people and was the worst terrorist attack since the US/UK invasion in 2003 – implying that Daesh (Isis/Isil), which claimed responsibility, was a group that had come into existence as a result of the Iraq war. “By any measure”, Corbyn said, “the invasion and occupation of Iraq has been, for many, a catastrophe”.

He continued:

the decision to invade Iraq on what was clearly flawed intelligence about weapons of mass destruction (WMD) […] has led to a fundamental breakdown of trust in politics and in our institutions of government […] while the governing classes got it so horrifically wrong, many people got it right.

More jeering from backbenchers ensued, one of whom ITV’s political editor Robert Peston identified as Labour’s Ian Austin MP – who can be heard saying “sit down and shut up”, and “you’re a disgrace”.

But Corbyn seemed undeterred. He cited the protests against the Iraq war in February 2003 as being “the biggest ever demonstration in British history”. Amid more continuous heckling, he fired criticism at both Margaret Thatcher’s and John Major’s Tory administrations, implying that while many people protested about Hussein our governments had basically cosied up to him.

Turning his attention back to Blair, he recalled:

we could see that this state posed no military threat and the WMD evidence was flimsy […] If only this house would have listened to many of its own people […] the course of events might have been different. There are members here today who voted against the war […] but none of us such take any satisfaction from this report.

Corbyn briefly paid tribute to the late Robin Cook, Blair’s foreign secretary who resigned over the war. Cook warned at the time of his grave concerns, saying that “I can’t accept collective responsibility for the decision to commit Britain now to military action in Iraq without international agreement or domestic support”.

The Labour leader then rounded on the decision of Blair’s administration to go to war, saying:

the Chilcot report has rightly dug deep into the litany of failures […] but the reality is it was the original decision to follow the US president into this war, in the most volatile region in the world, and impose a colonial-style occupation, that has led to every other disaster.

He summed up by echoing what surely most people who remember the Iraq war must feel. Firing a parting salvo at Blair and the other members of the government who took the UK to war, Corbyn starkly said:

those laid bare in the Chilcot report must face up to the consequences of their actions. Whatever they may be. We make decisions that […] go on for decades and decades […] we need to reflect very seriously before taking any decisions again to take military action without realising the consequence of those we will live with all of us for many decades to come, and will often have incalculable consequences as a result.

While Corbyn’s detractors are often quick to criticise the leader’s soft-touch approach to his speeches in Parliament, no such criticism could be levelled on Wednesday.

Having been at the forefront of the campaign against the Iraq War, his stance at the time has now been wholly vindicated. His speech in Parliament must have been uncomfortable listening for many on his own backbenches, as there were countless MPs sitting there who voted for military action. He defied his party to stand on the right side of history in 2003. Some might say he is doing the same today.

In his address to Parliament, Jeremy Corbyn made clear his position: the choice of New Labour and the House of Commons to invade Iraq was one of the gravest mistakes in modern history. One which cannot be allowed to happen again.

Jeremy Corbyn has been criticised by the coup plotters, most of who backed the Iraq War, for voting against Party. But what would we rather have, an automaton that follows party orders (in which case install a robot and save on expenses) of someone who thinks and  votes according to his conscience?

Contrast the address by Jeremy Corbyn on Chilcot to the House of Commons with the contrived response from war criminal Tony Blair.

Blair cannot see he has done anything wrong, Iraq is a better place as a result of his actions, he would do it all over again.

The tragic bomb blast at the weekend, killed more innocent people, than all the British military who lost their lives during this illegal war.

Warnings were given not only by the intelligence services, but also by Canon Andrew White, of the chaos into which Iraq would descend. These warning were ignored.

Cannot be  a coincidence that the Charity Commission launches an investigation into Andrew White aka Vicar of Baghdad, any more than a coup is launched against Jeremy Corbyn, days before the Chilcot Report is published?

Iraqis used to tell you they were Iraqis, now they are Christian, Shia, Sunni, Kurd.

Terrorism has spread across the region, has given rise to ISIS, has spread to Europe.

Blair has since devoted his life to the Middle East. Most people would be forgiven into believing he was promoting the interests of Saudi Arabia and Israel, whilst at the same time lining his own pocket.

On Wato, we had paid liar Alistair Campbell justify the action taken by Tony Blair.

Chilcot is a damning indictment of Tony Blair, but still he cannot see he did anything wrong.

A deafening silence from the Blairite coup plotters, who have every day been calling for Jeremy Corbyn to go. One of who was Angela Eagle, who not only supported the Iraq War, but also tried to block an Inquiry into the Iraq War. Can we imagine Angela Eagle, even less Hilary Benn, giving the speech Jeremy Corbyn gave?

The noise and abuse, which can be heard in the background as Jeremy Corbtn was addressing Parliament, was not coming from the Tory benches, it was coming from the Labour benches.

One of those shouting abuse was identified by ITN political editor Robert Peston as Labour MP Ian Austin – who can be heard shouting “sit down and shut up”, and “you’re a disgrace”.

The only disgrace was Ian Austin. Please sign the petition calling for him to be suspended from the Labour Party. His own local party should do the right thing, Vote of No Confidence and move that he be de-selected.

It is easy to see why the coup plotters were so keen to remove Jeremy Cobyn before the Chilcot Report was published. Jeremy Cobyn opposed the Iraq War, as did John McDonnell, which is more than they did. They were the war cheerleaders, their hands are as soaked in blood as that of Tony Blair.

Since the coop plotters outed themselves, Labour has seen a 100,000 increase in membership.

Tony Blair, Jack Straw, Alistair Campbell, should be put on trial at The Hague for war crimes. At the very least Tony Blair should be charged with Misconduct in Public Office.

Is there no dictator Blair will not act for, so long of course his palm is greased?

If the gassing of the Kurds had happened today, Blair would be doing the whitewash.

Intelligence was flawed. The executive wanted war, and the intelligence was tailored accordingly.

It was known, there were people in Iraq peddling dodgy intelligence for money or a visa to the west. It should have been verified, by satellite pictures, signal intelligence, via other sources.

When reliable, well placed sources said Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, those sources were ignored.

The weapons inspectors said there were no weapons. They were ignored.

We should not forget David Kelly, the man who was probably killed to silence him.

David Kelly was a weapons inspector. He was also a double agent working for the British. It was he who leaked to the BBC  that the Dodgy Dossier had been ‘enhanced’ at the behest of Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell.

Andrew Gilligan, the journalist at the centre of the ‘dodgy dossier’ row, writing in The Telegraph on evidence submitted to the Chilcot Inquiry:

What we now know is that, according to an MI6 officer working on the dossier, the 45-minute claim was “based in part on wishful thinking” and was not “fully validated”. Another MI6 officer said that “there were from the outset concerns” in the intelligence services about “the extent to which the intelligence could support some of the judgments that were being made”.

What we now know is that on September 17 and 18 2002, a week before the dossier was published, Alastair Campbell sent memos to its author, Sir John Scarlett, saying that he and Tony Blair were “worried” that on Saddam’s nuclear capability the dossier gave the (accurate) impression that “there’s nothing much to worry about”. On September 19, Campbell emailed Scarlett again, suggesting the insertion of a totally false claim that, in certain circumstances, Saddam could produce nuclear weapons in as little as a year. This fabrication duly appeared in the dossier.

What we now know is that in his September 17 memo, Campbell suggested 15 other changes to the text of the dossier. Most were accepted; their effect was to harden the document’s language from possibility to probability, or probability to certainty. Campbell lied to Parliament about the content of this memo, giving the Foreign Affairs Committee an altered copy which omitted his comments on the 45-minute claim and played down his interventions on most of the other issues.

And what we now know is that, contrary to his campaigning certainty at the time, Blair admits in his memoirs that he privately saw the case for war against Iraq as “finely balanced”. No wonder a little tipping of the scales was needed – or, as Blair also put it in his book, “politicians are obliged from time to time to conceal the full truth, to bend it and even distort it, where the interests of the bigger strategic goal demand that it be done”.

We knew nothing of this then. Indeed, in his evidence to the Hutton inquiry, Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6, described the 45-minute claim, straight-faced, as “a piece of well-sourced intelligence”, two months after his own service had discredited it. Despite his key role as Dearlove’s military counterpart, General Laurie was never called to Hutton at all; his explosive statement, and that of the two MI6 people, emerged only in 2011, at the Chilcot inquiry.

I don’t blame you if you knew nothing of all this until now; most of it, by happy coincidence, came out only long after public attention had moved on, and the government could no longer be damaged.

But the government knew – and this is what makes its behaviour towards the BBC and David Kelly so incredible. He came forward to his bosses as my source under a promise that his identity would be kept secret, but was effectively given up to the world after Campbell, in his words, decided to “open a flank on the BBC” to distract attention from his difficulties over the dossier.

Yesterday, on Wato, liar Alistair Campbell said pressure had not been exerted, and put the blame on faulty intelligence, as did Tony Blair.

David Kelly was found dead in woods, his wrists slashed.

He had withstood the pressure in Iraq, confronting Iraqis. Was he likely to succumb to a couple of hours questioning by Commons Select Committee?

The summary by Peter Oborne demonstrates how damning the Chilcot Report is on Tony Blair.  Unlike many such reports, it does not pull its punches, and is not as many feared, an Establishment Whitewash.

War criminal Tony Blair, a liar, delusional, and seems to be possessed of a Messiah Complex.

Only last weekend, Blair was putting himself forward as the man to negotiate with the EU over Brexit.

Rise of Isis

December 5, 2015
Isis

Isis

Across the Arab world, the Arab Spring filled the people with hope.

Those dreams have not been met, instead they were met by brutal repression.

The rise of Isis has been a response to that repression.

in Iraq, the country was destroyed by war criminals George W Bush and Tony Blair. Iran financed Shia death squads targeted Sunnis. Any person who had been a member of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party was summarily dismissed from their job, denied public-sector employment, and barred from accessing their pensions.

As with membership of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union Ba’ath Party membership was a requirement any state job, so the policy led to the mass dismissal of thousands of teachers, doctors, police, and low-ranking civil servants. By destroying the mechanics of the state in this way, the United States virtually guaranteed the collapse of the state — a catastrophic prospect for a society emerging from over two decades of sanctions and war.

Out of the marginalisation of Sunnis rose Isis. When you have nothing, you turn to violence

Abu Ghraib detention facility, which exploded into Western consciousness in 2003 following the release of photographs showing US military personnel torturing prisoners. In the wake of this scandal, many detainees were transferred out of Abu Ghraib to another prison, Camp Bucca. It was here that one detainee, later known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, came to establish a strong relationship with a coterie of former Ba’athist military officers who had spent time in Abu Ghraib.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the leader of Isis, and those same Ba’athist officers now serve as his closest deputies and advisers.

In Syria, seven years of drought forced people off the land and into the cities. Protest followed, repression followed protest. Out of the repression  rose Isis.

In his speech calling for bombs to be dropped on Syria, a speech that was low on substance and high on waffle, Hilary Benn spoke of idealistic young men going to fight Franco in Spain. In the same vein, idealised  young Muslims go to Syria to join Isis. They are self-radicalised. If they cannot join Isis they will carry out their terrorist attacks at home. Isis is recruiting in Muslim enclaves. Support for Isis is not restricted to a tiny minority.

In Syria there are competing groups, they hate Assad, hate Isis, hate each other and hate the West,

Assad has killed hundreds of thousands of his own people, millions have been displaced. Any call to accommodate Assad must be rejected. It would be a betrayal of Syrian people to reach any accommodation with him. It would also be to ignore he was the cause of the rise of Isis in Syria.

Isis offers a purity of revolution, pure in the sense of its fanaticism that it is to return to a pure form of Islam.

Isis controls significant territory, a de facto state that straddles Iraq and Syria, that is if state has any meaning, in what is essentially stateless region, populated by warring factions.

Taliban in Afghanistan rejected technology (unless it was a weapon) Isis on the other hand embraces technology,  makes extensive use of internet and social media. On the one hand, they may not wish to talk to the outside world, on the other hand that make extensive effort to communicate with the outside world.

Brutality spreads fear. When Isis took Mosul, the Iraqi Army melted away, leaving their weapons behind.

To its supporters Isis projects a Muslim Utopia. water flows, electricity flows, bread gets baked, grapes grow, the people are fed.

Isis functions as a state. A fighter, for example, is estimated to be paid around $300 to $400 per month, more than double that provided by the Iraqi army.

Isis controls core infrastructure, oil fields, electricity and water.

For an insurgency, Isis is wealthy. Oil revenue, taxes, extortion, people trafficking, kidnapping. It is self-funding and not reliant upon external funding from Gulf States, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Hilary Benn talked of the International Brigade going off to fight Isis. That is the role fundamentalists see themselves in when they go off to fight with Isis.

In a tolerant society how do we deal with intolerance?

November 19, 2015
In a tolerant society how do we deal with intolerance?

In a tolerant society how do we deal with intolerance?

bags of money used to finance terrorism

bags of money used to finance terrorism

In a tolerant society how do we deal with intolerance, how should we deal with intolerance?

Moral Maze on Islamic terrorism last night. Where are the Muslims on the street demonstrating against ISIS, demonstrating against the atrocities in Paris last Friday night? When Muslims come to the West they should discard their cultural baggage. There is no support in the Koran for their Medieval ways. This from a Muslim academic.

Very valid point made at Europe is Kaput (discussion between Yanis Varoufakis and Slavoj Zizek, later joined by Julian Assange), in the West we must underscore our liberal values, we cannot allow ourselves to be cowed by the knee-jerk cry of Islamaphobia. We must oppose bastardisation of women,  forced marriage, hate crimes, honour killings.

Talking to an Iranian friend today, a Muslim.

A man and a woman in his shop. He politely asked why was the woman dressed the way she was, full burka, tiny slit for her eyes, please show me, here is a copy of The Koran? The man became abusive. My friend pointed out the man was in his shop, and he had asked a polite question. Man became more abusive. My friend told them they were a disgrace to all Muslims.

He had an imam from a mosque, an ignorant, uneducated fellow. Why do you not hang a sign outside your mosque condemning ISIS? Cannot, the man replied, the mosque would be bombed.

In Iran, in Turkey, there are academic centres of learning for The Koran. The clerics practising in UK, are illiterate, backward peasants from backward village cultures, who bring their ignorance with them.

On Radio 4 this evening a discussion, Paris: Could it happen here? Muslim extremists are not the fringe of Islamic culture in England.

Saudi Arabia is a main funder of terrorism, an exporter of a perversion of Islam.

We can stand by and do nothing about Isis. If we do, Isis will expand.

We need as Jeremy Corbyn has said, to cut off the funding. That means Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. We also have to deal with the oil from Isis finding its way onto the black market. These are necessary, but not sufficient conditions to defeat Isis.

Isis is a de facto country. We will not defeat Isis as David Cameron in his simplistic thinking seems to believe by bombing them, bombing is making the situation worse and bringing in more recruits.  We will only defeat Isis, by US, France, Germany and Russia, working together to defeat Isis on the ground, then occupation for many years until the democratic structures of the country are rebuilt, as we did with Nazi Germany.

We must remove Assad. Assad has killed more Syrians than Isis. It was repression by Assad that led to Isis.

We must not make the mistake of Iraq, where US contractors were brought in to rebuild the country, leaving Iraqis unemployed and penniless. Syrians must rebuild Syria.

The vote in the House of Commons on Syria, must be a free vote, with each MP free to make his or her own mind up, not told how to vote by Party Leaders.

Rojava: The Revolution we do not hear about

February 9, 2015

During the Spanish Civil War, Anarchists took control of towns, organised, until they were crushed by the Fascists.

Syriza has brought hope to Greece, inspired the Spanish to elect Podemos, it may spread further.

Rojava is a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria. A revolution we hear little about. Self-organising autonomous networks.

They face attacks from ISIS, but also until recently, Turkey was preventing any support from across the border, except they allow jihadist to cross the border. Crossing the border is not permissible for journalists.

Across the border, supported by PKK in Turkish occupied Kurdistan. PKK for demanding autonomy for Kurds, are branded terrorists by Turkey.

The Kurds have carved out an autonomous region in northern Iraq. The same has happened in northern Syria, except it goes much further and deeper.

All are equal, Kurds, Arabs, Christians, Muslims. Women and men are equal. The women are fighters.

Contrast the Kurds with brutality of ISIS.

It was Kurdish YPG that rescued Yazidis when trapped on a mountainside, surrounded by ISIS.

Gareth Watkins:

The Middle East today is the last place anyone in mainstream western thought would think to look for progressive political thought, and even less to see those thoughts translated into action. Our image of the region is one of dictatorships, military juntas and theocracies built on the ruins of the former Ottoman Empire, or hollow states like Afghanistan, and increasingly Pakistan, where anything outside the capitol is like Mad Max. The idea of part of the region being not just free, but well on its way to utopian, isn’t one that you’re going to find on mainstream media.

But you’re not on the mainstream media right now, are you?

Along Syria’s borders with Turkey and Northern Iraq, lies a mainly Kurdish area with a population of 4.6 million where a huge social experiment is taking place at the centre of a crossfire between Syria’s dictatorship, ISIS’s collective insanity and Turkey’s ongoing hostility towards the idea of Kurdish autonomy, with the US and NATO looming large in the background. The Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Kurdish National Council (KNC) established in the region of Rojava a society that mixes fierce libertarianism (guns are everywhere and there are no taxes – none) and Occupy-friendly anarchist thought with a healthy dose of feminism. While most Kurdish groups, especially those the US is friendly with, would some day like to establish a Kurdish state, in Rojava they have leap-frogged over the idea of the nation state into a more advanced system that they call Democratic Confederalism.

In the cantons of Rojava, there is a small central government with an absolute minimum of 40% female delegates, but most of the day-to-day work of running society happens at a local level, street by street and village by village. Democratic Confederalism’s chief architect, Abdullah Ocalan, says that “Ecology and feminism are central pillars” of the system he has spearheaded, something that you would have to go very far to the margins to hear from Western politicians. In Rojava, men who beat their wives face total ostracism from the community, making their lives in a highly social, connected society virtually impossible. Instead of a police force and jails, ‘peace committees’ in each municipality work to defuse the cycles of inter-family revenge killings by consensual agreements between both sides – and it works.

The only part of Rojava’s experiment that has received any international attention has been the YPJ, the female-only paramilitary forces that have been fighting, and winning, against ISIS and the Syrian Army. NBC, the Guardian and even Marie Claire have all covered the YPJ’s bravery without even paying lip service to the ideology that makes it possible.

It was the YPJ, along with their male counterparts the YPG, that rescued the thousands of Yazidis stranded and encircled by ISIS on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq. The Yazidi community had the misfortune to be based almost entirely inside the area that ISIS has claimed – and they have been a hated minority in the Islamic world for a thousand years, accused of ‘devil worship’. While the US dropped supplies from above, the Syrian fighting groups broke ISIS’s lines and saved tens of thousands of lives. They also successfully defended the city of Kobani when ISIS launched an all-out assault on the city of forty-five thousand with tanks, missiles and even drones. Despite heavy losses, the city remains ISIS-free, though its surrounding villages are still contested.

Crisis forces innovation.

fighters

fighters

Why is Tony Blair Not In Gaol?

January 16, 2015

Why is Tony Blair not in gaol? A question many people would like to see answers to.

Apparently Tony Blair cannot understand Russell Brand.

What cannot he understand? That he is pushing for democracy? That he does not have a desire to hang out with people like Blair?

A dictator with an image problem, then Tony Blair is your man. For a fee, a very hefty fee, he will help you explain away, or if not explain away, make light of, any atrocities, torture, mass killings. Clients include brutal regimes in Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Egypt.

Tony Blair was recently named Philanthropist of the Year by GQ magazine. And they say cartoons in Charlie Hebdo are offensive.

And more recently a humanitarian award by Save the Children.

ISIS is a direct result of the destruction of Iraq by Tony Blair and fellow war criminal George W Bush.

Having destroyed Iraq, destabilised the Middle east, Blair is only too happy to adopt the role of war profiteer.

The Blair Iraq Dossier has still not been published. Now we are told not until after the May 2015 General Election.

Anglican Vicar of Baghdad: “Child I baptised cut in half by ISIS”

August 10, 2014

Warning: This is pretty horrific to read.

Andrew White at St George's

Canon Andrew White at St George’s

The five-year-old son of a founding member of Baghdad’s Anglican church was cut in half during an attack by the Islamic State on the Christian town of Qaraqosh.

In an interview today, an emotional Canon Andrew White told ACNS that he christened the boy several years ago, and that the child’s parents had named the lad Andrew after him.

“I’m almost in tears because I’ve just had somebody in my room whose little child was cut in half,” he said. “I baptised his child in my church in Baghdad2. This little boy, they named him after me – he was called Andrew.”

The fact that Andrew’s brother was named George after St George’s Anglican Church in Iraq’s capital demonstrates the strong ties the family had to the church there. The boy’s father had been a founder member of the church back in 1998 when the Canon had first come to Baghdad. Canon White added, “This man, before he retired north to join his family was the caretaker of the Anglican church.”

Though the move north should have proved safer for the Iraqi Christian family, the Islamic State made sure that it became a place of terror. “This town of Qaraqosh is a Christian village so they knew everybody there was part of their target group,” said Canon White. “They [the Islamic State] attacked the whole of the town. They bombed it, they shot at people.”

The Islamic State group captured Qaraqosh overnight Wednesday/Thursday after the withdrawal of Kurdish forces.

The boy’s family, along with many other townspeople, have now fled to Irbil. However, news reports suggest this may be the Islamic State’s next destination.

Anglicans at the forefront of relief

The violent takeover of parts of Iraq by the Islamic State is threatening to bring about what the UN has said would be a “humanitarian catastrophe” in the beleaguered nation.

Canon Andrew White said that Anglicans there have been working hard to provide a lot of support for the Christians who have fled Mosul and Nineveh to the north, as well as the many other minority groups targeted by the Islamic State.

“Anglicans are literally at the forefront of bringing help in this situation and there’s no-one else,” he said adding that the church is supplying much-needed food, water, accommodation and other relief items thanks to financial contributions from supporters overseas. The church’s activities are led by a Muslim, Dr Sarah Ahmed.

“We need two things: prayer and money. With those two we can do something. Without those we can do nothing.”

Those wanting to donate can do so at http://frrme.org/. As regards prayer, Canon White said, “I have three ‘P’s that I always mention which is for Protection, Provision and Perseverance. We need protection, we need to provide for those people and we need to keep going.”

It’s clear from social media posts on Facebook and Twitter that members of the Anglican Communion right across the world are praying for this situation. Many have also indicated their support for persecuted Christians in Iraq by changing their social media avatars to the Arabic symbol for ‘N’ denoting Nazarene which ISIS has been using to identify Christian homes.

Leaders speak out

In recent days, Anglican leaders from countries including Egypt, Wales, Brazil and South Africa have all expressed their dismay at the situation unfolding in Iraq.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, issued the following statement today on the situation in Iraq, shortly before he travelled from the Philippines to Papua New Guinea.

“The horrific events in Iraq rightly call our attention and sorrow yet again. Christians and other religious minorities are being killed and face terrible suffering.

“What we are seeing in Iraq violates brutally people’s right to freedom of religion and belief, as set out under Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is extremely important that aid efforts are supported and that those who have been displaced are able to find safety. I believe that, like France, the United Kingdom’s doors should be open to refugees, as they have been throughout history.

“The international community must document human rights abuses being committed in northern Iraq so that future prosecutions can take place. It is important and necessary for the international community to challenge the culture of impunity which has allowed these atrocities to take place.

“With the world’s attention on the plight of those in Iraq, we must not forget that this is part of an evil pattern around the world where Christians and other minorities are being killed and persecuted for their faith. Only this week I received an email from a friend in Northern Nigeria about an appalling attack on a village, where Christians were killed because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Such horrific stories have become depressingly familiar in countries around the world, including Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

“We must continue to cry to God for peace and justice and security throughout the world. Those suffering such appalling treatment in Iraq are especially in my prayers at this time.”

Other Christian leaders have also spoken up about the situation in Iraq including Roman Catholics, who, in England and Wales, have designated Sunday, 9 August, as a Day of Prayer for Christians in Iraq. The Syrian Orthodox Patriarch yesterday wrote to the UN, following an emergency meeting of Patriarchs, calling on the UN Security Council to “fulfil their responsibilities in stopping this genocide”.

Notes

1. The brutal, extremist group, which claims to have fighters from across the world, announced the creation of a “caliphate” – an Islamic state – across its claimed territory in Iraq and Syria a month ago. Learn more at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-28116033

2. Baghdad is part of the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf http://www.cypgulf.org which is part of The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, a Member Church of the Anglican Communion.

Originally published by Anglican Communion News Service.

A common cry of Christians not only in Iraq, but across the Middle East, is why has the West forgotten us. That cry could be particularly aimed at churches.

The last few days, the atrocities committed by ISIS, appears to have woken the world up. That documented by Canon Andrew White merely the tip of a very horrific nightmare.

I was shocked when I saw the Kurds withdraw, as they are the only ways capable of taking on ISIS.

At least US, UK, and France had finally decided to act, with both military action against ISIS and humanitarian aid to those most in need.

The Kurds urgently need heavy weapons, ammunition.

The West should have intervened after the First Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was defeated, but the West allowed him to regain control.

With the second Gulf War, the West destabilised the country.

Al Maliki is a disaster as Prime Minister and must be removed.

The atrocities being committed by Israel in Gaza, has led directly to support for ISIS. ISIS has already mounted incursion into Lebanon.

If Israel defeats Hamas, into that void will step ISIS.

In London, Islamist supporters of ISIS, now control a London estate, with the ISIS flag flying over the entrance. Islamists from UK and France are fighting with ISIS. Now UK and France have mounted military attacks on ISIS, we can expect those Islamists if they return, to carry out terrorist attacks in UK and France.

It is wrong, as the media does, to refer to ISIS as a terrorist organisation. They are an insurgency that carries out terrorist atrocities.

Canon Andrew White at Alton Maltings

June 20, 2014
Andrew White Alton book signing

Andrew White Alton book signing

I never knew Alton had a Maltings. Signposting needed from the town centre.

An excellent job done on the interior of the building. Strangely, you enter at rafter level. A large meeting hall (ideal for concerts) and a cafe. I did not explore the lower levels, but was told contained meeting rooms.

Tea was served in paper cups. Not good for the environment. The coffee I was told was single sourced.

Following a blessing in Aramaic, Canon Andrew White started by giving the background of how he came to be in Iraq.

At age ten, he was asked by his teacher, what would he like to be.

An anaesthetist and a priest.

You cannot be both, and you are a Pentecostalist, and they do not have priests.

Andrew was an anaesthetist at St Thomas in London, where he headed the cardiac arrest unit, then gave it up to be a priest.

Christian theology he did not find very interesting,and changed to oriental studies, part of which included studying in Israel at an Ultra-Orthodox University.

He became a curate, then a priest, and was then sent to Coventry, to be part of the peace and reconciliation unit. It had until then focussed on Europe. With his background in the Middle East, it changed focus to Middle East.

He was sent to Iraq, to St George’s Church, an Anglican Church that was derelict.

At first he was not wanted, you are bombing us. No, it is not I who is bombing you.

He had a minder. One day, the minder told him he was invited to dinner. He was to be guest of the two sons of Saddam Hussein. He at first decided to decline the invitation, but his minder pleaded with him to say yes, else he and his family would be executed.

Originally, St George served the diplomats, the military, but when it proved too dangerous, the Iraqis.

First week one hundred, second week two hundred, third week, three hundred, fourth week four hundred. Not bad growth rate, one hundred a week. Eventually six and a half thousand.

More than just a church. A food distribution centre, a school, a clinic.

Several types of service: wacky for the children, Anglican for the Embassy, very formal Catholic for the Iraqis.

The service at St George’s is in Aramaic

Iraq had a very good education system, Iraqis were well educated. It has now collapsed, those with education and the means, have fled the country, leaving behind the poor and uneducated.

More than looking after the church, also involved in peace and reconciliation.

Prior to 2003, there was not a problem of sectarian violence. One was an Iraqi. Now one is a Sunni or a Shia. Under Saddam Hussein, Sunni minority ran the country, now it is a Shia majority.

ISIS aka ISIL is an insurgency and a terrorist organisation. It is well funded, paymasters are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.

The country has de-facto broken into three.

In the last year, over 1200 of the congregation of St George has been killed. In the last two weeks, 1000 have been killed.

People fled Baghdad as deemed not safe, back to their homeland, back to Mosul. Minerva is a Christian area. It is this area that has been overrun by ISIS.

Churches need to take much more account of what is happening in the Middle East.

Next week, Andrew returns to Iraq, to begin reconciliation talks with Sunni leaders.

Running the church, its various programmes, reconciliation, all costs money. It is only made possible by the generosity of people in the UK. If every church, held but one collection for the work that is being done, it would make a huge difference.

Sales of books went very well.

The meeting had been publicised in other churches. Farnham Parish Church had a poster in the porch. More though needs to be done communicating with the wider community. The press invited.

The dire situation in Iraq will only improve if the government changes, and is inclusive of all Iraqis, including the Christians, who are the minority of the minority.

The talk was filmed, and it is hoped once edited, to have uploaded to the net possibly as early as Sunday. It will be added here once available.

Andrew White is author of several books, including Vicar of Baghdad and Faith under Fire.

Andrew White is recipient of the Wilberforce Award.

The press must make sure Chilcot reports the whole truth

May 31, 2014
Prime minister Tony Blair meets with American president George W Bush on 7 July 2005

Prime minister Tony Blair meets with American president George W Bush on 7 July 2005

• Promises of “gists” and partial quotes simply won’t cut it. The detail will be where the devil resides. That’s why I have kept up the pressure in parliament via debates and parliamentary questions, and demanded nothing less than complete transparency when it comes to what Blair knew. But there is a way forward. Ed Miliband has often said that under his leadership Labour is determined to learn the lessons of the past and to make a clear break from the New Labour years. What better test of that commitment than for him to make clear his desire to overrule the Cabinet Office on this matter in the public interest and to demand – at the very least – the full disclosure of Tony Blair’s part in the communications.
Caroline Lucas MP
Green Party, Brighton

• Has it occurred to top mandarin Jeremy Heywood (Iraq war whitewash claim, 30 May) that the discipline of transparency, which Bush and Blair felt able to ignore in their private collusion over the Iraq war, is a fundamental tenet of democratic government, which, had it been operating correctly at the time, would probably have saved us from engaging in a gruelling war on a false pretext. Far from protecting the spurious right of prime ministers to deal with presidents in secret, our civil servants – supposedly the sober guardians of democratic virtue – should be using this sorry episode as a pertinent and powerful example of why they should not.
Giles O’Bryen
London

• The decision to withhold information about correspondence and notes of meetings between the British and US governments beggars belief. Has our government learned nothing from the agonies endured by the families of the Hillsborough victims? It’s time that the government realised that it does not rule us, it is there to serve us. We must have full disclosure now.
Joanne Nicholson
Weston super Mare, Somerset

• The press argues strenuously against political interference. The protracted scandal of the Chilcot inquiry demands you now deliver on your fine words. We need your implacable determination to hold the executive to democratic account. You have a duty to the electorate and a moral responsibility to the grieving relatives of fallen soldiers to demand that they hear the truth – the whole truth; not the sanitised, redacted, white-washing truth. President Bush and Mr Blair took us into an illegal war in Iraq. Mr Blair claims what Mr Bush no longer bothers to, that they were drawn reluctantly into a disastrous conflict because of an imminent threat based upon false intelligence that they accepted in good faith. Few voters and no journalists believe this fatuous claim to be true. Even the evidence already published argues forcefully against it. Publication of the conversations between Blair and Bush will almost certainly prove this beyond a shadow of a doubt: which of course explains the endless delays and refusal of transparency. I understand the argument that disclosure will prevent such private’ conversations in the future – good.

If you and your press colleagues do not force the truth out of the unelected Cabinet Office on our behalf you might as well accept any kind of interference politicians choose to impose upon you – for you will have already lost the war. This is an issue worth the odd editor going to jail for.
Keith Farman
St Albans, Hertfordshire

• Dear Messrs Snowden and Assange, using your skill and experience, please could you help us out by publishing the full content of the letters between Blair and Bush leading up to the Iraq invasion?
Joe Collier
Richmond, Surrey

letters to The Guardian on Chilcot Iraq Inquiry whitewash

In a democratic society, it is not for unelected officials, in this case the Cabinet Office, to decide what can and cannot be published. They are the servants of the people, as are Bush and Blair.

An inquiry costing several millions of pounds, a delay of years, and all we are to be offered is a cover up, a whitewash?

A country was taken to war, a country was torn apart by war. At the very least, we deserve to know the truth.

Publish and be damned.

In this internet age, do they really think this report will not get published in full on the net?

Canon Andrew White at St Saviour’s

August 19, 2013
book signing

book signing

It is strange, I had been thinking of meeting with Canon Andrew White, and early hours Sunday morning, I found I had a message that he was at St Saviour’s Church in Guildford.

I had not planned on being in Guildford, but a change of plans, afternoon in Guildford, lunch in Guildford, maybe a walk along the River Wey, then wander along to St Saviour’s for the evening service.

Not quite according to plan. I did not get the roast pork I was looking forward to for lunch, nor did I get my walk along the river, but I did experience a black church called The Upper Room meeting in St Nicolas, and had afternoon tea at Glutton & Glee.

I arrived at St Saviour’s more than half an hour early and was told I was first one.

I was not sure I had the correct evening, as no mention on their website, but on arrival I saw a space had been reserved for Andrew White and there was a notice on the church door.

The service started with music. During rehearsal, they were awful, but during the service far better.

We were then told of the situation in Egypt, or rather were were told half truths.

It is good that a church is recognising the plight of Christians in Egypt and the Middle East as too often they feel ignored and the churches in the West do not give a damn, but what we should also recognise is that the Christians in Egypt especially their leadership, are not a reliable witness to events on the ground and will give a partisan view.

We should not forget, that when people occupied Tahrir Square and refused to leave until Mubarak was overthrown, those who supported Mubarak to the bitter end and condemned the brave people in Tahrir Square, were the leaders of the Christian Church in Egypt. Neither should we forget that Muslims and Christian stood shoulder to shoulder in Tahrir Square.

Morsi betrayed the revolution. He tried to Islamise what is a secular country, betrayal of rights for women, installation of cronies to positions of power. In other words, no different to every corrupt government in the Middle East.

20 million Egyptians took to the streets to overthrow Morsi. A lot of rubbish in the West about the democratic overthrow of Morsi. The will of the people was executed. That is democracy. Democracy is not rule by unaccountable elites, the people reduced to election fodder and having no further say.

But, the overthrow of Morsi, has been hijacked by a military junta.

Attention was drawn to a letter from Bishop Mouneer Hanna Anis. This proved to be little more than a propaganda sheet for the brutal military junta, demonisation of the Muslim Brotherhood.

St Saviour’s need to be very careful that they are not being used as unwitting tools of the military junta.

Morsi supporters, and it is not only the Muslim Brotherhood, have every right to peaceful protest. The response of the junta, to massacre in cold blood several hundred peaceful protesters.

Yes, there has been attacks on Christians, on churches, but these attacks, pre-date the overthrow of Morsi, they are nothing new.

The slaughter of innocent protesters will have only one consequence, it will open the void for Islamic terrorists to step into.

We must hope, that the crimes against humanity being committed by the military junta, are documented and they are brought to justice, in the meantime, all Egyptians must unite to overthrow the junta, otherwise Egypt will descend into bloody civil war.

Coverage of Tahrir Square by mainstream media was poor. Post-overthrow of Morsi much better.

For good coverage turn to Democracy Now, Russia Today and Al Jazeera. On twitter follow Sharif Kouddous.

The pastor leading the service, invited Andrew White to join him, and they discussed what had led Andrew White to where he is today, leading a church in Iraq.

Andrew explained his interest in the Middle East had started when he studied at an ultra-Orthodox university in Israel.

Andrew White started from when he was a curate, then a vicar, and how he had then been asked to head the peace and reconciliation unit at Coventry Cathedral.

Formed out of the ashes of the bombed Coventry Cathedral, the focus had been Europe. Andrew refocused on the Middle East. He had acted as envoy for the then Archbishop of Canterbury, engaging in dialogue with Israelis and Palestinians and encouraging them to talk to each other.

Diagnosed with MS, he was asked to step down from what he was doing. His response was to take over the running of St George’s in Baghdad. His assistant was Justin Welby, now Archbishop of Canterbury.

The church costs over $175,000 a month to run. They have no money, no reserves. They rely entirely on donations, on people inviting Andrew to talk at their church, on buying his books.

The money given on Sunday, and during the week, will all go to FRRME (of which Andrew White is the Founding President).

The church has a school, a medical clinic, feeding programmes, all paid for through donations. All the programmes the church runs are free to all.

Beside the work at the church, Andrew acts as Embassy Chaplain, works on peace and reconciliation between the various factions, advises on security.

FRRME was formed to support the work in Iraq and the Middle East.

Following the reading of the lesson, Andrew White was asked to give the sermon.

Andrew started by blessing the congregation in Ameraic, the language used by Jesus, and the language still used in the Iraqi Church.

His theme was Matthew 24:6-8

You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

For people of Guildford, words in the Bible, for people of Iraq, daily occurrence.

There are rumours of war, there is war, there is bombing, there is killing.

Of the church over 1,250 have been killed.

When people have lost everything they have everything.

The church in Iraq is filled with joy.

To love your friends is easy. We have to learn to love those who are our enemies.

Andrew was once kidnapped. When he looked around, he saw severed fingers and toes.

He has to deal with his friends, who bomb and kill.

When dealing with one of he founders of Hamas, he invited him to dinner. He convinced him to work with a rabbi. When accused of being a Zionist, the founder of Hamas said no, he was walking the path of peace and reconciliation, a very difficult path to walk.

Often asked: How do you deal with Muslims? Easy we love them, we welcome them. The church is over 6,000 people, of which over 600 are Muslim.

When you love can also be very painful, when you see the people you love killed.

Andrew has three adopted Iraqi children. One, Lina, now also his personal assistant, has recently become engaged.

The service lasted almost two hours, but it seemed much shorter. I have known half hour service seem longer.

Too many people spend their lives griping about their lives and never getting off their backsides. Andrew is the exact opposite, faces danger every day, sees more tragedy in a day than most people would see in their lifetime, and yet, he is full of hope, full of joy, and always willing to take risks.

He said when people shake hands and say take care, no, they should shakes hands and and say take risks.

It is unfortunate the service was not filmed. As much my fault as I did not think to ask. It has at least been recorded, or at least the sermon recorded, and possibly the exchange at the beginning. This will be available on the church website.

Andrew then signed books:

I gave Andrew a copy of Manuscript Found in Accra. He said he enjoyed Aleph. He asked me did Paulo Coelho know the new Pope? I said I did not think so, but at a press conference in Athens, Paulo Coelho had been asked two questions, his thoughts on the Catholic Church and of the new Pope. He said there was much wrong with the Catholic Church and that he had high hopes of the new Pope implementing much needed reform.

I also gave Andrew a letter I have had in possession for many months, which a lady had entrusted me to give to him.

A chat with Andrew.

I came away with several signed copies of his latest book, Father, Forgive, one for me, the others I will have pleasure in giving away.

Next year, Andrew is to be awarded the William Wilberforce Prize.

The ideology behind Lee Rigby’s murder is profound and dangerous. Why don’t we admit it?: Tony Blair launches a brave assault on Muslim extremism after Woolwich attack

June 3, 2013

There is only one view of the murder of Lee Rigby: horrific. But there are two views of its significance.

One is that it is the act of crazy people, motivated in this case by a perverted idea about Islam, but of no broader significance.

Crazy people do crazy things. So don’t overreact.

The other view is that this act was indeed horrible; and that the ideology which inspired it is profound and dangerous.

I am of this latter view.

So of course we shouldn’t overreact. We didn’t after July 7, 2005. But we did act. And we were right to. The actions by our security services will undoubtedly have prevented other serious attacks.

The ‘Prevent’ programme in local communities was sensible. The new measures of the Government seem reasonable and proportionate.

However, we are deluding ourselves if we believe that we can protect this country simply by what we do here. The ideology is out there. It isn’t diminishing.

Consider the Middle East. As of now, Syria is in a state of accelerating disintegration. President Assad is brutally pulverising communities hostile to his regime. At least 80,000 have died. The refugees now total more than one million. The internally displaced are more than four million.

Many in the region believe that the Assad intention is to ethnically cleanse the Sunni from the areas dominated by his regime and then form a separate state around Lebanon. There would then be a de facto Sunni state in the rest of Syria, cut off from the wealth of the country or the sea.

The Syrian opposition is made up of many groups. The fighters are increasingly the Al Qaeda- affiliated group Jabhat al-Nusra. They are winning support, and arms and money from outside the country.

So I understand the desire to look at this world and explain it by reference to local grievances, economic alienation and of course ‘crazy people’. But are we really going to examine it and find no common thread, nothing that joins these dots, no sense of an ideology driving or at least exacerbating it all?

There is not a problem with Islam. For those of us who have studied it, there is no doubt about its true and peaceful nature. There is not a problem with Muslims in general. Most in Britain will be horrified at Lee Rigby’s murder.

But there is a problem within Islam – from the adherents of an ideology that is a strain within Islam. And we have to put it on the table and be honest about it.

Of course there are Christian extremists and Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu ones. But I am afraid this strain is not the province of a few extremists. It has at its heart a view about religion and about the interaction between religion and politics that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies.

At the extreme end of the spectrum are terrorists, but the world view goes deeper and wider than it is comfortable for us to admit. So by and large we don’t admit it. This has two effects. First, those with that view think we are weak and that gives them strength.

Second, those within Islam – and the good news is there are many – who actually know this problem exists and want to do something about it, lose heart. All over the Middle East and beyond there is a struggle being played out.

On the one side, there are Islamists who have this exclusivist and reactionary world view. They are a significant minority, loud and well organised. On the other are the modern-minded, those who hated the old oppression by corrupt dictators and who hate the new oppression by religious fanatics. They are potentially the majority, but unfortunately they are badly organised.

The seeds of future fanaticism and terror, possibly even major conflict, are being sown. We have to help sow seeds of reconciliation and peace. But clearing the ground for peace is not always peaceful.

The long and hard conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have made us wary of any interventions abroad. But we should never forget why they were long and hard. We allowed failed states to come into being.

Saddam was responsible for two major wars, in which hundreds of thousands died, many by chemical weapons. He killed similar numbers of his own people.

The Taliban grew out of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and made the country into a training ground for terror. Once these regimes were removed, both countries have struggled against the same forces promoting violence and terror in the name of religion everywhere.

Not every engagement need be military; or where military, involve troops. But disengaging from this struggle won’t bring us peace.

Neither will security alone. We resisted revolutionary communism by being resolute on security; but we defeated it by a better idea: Freedom. We can do the same with this.

The better idea is a modern view of religion and its place in society and politics. There has to be respect and equality between people of different faiths. Religion must have a voice in the political system but not govern it.

We have to start with how to educate children about faith, here and abroad. That is why I started a foundation whose specific purpose is to educate children of different faiths across the world to learn about each other and live with each other.

We are now in 20 countries and the programmes work. But it is a drop in the ocean compared with the flood of intolerance taught to so many. Now, more than ever, we have to be strong and we have to be strategic.

— Tony Blair

This self-justifying stomach churning garbage from war criminal Tony Blair was originally published in The Mail on Sunday. From the comments on-line, it was more than even Mail readers could stomach.

The Woolich killings can be see in two different lights. Either a senseless killing on the streets, no different apart from its brutality to other street killings, or an act of terrorism.

It was treated as the latter by David Cameron, which has the downside of elevating the killers to martyrs. Though if David Cameron had not reacted as he did, and it was the start of a wave of killings, he would have been rightly criticised.

How does a war criminal become a Middle East Envoy? One only has to look at Iraq today, to see the legacy of Tony Blair.

The Blair article is riddled with errors.

Do many in the Middle East believe the aim of Butcher Assad is to cleanse the region of Sunni Muslims? Yes, it has descended into sectarian violence, as has Iraq (the Blair legacy), but that is not how it started. It started with Assad gunning down peaceful protesters. Only later did the opponents of this repressive regime take up arms to defend themselves. And shame on Putin for supporting Assad.

Blair claims Assad has used chemical weapons. What is his evidence? The UN says there is suspicion, but have not been allowed in to collect evidence.

Blair claims he sees at first hand what is happening in the Middle East, and specifically Israeli occupied Palestine. He sees, does he, Israeli settlers destroying olive trees, of occupying land that is not theirs?

Blair claims the ‘Taliban grew out of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and made the country into a training ground for terror’. This is to completely rewrite history. The Americans provoked the then USSR to invade Afghanistan to create their own Vietnam. It was the CIA and MI6 and Pakistani ISI, with the help of Saudi money that created the Mujahideen to fight the Soviets, that morphed into the Taliban. Bin-Laden was our creation. The extreme form of Islam in Afghanistan was exported from Saudi Arabia, but still we arm the Saudis.

Blair claims Afghanistan was a terrorist training ground. It was not, but it is now, as is Iraq and many other parts of the world. The Taliban were willing to hand over Bin Laden, were they given the evidence to justify doing so. Afghanistan is now a major poppy producer, bogged down in corruption, women have no rights.

Blair mentions Pakistan, but does not mention the drone strikes by the Americans, and now the British, and the impact that is having. He does not mention the rampant corruption and cronyism in Pakistan.

There is a problem with Muslim extremism, that is not rooted in the Koran, with ignorant preachers of hate who should be kicked out of the country.

Young men are being fed poison in the Mosques, but what is then ignored by both the media and the mainstream political class, not just Blair, is self-brainwashing. Young men are fed poison in the Mosques, but they do not then have to watch videos on the net (though there are many to watch), they simply watch the mainstream news. They see the drone strikes in Pakistan, they see the ethnic cleansing and genocide committed by Israel against Palestinians, a few like the Glasgow car bombing, the 7/7 London Bombings, the brutal killing on the streets of Woolwich, are spurred to act, to attack what they see as the enemy slaughtering fellow innocent Muslims.

For nearly a decade, the British security services have been warning governments about the growth of terrorism as a result of disaffection in relation to the Afghan and Iraq wars. Former head of MI5 Dame Eliza Manningham Buller told the Chilcot inquiry that she had given such a warning to Tony Blair’s government over Iraq. We have evidence from these latest attackers and from those previously charged with terrorist offences that the wars are one of their major grievances.

Our wars, have destabilised large parts of the world, turning them into terrorist training grounds, into which head brainwashed angry young men, who came back primed and loaded as killing machines.


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