Iraqi doctor and political activist Dr. Salam Ismael, the general secretary of Doctors for Iraq Society, has been denied a visa to enter Canada. Dr. Ismael had been planning a Canadian speaking tour organized by the Canadian Peace Alliance and the Toronto-Gatineau coalition Together Against the War/Ensemble Contre la Guerre to report on conditions currently facing occupied Iraqis, and to recount his experience of the U.S. siege and massacre of Fallujah (known as "Operation Phantom Fury"), in November of last year (see his article in Socialist Worker: "Fallujah:The Truth at Last" at www.socialistworker.co.uk).

The grounds for the decision to deny Dr. Ismael the visa seem spurious, to put it mildly: Dr. Ismael, who is 28 years old, was told that his application for a visa had been rejected because he had “insufficient employment opportunities in his home country (Iraq)” and therefore posed a risk to stay in Canada. A particularly ironic statement, given the Canadian government's participation in the decimation of Iraqi civil society over the last 15 years, of which widespread unemployment is but one symptom. But clearly, political reasons motivate the Canadian government to refuse Dr. Ismael entry into the country (Dr. Ismael was also denied entry into Britain earlier this year, again on questionable grounds. The U.K.-based Stop the War Coalition is taking legal action against this political censorship). The Canadian and British governments seem to consider Dr. Ismael a threat to national insecurity and to the success of the continuing Anglo-American occupation of Iraq. After all, Dr. Ismael has been witness to the violation of human rights and the commission of war crimes, under the Geneva convention by U.S. forces.

Most recently, he has been speaking out about the actions of U.S. military in Haditha and Al Qa'im, west Iraq, where “an urgent humanitarian crisis is unfolding ... US soldiers have conducted simultaneous military operations in cities across the area. Between May-June 2005 the heaviest of these attacks took place in the cities of Haditha and Al Qa’im. These cities and surrounding villages are home to an estimated 300,000 people. Eyewitness and medical personnel in the area have described how US soldiers prevented food and medication reaching Haditha and Al Qa’im and targeted the cities’ two main hospitals, medical staff, and ambulances. US soldiers violated the Geneva Convention and international law by preventing civilians from accessing healthcare. Eyewitness reported at least one patient being shot dead in his bed on a hospital ward. Doctors were prevented from assisting patients and civilians in need. A number of doctors and medical personnel were killed in the attack and others were arrested by US forces in the hospital. They were later released, along with the hospital manager who was detained for two days. The huge military operation in the area has caused widespread damage and an unknown number of civilians were killed and injured during the attack. Video footage shot by doctors shows a badly damage medical store in the Haditha hospital and damaged surgical theatres. The medical store contained medicine and equipment for all hospitals and medical centers in the west of Iraq. Staff and patients say the damage was carried out by ‘by violent and barbaric US soldiers’." (Doctors for Iraq Society quoted in Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter at www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk)

Meanwhile, according to CBC radio, after the largest demonstration in Scotland's history was held on July 2 (in which more than 250,000 people participated) Scottish police has "cancelled" the anti-G8 demonstration planned at Gleneagles today, reportedly because of damage to property for which "anarchist" factions in the last rally are being blamed. How easily fundamental civil rights - like the right to association and assembly, the right to free speech, and the right to occupy public space - are trumped by the precious rights of a few broken BMW windows, and all this in one of the west's leading "democracies"! So much for appealing to the good conscience of Tony Blair et al to "make poverty history"; instead, under his watch, the G8 machinery is continuing to make dissent history.

What's also interesting is the convergence between the critique of liberal anti-poverty politics (representatively, those of the Make Poverty History coalition) coming from socialist quarters, on the one hand, and the statements coming from G8 leaders and their aids, on the other, chastising "naive" demonstrators for expecting fundamental change in Africa to come from the G8 meeting - "you can't do it in one summit," says Tony Blair (you certainly can't - especially if you aren't planning to "do it" at all); "if I was to say that I was going to cure all the evils of the world in one Summit, no that would be an exaggeration", concedes Blair, but " I think we are getting there on Africa...I am optimistic we will make progress". But what, precisely, constitutes "progress"? Forget aid and debt relief, the west should be paying reparations for centuries of colonialism; forced deportation; indenturement and slavery; for the decimation of languages and cultural groups; for the role the partition of Africa has played in conflicts since "decolonization"; and for the destructive economic and social effects of the forced liberalization of markets as a condition of IMF loans and international aid. Blair is at his most despicable when he claims that "the world, rightly, looks to the G8 to show leadership on Africa". In fact, what the world wants is an end to Anglo-American neocolonialism in Africa and globally, and an end to imperialist wars and occupations. 250,000 people in Edinburgh declared this (in however inchoate a way) a couple of days ago. 10 million people on five continents declared this on the eve of the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. That you can't eliminate all the world's "evils" in one G8 summit is indisputable: especially since eight of the world's evils are the G8, safely ensconced by a wall of steel and wire and riot police, plotting how to secure their Empire, predicated on the domination of the very people whom they claim look to them for "guidance". (To read the full interview with Blair, by John Lloyd of The Financial Times take a look at the official G8 website at http://www.g8.gov.uk -- but it's really just more of the same.)


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