Monthly Archives: July 2010

Global Warming Increases, And So Does Scepticism

Greenland Kangerlussuaq icesheet

The US Government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA] has released data showing June 2010 to have been globally the warmest June sine its records began in 1880. NOAA has combined data from land and oceanic records to produce a global mean temperature. This was 16.2°C [61.1°F], 4% higher than the twentieth century average of 15.5°C. This June data follows the warmest January to June period on record and sets up 2010 to be the warmest year since records began.

Reflecting this warming trend, Arctic sea ice was 10% below the 1979-2000 average with the lowest recorded June coverage. Conversely, the Antarctic showed an 8% increase in ice cover, a point that will be seized on by sceptics who will ignore the Arctic data. This growth in Antarctic ice is a reflection of the switch from El Nino to La Nina conditions in the Pacific resulting in cold-water conditions in the southern oceans.

The June data conforms to a warming trend stretching back to the 1940’s with a decreasing number of years recording mean temperatures below the long-term average. Since 1985, there have been 304 consecutive months in which the global land-sea temperature has been above the twentieth century average. This trend is highlighted by the fact that the ten warmest years have occurred in the last 15 years.

During the last decade, solar output has been unusually low, with periods when there has been no sunspot activity. During a solar minimum, global temperatures should cool because of increased cloud cover, triggered by an increase in non-solar cosmic particles hitting the high atmosphere, [the cloud-chamber effect]. The steady rise in temperatures during a solar minimum blows another hole in the arguments of the sceptics.

So why is it that, at the same time as the scientific evidence for man-made change becomes ever stronger, we are witnessing an increase in climate change scepticism? In the New York Times on May 24, Elisabeth Rosenthal observed:

“Last month hundreds of environmental activists crammed into an auditorium here [in Britain] to ponder an anguished question: If the scientific consensus on climate change has not changed, why have so many people turned away from the idea that human activity is warming the planet?” (Rosenthal, ‘Climate Fears Turn to Doubts Among Britons,’ New York Times, May 24, 2010; (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/25/ science/earth/25climate.html)

The change in public opinion, Rosenthal noted, has been most striking in Britain, which has become “a home base for a thriving group of climate skeptics who have dominated news reports in recent months, apparently convincing many that the threat of warming is vastly exaggerated”.

A BBC survey in February found that only 26 per cent of Britons believed that “climate change is happening and is now established as largely manmade,” down from 41 per cent in November 2009. A poll conducted for the German magazine Der Spiegel found that 42 per cent of Germans feared global warming, down from 62 per cent four years earlier. A Gallup poll in March found that 48 per cent of Americans believed that the seriousness of global warming was “generally exaggerated,” up from 41 per cent a year ago. (Ibid.) Rosenthal cited newly sceptical members of the public:

“Before, I thought, ‘Oh my God, this climate change problem is just dreadful,’ said Jillian Leddra, 50, a musician who was shopping in London on a recent lunch hour. ‘But now I have my doubts, and I’m wondering if it’s been overhyped.’”

Up to this point, Rosenthal’s analysis was reasonable enough. But this was her explanation of the change in public opinion:

“Here in Britain, the change has been driven by the news media’s intensive coverage of a series of climate science controversies unearthed and highlighted by skeptics since November. These include the unauthorized release of e-mail messages from prominent British climate scientists at the University of East Anglia that skeptics cited as evidence that researchers were overstating the evidence for global warming and the discovery of errors in a United Nations climate report.”

Rosenthal’s account is deceptive because it portrays climate scepticism, and media enthusiasm for climate scepticism, as naturally occurring phenomena, as if they simply are. But this is a lie. In fact, the public debate on climate is massively tilted in favour of the corporate interests that have long fought environmental responsibility tooth and nail. Environmental journalist Andy Rowell – author of Green Backlash and co-founder of Spinwatch (www.spinwatch.org) – offers a brief summary of the corporate stance on climate change:

“In the late 1960s, the leading PR company Hill and Knowlton, advising the tobacco industry on how to confront its critics over health, argued that doubt was the product they should use: ‘The most important type of story is that which casts doubt in the cause and effect theory of disease and smoking.’ Eye-grabbing headlines were needed and ‘should strongly call out the point – Controversy! Contradiction! Other Factors! Unknowns!’

“Since the Sixties, the tobacco industry have continued their attempts to maintain the controversy. Their documents are peppered with statements such as ‘no clinical evidence’, ‘no substantial evidence’, ‘no laboratory proof’, ‘and unresolved’. Nothing has been ‘statistically proven’, there is no ‘scientific proof’.

The techniques pioneered by the tobacco industry in the 1960’s have now been successfully adopted by the climate sceptics. To quote Andy Rowell again:

“‘Creating controversy’ is precisely what the fossil fuel industry and its spin-doctors have done on climate change. The longer they can throw doubt on the issue, the more we carry on burning fossil fuels and the more money they make. Simple. So a small number of fossil fuel-funded think tanks and scientists have managed to create doubt over the scientific consensus of climate change for nearly two decades. They have been joined by a small group of right-wing ideologues, who are opposed to climate change on political grounds.

“The mainstream media continue to give these sceptics air-time in the name of balance, but do not tell an unsuspecting public that many are fossil-fuel funded, politically opposed, or even have no scientific credentials. So no wonder the public are confused. Like the corporate media, (which take significant money off the fossil fuel industry) many people do not want to change their behaviour, so it is reassuring for everyone when a sceptic throws doubt on climate change. This is compounded by parts of the right-wing media which are running what is effectively a misinformation campaign on climate.” (Rowell, email to David Edwards of MediaLens.org, May 27, 2010)

The website Campaign Against Climate Change reports:

“It has recently been revealed that Koch Industries, a little-known, privately owned US oil company, paid nearly US$50 million to climate denial groups and individuals between 1997 and 2008. In a similar period Exxon Mobil paid out around $17 to $23 million.” (http://www.campaigncc.org/sceptics)

As the website notes, the manufactured ‘Climategate’ ‘scandal’ of autumn 2009, mentioned by Rosenthal – in which emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) were illegally hacked and published – was a nonsense. Sir Muir Russell, a senior civil servant who led a six-month inquiry into the affair, said recently:

“Ultimately this has to be about what they did, not what they said. The honesty and rigour of CRU as scientists are not in doubt… We have not found any evidence of behaviour that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments.”  (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jul/08/muir-russell-climategate-climate-science)

Myles Allen, head of the climate dynamics group at the University of Oxford, commented:

“What everyone has lost sight of is the spectacular failure of mainstream journalism to keep the whole affair in perspective. Again and again, stories are sexed up with arch hints that these ‘revelations’ might somehow impact on the evidence for human impact on climate. Yet the only error in actual data used for climate change detection to have emerged from this whole affair amounted to a few hundredths of a degree in the estimated global temperature of a couple of years in the 1870s.” (Ibid.)

Rosenthal’s article was titled, ‘Climate Fears Turn to Doubts Among Britons.’ Even if we accept this ‘turn’ at face value, honest analysis of why these fears have turned to doubt, demands that we consider the deepest forces empowering climate scepticism. It is public opinion that is being manipulated, not the scientific data. Sceptics now have the upper hand in Parliament with a majority of Conservative MP’s leaning towards this viewpoint. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/feb/07/climate-scepticism-grows-tories)

The message is clear: be sceptical of climate scepticism, and act now on climate change. The longer we wait to take effective action, the more the planet will warm. A 2°C rise will be uncomfortable and will strain the global economy, but we are online for a rise of over twice this, resulting in conditions that human beings have never experienced in their history, conditions in which we will struggle to survive. We can avert this, but only if we act now, together. Please consider joining the Green Party.

Thanks to MediaLens.org for the sections on scepticism

The Green New Deal

The Green Party Manifesto offered the electorate an economic programme that would reduce our national debt without cutting vital public services.  This programme is the Green New Deal. It is a response to the triple crisis that the world now faces:

  • A financial crisis caused by the uncontrolled speculation of international bankers, including many based in the City of London, interested in quick profits, rather than sustainable development, creating a financial bubble, which was bound to burst and did.
  • An energy crisis as the supply of oil peaks, and remaining reserves become more damaging and dangerous and expensive to extract.
  • A climate crisis driven by burning fossil fuels, resulting in increased global temperatures, threatening the very survival of humanity.

The Green New Deal proposed a major investment in energy conservation and renewable energy, creating thousands of sustainable jobs.  It proposed the serious regulation of the financial sector to prevent the reckless behaviour that led to the financial crisis, while ensuring that low cost finance was available for the construction of a low carbon economy.

The Green Party showed in its manifesto that it is possible to reduce our deficit while putting more people to work, protecting public services, and ensuring that the tax burden falls on those who can afford to pay.

Caroline Lucas, newly elected Green Party MP in Brighton, has spoken out against the economic destruction threatened by the ConDem government’s budget:

Cuts are not an economic inevitability.  They are an ideological choice. Politicians of all parties are now sharpening their axes to slash public spending, forcing those on lower incomes, who depend on public services the most, to pay the highest price for the recent excesses of the bankers.

That’s the challenge I’m issuing: for that political choice to be made.  It must be clearly asserted that we are not “all in this together”: that some had more responsibility for this crisis than others, and some benefited more from the boom that preceded it. Those who enjoyed the largest benefits must pay up now.  There is a choice.  We should ask those best able to pay to foot the bill through fairer taxation.  For that to happen, fair taxes, not cuts, must become the new big idea to replace today’s callous and uncaring cuts fanaticism.”

Only The Green Party has the policies and principles required to address the problems facing Britain and the world in these dangerous times. Please consider joining the Green Party or making a donation.

New Eco-Community For Belper

Matlock based Wild Peak Housing Co-operative are in the process of purchasing 70 acres of land at Wyver Lane Nature Reserve from Amber Valley Borough Council which is currently leased and maintained by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.

Included in the sale is Lawn Cottage, shown here in the background, which plans to hold eight people but will need to be extended in order to accommodate everyone. It is hoped to have a thriving self-sustaining community, with renewable energy such as a wind turbine and solar panels.

One of the proposals includes on-site camping facilities for visitors, although, there are strict rules on what can and cannot be done on the land and the number of vehicles allowed to come down the narrow access road.

With good organisation and communication skills this could be a showcase to influence and encourage other Belper residents to follow and embrace a greener lifestyle.

The Price of Oil Addiction


This is the price we are paying for our near total dependence on oil.

Global consumption is approaching 86 million barrels per day, 2% up on 2009. Reserves are dwindling; new finds are becoming rare.  This is why the “Deepwater Horizon” exploration rig was drilling in mile deep water, stretching its technology to breaking point.

The ‘easy’ oil has gone.  Exploration and development has to turn to difficult and hazardous fields, some in politically unstable areas, others in ecologically sensitive areas.  Areas like the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, or off the coast of Brazil in mile and a half deep water.  Off Newfoundland amid icebergs and storms.  In the Niger Delta where civil war threatens.  In Iraq.  All of this is a symptom of ‘peak oil’.

And what is the response of our politicians and economists?  Consume, increase demand, burn more in the relentless pursuit of profit and power.

And the price we pay for this madness?  More ecological and human disasters.  More wars over resources.  More release of Carbon dioxide driving climate change.  Higher global temperatures.  All bad news for the future, just so we can cling on to our convenient lifestyle for a few years longer, just so today’s politicians can cling to power.

It doesn’t have to be like this.

The Green Party has proposed a series of policies that can deliver a good life-style for all, that will not cost the Earth.

•    Invest in demand reduction, insulation and energy efficiency.
•    Invest in renewable energy.
•    Invest in reuse and recycling.

All of this will create sustainable jobs, will help build a sustainable economy that is not held to ransom by the oil-men.

Help end our addiction nightmare, help build a sustainable society.

Support the Greens!

Please download and distribute our leaflet

Opposing Academies

The ConDem Government is inviting all schools in England to apply for Academy status. At the same time it has announced a 25% cut in the education budget. This places Head Teachers and their Governing bodies in an invidious position: either to accept swinging cuts in the annual budget, which will inevitably lead to loss of staff and threaten overall performance, or accept private sponsorship with a subsequent reduction in control over their schools.

Building upon the last Conservative government’s Grant Maintained schools, Academies are an ideologically-driven policy initiated by New Labour, once again slavishly copying what happens in America.  Academies are designed to take education provision out of the hands of democratically-elected local councils and hand it to private corporate bodies that need have no experience of running schools. Local Education Authority (LEA) budgets will be cut, to the detriment of those schools which remain within the LEA.

The smokescreen for this privatisation exercise is that Academies will raise standards. That is simply not true. If it were, standards of attainment in the USA would be above those of the UK and other European countries. They are not. Data collected by the Programme for International Student Assessment show consistently that standards of English and Maths are higher in the UK than in the US. Studies by the University of York And by the LSE have shown that, when Academies are compared with state schools, there is no difference in attainment. Where Academies do improve locally it is because of creaming-off the more able students; in other words, where they act like Grammar schools. Using Labour’s ill-considered academy policy, the ConDems are going to turn back the clock forty years and recreate a divisive two-tier educational system: Academies, [Grammar/Independent] schools for the top 10% and children of the affluent and a rump of poorly funded state schools for the rest.

The outcome? A more divided, less equal society.

The Green Party opposes the establishment of Academies. We want schools to have more independence over their budgets and curriculum and to be free of the political meddling of central government. We want teachers to have more power to evaluate the needs of their students, to be able to concentrate on delivering their curriculum rather than chasing paper and hitting externally set targets. We want schools to be able to work within their local community in cooperation with parents and representatives of that community so that they can provide for the educational needs of all within the community, including adults. We do not want to see external sponsors peddling their own commercial or faith-driven agenda, using their economic power to ride over the educational interests of the school and wider community.

To date, thirteen schools in Derbyshire have expressed an interest in applying for Academy status. They are already successful schools. They will gain little by way of educational attainment. Their motivation is fear of budget cuts. This regressive policy must be opposed.

Summary of the Bill

The Bill would enable more schools in England to become Academies. The Government expects a significant number of academies to open in September 2010, and for the number to grow each year. Academies would be funded at a comparable level to maintained schools but would also get their share of central funding that local authorities used to spend on their behalf. Schools that apply to become academies would be allowed to keep any surplus balances that they hold. There would be no expansion of selection but grammar schools and other schools which select or partially select pupils would be able to continue to do so.

Key areas

  • enables all maintained schools to apply to become academies, with schools rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted being pre-approved
  • allows maintained primary and special schools to apply to become academies in their own right
  • gives the Secretary of State the power to issue an academy order requiring the local authority to cease to maintain the school
  • removes the requirement to consult the local authority before opening an academy
  • requires the consent of any existing foundation (mainly churches) before a school applies to become an academy (and prohibits the religious character changing during the conversion to academy)
  • deems academy trusts to be exempt charities.

The Crisis In Afghanistan

This week we registered a new stage of crisis for the NATO occupation of Afghanistan.

The dismissal of General McChrystal by President Obama is not a case of personal animosity, or of military arrogance towards civilians, although these factors undoubtedly are present. At the heart of the incident is a conflict of policy.

Last year, at the time of Obama’s review of US strategy in Afghanistan, McChrystal suggested that there should be an immediate deployment of 40,000 of troops, and a further 40,000 after that. The assumption was that an extended occupation was necessary. This was in line with the views of Senator General John McCain, who had spoken of an occupation that could last a 100 years.

In response, Obama agreed a surge of 30,000 additional troops. But in a concession to domestic concerns, Obama stated that by July 2011 a process of withdrawal would commence.

In practice then, McChrystal has been carrying out a policy that he did not agree with. But the implementation of the Obama policy was by a plan jointly drawn up by McChrystal, and his replacement, General Petraeus.

In his West Point speech in December 2009, Obama outlined the 3 themes which made up the new US strategy: “…..a military effort to create the conditions for a transition; a civilian surge that re-enforces positive action; and an effective partnership with Pakistan”.

Six months on, all three elements seem to be failing. The military effort involved a combination of counter insurgency with the “Afghanisation” of security by a massive build up of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP).

The counter insurgency operation had its first big test in Operation Moshtarak where the aim was to inflict a defeat on the Taliban in the area around Marjah. Despite the deployment of 15,000 NATO troops and five brigades of Afghan forces, no effective engagement was achieved with the Taliban.

A spokesman for the Taliban said: “We have withdrawn tactically from some areas. We never flee”. TheTaliban claimed minimum causalities, despite the strength of the deployment against them.

Counter insurgency theory suggests that one solider is necessary for every 50 civilans in an area of operation. The area of operations in Marjah had a population of around 30,000. This operation involved a ratio of one solider for every two civillans, and was still ineffective.

McChrystal had notoriously claimed that after a military victory in Marjah, he had a replacement local government “in the box” which could be established to counter a return of the Taliban.

Three months after victory has been declared, the Taliban remains active in the area; McChrystal has characterised Marjah as “a bleeding ulcer”; and a stable local government remains “in the box”.

Nor has the process of the “Afghanisation” of security registered any success. The ANP is known to be corrupt and demoralised. McChrystal stated that only 25% had received any basic training.

However, the army was supposedly a more effective organisation. Yet on June 14th 2010, a Time Magazine report found:

“9 out of 10 Afghan enlisted recruits can’t read a rifle instruction manual or drive a car, according to NATO trainers. The officers corps is fractured by rivalries; Soviet-era veterans vs. the former mujahedin rebels who fought them in the 1980s, Tajiks vs. Uzbeks, Hazaras and Pashtuns. Commanders routinely steal their enlisted men’s salaries. Soldiers shake down civilians at road checkpoints and sell off their own American-supplied boots, blankets and guns at the bazaar – sometimes to the Taliban. Afghans, not surprisingly, run when they see the army coming.

Recruits tend to go AWOL after their first leave, while one-quarter of those who stay in service are blitzed on hashish or heroin according to an internal survey carried out by the Afghan National Army(ANA). One NATO major from Latvia stationed in the north, complained to a Time video team that when a battalion’s combat tour was extended, three Afghan officers shot themselves in the foot to get medevacked out.”

At the time when no military progress is being made, there can be no reinforcement via a “civilian surge”. There have been no increase in NGO or NATO reconstruction on the ground. One anecdote best illustrates this. All the tabloid and broad sheet newspapers in Britain, extensively covered the operation by the British Army to deliver a turbine to the Kajaki dam which would mean, we were told, the people of Kandahar receiving hydro electric power.

In its June 26th issue, months after the operation, the Economist reports: “Alas the turbine dispatched for this purpose, in an operation involving 5,000 British troops, still lays in the Kajaki dirt, the Taliban having made it impossible to truck in cement to install it”.

And the third theme, the greater involvement of the Pakistan Government, and military, has not led to the border becoming more secure. Despite intense pressure from the US, the Pakistan military has not launched a major offensive in North Waziristan.

But there are many signs of Pakistan assuming a greater influence, independently of the US Government. A spokesman for the Pakistani Army, Major General Athar Abbas said “The American time table for getting out makes it easier for Pakistan to play a more visible role”.

Indeed this assertiveness runs to the Pakistan Army outlining a policy which is decidedly out of line with US policy. A policy of negotiating peace with the insurgents is being actively pursued by the Pakistan Army.

In three trips to Kabul, Afghan officials have confirmed, that Pakistan Army General Kayani and General Pasha had offered to broker a peace deal involving the Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Haqqani fighting force. This is not what Obama had anticipated.

Can we expect a difference approach from Petraeus? Although he drew up the current plan with McChrystal, Petraeus is a position to move away from Obama’s compromise.

Of immediate concern must be that Petraeus may set aside McChrystal’s policy of “courageous restraint”. This placed limits upon NATO utilising night raids, bombing and pursuit into populated areas and villages.

Although the number of civilian causalities reached its highest point in 2009, this is down to the general increase in fighting. If Petraeus sets the policy aside, the first change that will be registered will be a further escalation in civilian causalities.

Petraeus has not ruled out an increase in troop numbers. McCain recently suggested a further 10,000 US troops may be necessary. All surge troops will be in Afghanistan by summer, amounting to 105,000 US troops and 48,000 from NATO allies. So additional troops will be on top of these numbers.

Petraeus is probably of the view that an extended occupation is necessary. When asked this week whether he supported the July 2011 drawdown date, he offered a “qualified yes”. Obviously he could not blatantly contradict Government policy, but the qualification did so implicitly.

Obama himself is moving away from his previous policy. On June 24th, when questioned about the deadline, he said: “we didn’t say we would be switching off the lights. We said we would begin a transition phrase that would allow the Afghan Government to take more and more responsibility”.

This wriggle away from the commitment runs counter to government policy. Vice President Jo Biden gave a recent interview where he said: “….in July of 2011 you are going to see a whole lot of people moving out. Bet on it”.

Obama and Petraeus had indicated that there would be a “strategic assessment” of policy in December 2010. In the meantime the crisis deepens. June 2010 was the deadliest month since the war began for NATO troops, 79 killed so far, in comparison to the previous record of 77 in August 2009.

There have also been serious set backs for Obama with the Afghan political process. The clearest expression of this is the weakened connection to the Afghan Government.

In April, within the space of a week, President Karzai met twice with President Ahmadinejad – of Iran – and once with representatives of the Chinese Government. This prompted an unscheduled flight by Obama to Kabul to meet Karzai. Iran and China are the two border states to Afghanistan that the US administration believes have no role in its future.

Karzai has also publicly claimed that the US tried to fix the presidential elections in 2009; claimed that the US fired rockets at his Peace Conference; said he might end up joining the Taliban; sacked the two most pro-US Ministers, intelligence Chief Amrullah Saleh and Interior Minister Hanif Atmar. These Ministers have been vocal in their public opposition to the Iranian and Pakistani Governments influence.

Karzai also lobbied Obama to retain McChrystal, presumably because he feared the loss of the “courageous restraint” policy.

In this growing assertiveness of Karzai and the Pakistan Government, we can see, albeit in a highly mediated manner, the strengthening of anti-imperialist forces in the region.

But if we are entering a new stage of crisis, there is no automatic resolution. The current issue of the Economist is titled “Losing Afghanistan”, this does not mean Afghanistan is yet lost for the occupiers. But it does mean that the anti-war movement must considerably step up its activity in Britain and the US.

There is the sense of growing disengagement internationally. The Netherlands Government are withdrawing their troops in August. The Canadian Government is committed to withdrawing combat troops by next summer. On Thursday 24th June, the acting President, and likely victor in Poland’s Presidential Election, Bronislaw Komorowski, asked the Polish Government to prepare for a Polish withdrawal by 2012. In all cases the US administration is seeking a reversal of policy.

In Britain, the election of the Coalition Government has brought out more in the open some tension about the future of the intervention.

From the point of view of the Coalition, there is a hole of £36 billion in the defence budget in the next decade. This in itself is a prompt for examining an intervention in Afghanistan which is running at around £5 billion a year.

But the Conservatives have always had a more pragmatic and business like attitude to colonial wars. This comes from the hundreds of years of accumulated experience of colonialism which exists in the Tory party. Labour politicians are much more concerned about ridiculous issues like being seen as unpatriotic, or weak on defence.

Consequently, the last couple of months have seen the first signs of real disquiet in Government. At the end of May, The Independent on Sunday quoted “senior military sources” as saying that talks were underway with US Commanders on scaling down the British commitment to war.

On the 9th May, the Times published the conclusions of an investigation with senior military figures, politicians and civil servants on the move of British troops to the south of Afghanistan in 2006.

The report said that the MOD and Whitehall departments had grossly under-estimated the threat from the Taliban. Warnings of inadequate troop numbers had also been ignored.

The original move was to send 3,300 troops to Helmand for 3 years and at a cost of a billion pounds. John Reid famously said, from military opinion given, that they would be able to leave: “without a shot being fired”. Four years later there are 8,000 British troops in place, along side 20,000 US Marines, with hundreds of causalities.

This sense of disquiet exists amongst Tory MP’s. Last year, Adam Holloway MP, in a report, wrote of an “ill conceived mission” and that “attempts to impose a central Government…..are over ambitious and likely to fail”.

Recently, Patrick Mercer MP said that it is “unsustainable for this number of troops to be in Afghanistan and Pakistan for an indefinite period”. This is true of course, but also is an admission of British Special Forces operating inside Pakistan.

Julian Lewis MP a former Shadow Defence Secretary, has spoken of “…..pointless patrols creating target practice for the Taliban”.

It is clear this disquiet is having an impact upon the Coalition Government too. In early June, Cameron held a strategy review. He has since ruled out increasing the number of British troops – a statement of inflexibility which reeks of concern about the future.

Cameron has also indicated that withdrawal from next year may be possible, in line with Obama’s initial policy. Cameron stated that Britain “cannot be there in 5 years times”, further reinforcing the impression of disquiet about the future.

The most obvious expression of policy tension in the Government came on a trip to Kabul by Ministers. Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary said “we are not in Afghanistan for the sake of the education of a broken 13th century country. We are there to see our global interests are not threatened”.

This clearly came as news to Andrew Mitchell, the Development Secretary, who said at the same time “….providing basic education and health care facilities was crucial”.

The lack of coherence in the coalition Government is likely to become more pronounced as the crisis of the occupation becomes more apparent.

The Parliamentary Labour Party continues to lag behind the deepening crisis. Some on the right of the party, such as Eric Joyce MP and Denis MacShane MP, have realised how hopeless the intervention now is. But, of the potential leaders of the party, it is only Diane Abbott who has clearly called for withdrawal.

Yet the anti-war movement must be aware of how vital it is to increase its activity. Parliament is full of new MPs, many of whom can be placed under real pressure by organised lobbying.

In the coming weeks, facing a potential offensive in Kandahar, and perhaps a more aggressive pursuit of military goals, the anti-war movement is necessary now more than ever.

Support the Green Party and the Stop The War coalition.