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13 July 2006 Edition

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Fifth Column

Bono's mercenary Venezuela venture

Bono may be winning plaudits for his humanitarian efforts from the likes of reggae legend Bob Marley's wife, Rita, but the U2 songster's latest business venture has a distinctly pro-capitalist edge aimed at undermining Hugo Chavez's socialist government in Venezuela.

Bono's fortune (and U2 fans' cash) is helping market a new shoot-em-up video war game, Mercenaries 2: World in Flames.

Created by Pandemic/Bioware Studios of Los Angeles, it simulates a mercenary invasion of Venezuela in the year 2007.

Pandemic is a sub-contractor for the US Army and the CIA-funded Institute for Creative Technologies, which uses Hollywood techniques to mount war simulations in California's high desert in order to conduct military training.

So no prizes for guessing who the makers think the good guys are.

Bono's Caracas

Mercenaries 2: World in Flames simulates massive destruction in downtown Caracas and threatens to leave no part of Venezuela untouched by the marauding mercs.

The Venezuela Solidarity Network says:

"Elevation Partners is an investment firm that Bono helped create in order to exploit marketing opportunities between U2 and its fans, including projects from Pandemic/Bioware Studios.

"Pandemic states that as a partner in Elevation Partners, Bono 'has visibility into all projects at Pandemic and Bioware'."

Pandemic insists that Mercenaries 2: World in Flames is "a work of fictional entertainment" and "Venezuela was chosen for the setting of Mercenaries 2 [because it] is a fascinating and colourful country full of wonderful architecture, geography and culture" (a curious rationale for a game whose raison d'être is to blow Venezuela to bits).

'Mercenaries 3: Dublin in flames'

Chuck Kaufman, of the US-based Alliance for Global Justice, adds:

"If it's 'just a game' and it's all about selecting fascinating and colourful locales, why didn't Pandemic select Dublin or Washington DC? Because people would be outraged, that's why.

"Pandemic is simply capitalising on negative and inaccurate US press stories about Venezuela and its leader, Hugo Chavez, in order to make a quick buck.

"It's another piece of anti-Venezuelan propaganda that serves only the US military, pure and simple."

The normally publicity-savvy Bono has yet to comment.

TD's taxing credibility

Limerick West TD Michael Collins, charged with tax dodging and facing a possible five-year jail sentence after a three-year probe by the Garda National Fraud Bureau, is now supposed to be an 'Independent Fianna Fáil' member since he resigned the party whip two years ago.

So why did his website still bear the official Fianna Fáil party logo last week?

Was it because big brother Gerry Collins (a former justice minister and foreign affairs minister in the 1970s and 1980s) is still a big wheel in the Bertie brigade or because son Niall will be the official candidate for Fianna Fáil to step into daddy's shoes come the next general election?

UUP feels UVF convictions

Two Liverpool UVF men were jailed in England last week on UVF membership, arms and explosives charges.

Roy Barwise (47) and John Irwin (43), both from Anfield, were part of the Liverpool Battalion of the UVF and senior members of the UVF, Manchester Crown Court heard.

Barwise and Irwin were picked up after over the discovery of a UVF arms haul at the home of another Liverpool Orangeman, Alan Clair, in 2004. The raids followed the attempted assassination in England of renegade UDA leader Johnny Adair. Clair was later jailed for eight years for UVF membership and possession of weapons.

During the raid on Clair's house, Merseyside Police found thousands of rounds of ammunition, British Army flares and explosives.

Barwise was jailed last week for four and a half years; Irwin received a two-year sentence for membership of the UVF.

The UVF duo's convictions led the Ulster Unionist Party's entire Westminster parliamentary party (one Lady Sylvia Hermon MP) to again question UUP leader Reg Empey's joining forces with the UVF's political wing, the PUP, in the Assembly. Sylvie said:

"The UVF, we all know, is not on ceasefire, is a proscribed terrorist organisation that is not involved in decommissioning and is involved in crime.

"That is why I was most disappointed by Sir Reg Empey's decision to go and ally the UUP with the PUP in the Assembly on 15 May."

Yea, the (Ulster Volunteer) Force be with you, Reg.

UVF men in Order

Manchester Crown Court heard that "activities of the highly illegal UVF have been concealed by the lawful activity of Protestant unionism which operates under the banner of the Loyal Orange Lodges in Liverpool".

Despite that, the Grand Master of the Orange Order in England, Ron Bather, suggested the two men "may not have broken the laws of the institution" and will almost certainly be allowed to stay in the Orange Order. Brother Bather added:

"I am not glorifying paramilitarism but there might not be grounds to put them out of the Order."

But they did find grounds for disciplining another Orangeman for giving an interview to the BBC.

Grand Master Robert Saulters "was completely out of his depth", Orange Order member Colin Shilliday told the BBC after last year's riots following the Whiterock parade by the Orange Order.

For openly speaking his mind, Shilliday was suspended; for secretly storing guns and explosives, the UVF men will be allowed to hold on to their sashes.

Is that in order?

An Phoblacht Magazine


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