Weekly News Review

8th February, 2003


European Parliamentarians visit Iraq

Powell declaration "shameful and ridiculous"

A delegation of Euro-MPS visited Iraq this week to examine conditions there and express their solidarity with the Iraqi people. United Left group (GUE-NGL) leader Francis Wurtz, who headed the 32-strong delegation, said that the MEPs rejected US arguments for war and  criticised Wednesday's address to the UN Security Council by Bush junta henchman Colin Powell..


Commenting on Powell's bizarre performance. Mr Wurtz said that it was difficult to take seriously such a presentation to "a special UN Security Council meeting in the presence of many foreign affairs ministers and the heads of the UN inspectors, with such poor evidence to support his accusations."


"What Mr. Powell said about the link between Iraq and al-Qaeda is in total contradiction with the declarations of the experts of the CIA and the FBI two days ago that after investigations lasting a year they don't believe that there is such a link," he added.


Wurtz said the delegation was "representative of the large majority of Europeans who reject the war" and believe that "today there is no reason more than yesterday to accept any military action or preventive strike against Iraq. We want a complete disarmament of mass destruction weapons in Iraq, if they existed ... That is the mission of the UN inspectors not of the US army."


Wurtz stressed that "at the same time, we refuse any complicity with the Iraqi regime. The only chance for Iraq today is to co-operate totally. We are supporting the mission of the UN inspectors. They need time, they need information, they need co-operation."


The delegation, which met Iraqi and UN officials during their four-day trip, urged the United Nations and the European Union to lift sanctions imposed on Baghdad following its 1990 seizure of Kuwait.


Another member of the delegation, Alain Krivine, described Powell's antics as "shameful and ridiculous".


In Foreign Policy in Focus, Phyllis Bennis shares this view, saying that "Collin Powell's presentation wasn't likely to win over anyone not already on his side." Furthermore, "Hans Blix denied key components of Powell's claims". Read Powell's Dubious Case for War. here

Read Tony Benn's interview with Saddam Hussein, broadcast this week on the UK's Channel 4, at this website


Anti-War Demonstration Too Big for George Square

Organisers of the February 15th anti-war demonstration in Glasgow have had to change venue as the numbers expected to attend have become too large for George Square to hold.

The Scottish Coalition for Justice Not War have decided to change the assembly point for the demonstration to Glasgow Green after advice from Strathclyde Police that the traditional assembly point in George Square will not be big enough to hold the numbers expected.

Organisers expect over 20,000 people will attend a march and rally outside the Labour Party’s Spring Conference at the SECC on Saturday 15th February. Police and Glasgow City Council advice is that George Square is only big enough to hold 12,000 safely.

The Scottish Coalition are asking people to assemble on Glasgow Green between 10.00 and 11.00am to march in time to rally against a war on Iraq outside the Conference just as the Prime Minister Tony Blair addresses the 3,500 Labour Party delegates inside the Conference Centre. The march will move off from Glasgow Green at 11.00am and arrive at the SECC at 1.30pm.

Tony Blair is scheduled to start his speech at 2.00pm.

Elinor McKenzie, chair of the Scottish Coalition for Justice Not War said:

“Opposition to a war with Iraq is growing not going away. The demonstration on Saturday 15th February is set to be the largest demonstration of its kind in the last twenty years. We are being overwhelmed with an unprecedented number of requests for information and have already had to order additional leaflets to cope with the demand. Groups from all over Scotland are coming.

People from as far away as Orkney in the north and Manchester in England are planning transport to come and many anti-war groups in the north of England are coming to Glasgow instead of going to the demonstration being held in London on the same day. We expect the demonstration will deliver a message he cannot ignore to Tony Blair that an overwhelming majority of Scots believe war with Iraq will not be in our name.”

Invited speakers to the rally outside the SECC include Tony Benn; John Swinney; Provost Alex Mosson; the Moderator of the Church of Scotland; Tommy Sheridan and Arthur Scargill.

Demonstrators also plan to make noise with whistles, drums, airhorns in a ‘Jericho Rumpus’ at 2pm to drown out the start of Tony Blair’s speech.

More details and latest developments at www.banthebomb.org scnd@banthebomb.org

Finns don't want war either


An overwhelming majority of the Finnish people, very close to four-fifths of the population, are against a war on Iraq unless approved by the UN, and many would not support it then, according to a poll by Gallup which revealed that the war is rejected by a majority of almost all of the world's peoples. 44 percent did not approve military action under any conditions. A good third of the Finnish people would support a war only if it had United Nations approval. In almost all EU countries, 25% or less support the war, but the Finns, with only 5% support, are the least bloodthirsty or perhaps least gullible of Europeans.  The biggest warmongers are Romania (no comment, but how's the nice new national debt doing, guys?), Britain (whose government is a puppet of the Bush junta) and Denmark (where large swathes of the population seem lately to have taken leave of their senses - or perhaps some kind reader could write with a more scientific explanation as to why this country, which has a reputation for fair-mindedness, now has a Haideresque immigration policy and tail-ends the Bush junta's warmongering.). But nowhere does it reach half of the adult population.


Commenting on his country's league-topping anti-war statistic, Left Euro-MP Esko Seppänen said that "Finland has a long tradition of neutrality in its foreign policy. Membership of the EU obliged us to change our foreign policy status: we are no longer a neutral but a non-aligned country - we are not a member of any military union, neither Nato nor the WEU. The Finns have had a good collective experience of neutrality and non-alignment. Life has been politically and socially secure and the people want everything to continue in that way and don't see this war as a means of ensuring that." Mr Seppänen, who represents the Finnish Left Alliance, added that "The majority do not want our country to join the Nato. The political elite, however, is not good at resisting the pressure for alignment which comes through the militarisation of the EU and Nato-interoperability of its common defence. The great majority of the Finns against the oil war in Iraq is also a protest against our own elite. What people are saying is "Do not tie us into conflicts which are not ours." There is, however, always a danger that public opinion will change. If the general feeling of insecurity increases, the Finns may not want to be alone - not even against the war. The unilateralist Americans are not popular, but they have their friends even among the Finns. They have the a total command of sources of information, and this is their strongest weapon against us."

Q & A on Iraq


You know the war is very, very wrong; you know who the real terrorists are; you know that thousands, possibly millions of people are soon going to die horrible deaths so that Americans can carry on driving gas-guzzling cars. You'd just like more information so that you can better convince other people of these things.  In Understanding the US - Iraq Crisis: the World's Response, the UN & International Law, Phyllis Bennis gives 43 questions and answers on the current crisis, the history of U.S.-Iraq relations, and alternatives to war. It's just what you need to read if you find yourself tongue-tied in the face of the smooth-tongued, the brutal, and the smiling murderers who are leading us all into this terrible event. Read it



Green Left Weekly, Australia's socialist newspaper, this week tells its readers that "We can stop the war!".  To find out how, and read the latest on Australian and international affairs, go to this website



European Day of Action against GATS

According to the Financial Times, the European Commission, which met this week in Brussels, was expected to bow to political and popular concern about public services, by ruling out

talks in the Doha World Trade Round on further liberalisation of its health, education, energy and water markets.

Although the officials insisted that many of the activists' allegations about the World Trade Organisation's role in regulating public services were exaggerated or wrong, they said they wanted to avoid fuelling the controversy.

But trade unions and civil society organisations are not satisfied. This Sunday, 9 February, anti-GATS activists are coming from all over Europe to join hands in protesting the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services. For more information on this activity, the European Campaign against GATS and the liberalisation of trade in services in general, see the GATSwatch website.


UK Trade Union leader says public services would be damaged in the euro


The General Secretary of one of Britain's biggest trade unions, Bill Morris of the Transport and General Workers' Union has responded to attempts by government minister Peter Mandelson to claim that the euro would be good for public services, arguing that joining the euro would actually damage public services.


In a letter to the Independent, Mr Morris wrote, “Has Mr Mandelson forgotten the impact of the growth and stability pact on the German economy? Perhaps he can tell me why the euro has not helped public services in Germany, where the government is now planning to cut public spending by £35.8 billion by 2006? A similar story can be told in Ireland, France, Italy and the Netherlands, where spending is either being frozen or cut”.


He concluded, “The fact remains: joining the Eurozone during the lifetime of this Parliament would undermine the UK Government’s efforts to invest for world-class public services”.


Thanks to the Euro No campaign for this information.


Pollution for sale?


"They discuss the so-called win-win scenario, envisioned under the Kyoto Protocol, but I would like to ask the question, who is really winning? We are definitely not winning, they are winning and they are making money out of it," says Sajida Khan, local resident affected by emissions credit project in South Africa.

A new briefing from Carbon Trade Watch takes a look at the newly established system of carbon emissions trading, whereby heavily polluting factories can buy the right to pollute from cleaner facilities. The system sounds bizarre, and tends to produce a negative gut reaction from the left, but could it work? The briefing takes a look at this new market in pollution and poses the question as to whether people are being cheated in the name of sustainable development.

Pollution trading lies at the cross-roads between two of the most controversial faultines in political-economic debate: is neo-liberalism the only engine of prosperity for all, or a monopolisation of global resources for the few? And is the United Nations undergoing a fatal crisis of legitimacy, or is it the last remaining hope for world peace and justice?

Carbon Trade Watch researches, monitors and analyses the impacts and effects of pollution trading markets upon environmental, social and economic justice. Lights on! can be found here

If you want to find out more about the related issue of energy privatisation, the Trans National Institute has recently posted a thorough analysis of what is going on


Cover-up at the UN


The "Guernica" work by Pablo Picasso at the entrance of the Security Council of the United Nations has been covered with a curtain. The reason for covering this work is that this is the place where diplomats make statements to the press and have this work as the background. The Picasso work features the horrors of war. On January 27 a large blue curtain was placed to cover the work.  Read more here

Tasteless joke of the week


The Financial Times on Venezuela: "The US, having prematurely recognised the two-day government that hld power in April, is keeping its distance - reducing its potentially moderating influence on events."  This would no doubt have got a big belly laugh in, amongst other places, Mexico (1846), Cuba (1898 to present day), Nagasaki/Hiroshima (1945), the whole of central America through the whole of the 20th Century and to date, Chile (1974), Serbia.....Richard Lapper and Andy-Webb-Vidal get the coveted Spectre award for bad taste gags. Keep it up, chaps!