Weekly News Review

14th March, 2003

French police attack dockers, EU attacks their livelihoods

French police brutally attacked thousands of demonstrating dockworkers on Monday, using tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowd, which was preventing MEPs and their staff from reaching their workplaces. The protesters, mainly from France, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands and Britain, were driven back, but not before some had responded by hurling metal barricades at the riot cops. The protest formed part of Europe-wide demonstrations against plans to open ports to greater competition and were designed to focus the minds of MEPs before Tuesday's crucial vote on the issue. Protests included stoppages in nine countries and followed demonstrations by Belgian dockers, mainly from Antwerp, outside the EP's other main building in Brussels on Friday. The proposals, if eventually adopted, will allow shipping companies to use non-union labour leading to job losses and putting untrained personnel in danger.

 

United Left group (GUE-NGL) leader Francis Wurtz told the Parliament that the protests were legitimate and that "The police repression which has taken place outside is unacceptable."

 

Despite the protests, the Parliament voted by a big majority to approve the liberalisation plans, proving once more that it is an example of the best democracy money can buy.

 

GUE-NGL MEP Erik Meijer, who represents the Dutch Socialist Party (SP) and lives in the major port of Rotterdam,  tabled a proposal to have the entire plan scrapped. The proposal won support from his own group, the Greens, and many from the centre-left Socialist Group (PES), but was defeated by the solid opposition of the right wing groups.. Describing the proposal as "a return to 'cowboy conditions' in Europe's harbours", Mr Meijer added that "we have not heard the last of this. The EP has still to vote in Third Reading on whether to accept or reject the whole package, and there will then remain the possibility of a challenge at the European Court of Human Rights, because there is no obligation on owners to apply International Labour Organisation conventions to which the member states are signatory. Undoubtedly pressure from dockers' unions will be maintained, with boycotts and further strikes."


MEPs slam "polluted pays" proposals



Euro-MPs from the United Left and Greens/EFA groups have attacked proposals from the European Commission ostensibly designed to ensure that organic and conventional crops can be grown without contamination from genetically modified crop plants. Jonas Sjöstedt, co-ordinator for the GUE-NGL (United European left/Nordic Green Left), the fifty-strong progressive left grouping, on the Environment Committee, described the proposals as "worse than inadequate" while  Plaed Cymru (Party of Wales) MEP Jill Evans, who sits in the Greens-EFA Group, said:



"The Communication argues that the responsibility for co-existence measures such as buffer zones or pollen barriers "should fall on the economic operators (farmers, seed suppliers, etc.) who intend to gain a benefit from the specific cultivation model they have chosen". This approach would turn the 'polluter pays' principle upside down. Instead of those who produce and use GMOs being responsible for what they do, the conventional and organic farmers would be expected to prevent GMO contamination. It's crazy that we should expect the polluted instead of the polluter to have to pay.



"I am urging the governments of Europe and the European Commission to go for strict legislation on the co-existence of GM and non-GM crops," Ms Evans added. "The legislation should require producers and users of GMOs to take effective measures to prevent the unintended presence of their GMOs in other products. This is in fact what the European Parliament proposed back in July of last year when it adopted very clear and precise amendments to the proposed Regulation on genetically modified food and feed.



"The Commission and the Council of Ministers, which so far have rejected these amendments, should seriously reconsider them in the light of the new co-existence debate. Once it has been established that producers and users of GMOs have the joint responsibility to prevent GMO contamination, it will also become clear that those who cause GMO contamination are liable for any resulting damage.



"I am extremely concerned at the content of Mr. Fischler's communication which outlines the measures the Commission envisage. GMO contamination poses a serious threat not only to the consumers' freedom of choice but also the sustainability and diversity of agriculture in Wales and Europe."









 

Agreeing with Ms Evans views "100%", Swedish Left Party MEP Jonas Sjöstedt added that "the precautionary principle has to take precedence here, as in all scientific research, which is in effect what the growing of GMOs is. It should not be conducted in the open environment at all, because we have yet to see proof that the addition of GMOs or GMO-derived foods to the food chain or the presence of GMOs in the general environment holds no dangers for human, animal or plant health. The diffusion of GMOs could result in irreversible environmental damage as well as harming the livelihoods of conventional and organic farmers. This irresponsible step is being taken only because the agricultural multinationals behind it are apparently too powerful to resist, although the reality is that this reflects more a lack of political will on the part of those who are supposed to be responsible for protecting our health and our environment."

 

Mr Sjöstedt concluded that "a reliable means of separation is clearly necessary if we are to have a reliable system of liability and redress, which the European Parliament sees as a precondition for lifting the moratorium. This proposal would establish no such system, and so the moratorium should certainly remain in place."



Malta says "yes"

 

Maltese voters approved the proposal to join the EU in the first of the accession referenda in the EU's drive to add ten countries. The government responded by calling an election, with the opposition Labour Party  saying that it may yet seek renegotiation. Read about it at here

 

Just don't order a Halal meal...

 

The United States is to be given direct access to personal details of air passengers travelling from the EU. Find out how US Customs bounced the European Commission into a quick decision at here


Stop the War

 

A report on March 1st's gathering of the international antiwar movement in London can be found at here

 

This week, the European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg passed a highly critical Resolution on the deal. The vote was 414 in favour and only 44 against. Read a full report at here

 

"Negative impact" of water privatisation exposed in new report

 

A new report on the eve of next week's Third World Water Forum shows that water privatisation has had a negative impact on communities in many countries and threatens to affect an increasing number of people in 2003, the United Nations International Year of Water, and beyond.



The report, Water Justice for All will be released on March 10, 2003 just prior to the March 16-23 World Water Forum in Kyoto, Japan and World Water Day (March 22). It reports "global and local resistance to the control and commodification of water" through fourteen case studies  and was published by Friends of the Earth International (FoEI), the world's largest grassroots environmental network.



A spokesperson for FoEI said that "The Third World Water Forum in Japan will adopt a World Water Action, drafts of  which show some very impressive rhetoric. But the bottom line is increased market access for private water companies, and corporate lobbyists will be present in numbers to ensure that this happens in Kyoto."



Only about 5 percent of the world's water is currently in private hands. The water sector thus has an enormous potential for the few multinational corporations that dominate this market: mainly Suez (France) and Vivendi Universal (France) but also Thames Water (UK but part of German RWE) and Betchel (USA).



According to Hemantha Withanage of Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka, "Water is a basic human right, and although water management in the public interest may be necessary, this vital resource should not be subject to ownership. International financial institutions, hand-in-hand with multinational water corporations, are paving the way by conditioning their loans to poor countries upon privatisation promises. Trade treaties are helping by requiring countries to deregulate their water sectors and open them up to private investment. "



"The world's poorest people are desperately in need of water and sanitation services,

but experience has shown that they are just further marginalized when their countries

follow the corporate mode of privatization. Unable to afford connection to the services,

they are condemned to using water that runs the risk of being contaminated," according to Withanage.



In the report Friends of the Earth Malaysia states that "The World Bank and other international financial institutions play a key role in promoting water privatization around the world, in alliance with the multinational water giants and the trade agreements, promoted by industrialized countries, that pry water markets open for corporate access."



"The World Bank's insistence that "water must be treated as an economic good" means that if you are rich enough, you can use water as wastefully as you like. For the poor, however, access to water for even the most basic of needs will be a daily struggle, " according to Friends of the Earth Malaysia.



More information can b found at www.foei.org    In addition, in preparation for the Third World Water Forum, Corporate Europe Observatory has prepared a number of briefings on the issues involved. Go to here





















Due to technical difficulties, we were unable last week to update the site. The Weekly News Review was prepared as usual, however, before these problems arose. As its contents may still be of interest, we include it below:

 

Global anti war movement announces plans to escalate resistance.

 


On Saturday March 1 representatives from the anti war movement from twenty-six  countries and three continents met together in London to plan the next   steps in the world campaign against war on Iraq.

 

All countries reported rapidly growing opposition, and the meeting mapped   out a plan of escalating action over the next weeks to try to stop war,  including student occupations, mass direct action, strikes and popular  assemblies against war.

 

If war starts the meeting called on the movements across the world to  organise mass protests on the day of an attack in every town and city and   mass demonstrations in every capital city the following Saturday.



According to the organisers, "There will be direct action at military installations and to stop military    transport, mass pressure on parliamentary and United Nations representatives, student strikes and occupations, workplace industrial action, the establishment of peoples' assemblies and popular consultations against war."

  

MEPs take peace demands to Washington

 

A delegation of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) has arrived in Washington DC and is taking its Anti-War Appeal to Capitol Hill and the US Administration. The delegation, headed by United Left Group leader Francis Wurtz as well as a number of Left and Green members, met on Tuesday with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and with UN Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix in New York. A delegation of 31 MEPs travelled to Iraq in early February.

In its Anti-War Appeal, presented yesterday to Kofi Annan, the MEPs state:

 

'The lives and well-being of millions of people is at stake in Iraq and elsewhere. We are gravely concerned that a war with Iraq would have devastating social, economic and environmental consequences. It would further destabilize the region and could even lead to a full-scale regional war. It would contribute to heighten tension worldwide and foster international terrorism.

We appeal to all the decision-makers: take your responsibility seriously."

 

No Turkey shoot

 

"March 1. It had been another encouraging week for the global antiwar movement. The momentum generated by the massive demonstrations of mid-February held, with the Arab world finally playing a central role. There were huge rallies in Khartoum (100,000, Feb. 26), Cairo (100-500,000, Feb.27), and Sana, Yemen (300,000, March 1). Significant peace rallies were also held in Rabat (30,000, Feb. 23) and Manama, Bahrain (up to 20,000, Feb. 28). In Oman, which like Bahrain plays host to an unpopular U.S. troop presence, hundreds gathered Feb. 23 to protest an Iraq attack. Meanwhile in Turkey (not an Arab country but a Muslim one, the only Muslim NATO state), on March 1, up to 300,000 took to the streets of Ankara to express the nearly universal antiwar sentiment in Turkey." Read the rest of "A Very Fine Thing: Turkey Stands Up to Bush" by Gary Leupp at here


US organised labour says no to Bush's war



"The nation's largest trade union federation declared its opposition Thursday to war against Iraq at this time, saying President Bush has not made a case for an attack without broad support from U.S. allies." Read all about it at herel

 

Top Secret Document Reveals U.S. Spying on UN Delegates



White House spokesman Ari Fleischer has refused to comment on questions about a story broken by the Observer (UK) On Sunday the paper published an article headlined "Revealed: U.S. Dirty Tricks to Win Vote on Iraq War."



The Observer reported that it has obtained a top secret U.S. National Security Agency memo outlining the surveillance of both office and home communications of UN delegates from Security Council member countries.



The high-priority memo was from Frank Koza, chief of staff in the "Regional Targets" section of the NSA, on January 31 -- shortly before Colin Powell's presentation to the Security Council.



The NSA document states that the Agency "is mounting a surge particularly directed at the UN Security Council (UNSC) members" for "insights as to how" members are "reacting to the on-going [Iraq] debate." It cited "policies" and "negotiating positions" that member states "may be considering," as well as "alliances," "dependencies" and "the whole gamut of information that could give U.S. policymakers an edge in obtaining results favorable to U.S. goals or to head off surprises."



The memo specifically addressed "efforts against UNSC members Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Bulgaria and Guinea, as well as extra focus on Pakistan UN matters." It also emphasized paying "attention to existing non-UNSC member UN-related and domestic comms [communications] for anything useful related to the UNSC deliberations..."



The Observer article is available at:

http://www.observer.co.uk/iraq/story/0,12239,905936,00.html



The NSA document is available at:

http://www.observer.co.uk/iraq/story/0,12239,905954,00.html














 

Since we wrote the above story a 28-year old woman has been arrested in connection with the leak. Read about this at http://www.observer.co.uk/iraq/story/0,12239,910648,00.html

 

 

Diplomat walks out on Bush Junta: "present policies incompatible with American values and interests"

 

The following is the text of John Brady Kiesling's letter of resignation to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. Mr. Kiesling is a career diplomat who has served in United States embassies from Tel Aviv to Casablanca to Yerevan.

 

Dear Mr. Secretary:

 

I am writing you to submit my resignation from the Foreign Service of the United States and from my position as Political Counselor in U.S. Embassy Athens, effective March 7. I do so with a heavy heart. The baggage of my upbringing included a felt obligation to give something back to my country. Service as a U.S. diplomat was a dream job. I was paid to understand foreign languages and cultures, to seek out diplomats, politicians, scholars and journalists, and to persuade them that U.S. interests and theirs fundamentally coincided. My faith in my country and its values was the most powerful weapon in my diplomatic arsenal.

It is inevitable that during twenty years with the State Department I would become more sophisticated and cynical about the narrow and selfish bureaucratic motives that sometimes shaped our policies. Human nature is what it is, and I was rewarded and promoted for understanding human nature. But until this Administration it had been possible to believe that by upholding the policies of my president I was also upholding the interests of the American people and the world. I believe it no longer.

 

The policies we are now asked to advance are incompatible not only with American values but also with American interests. Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America's most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson. We have begun to dismantle the largest and most effective web of international relationships the world has ever known. Our current course will bring instability and danger, not security.

 

The sacrifice of global interests to domestic politics and to bureaucratic self-interest is nothing new, and it is certainly not a uniquely American problem. Still, we have not seen such systematic distortion of intelligence, such systematic manipulation of American opinion, since the war in Vietnam. The September 11 tragedy left us stronger than before, rallying around us a vast international coalition to cooperate for the first time in a systematic way against the threat of terrorism. But rather than take credit for those successes and build on them, this Administration has chosen to make terrorism a domestic political tool, enlisting a scattered and largely defeated Al Qaeda as its bureaucratic ally. We spread disproportionate terror and confusion in the public mind, arbitrarily linking the unrelated problems of terrorism and Iraq. The result, and perhaps the motive, is to justify a vast misallocation of shrinking public wealth to the military and to weaken the safeguards that protect American citizens from the heavy hand of government. September 11 did not do as much damage to the fabric of American society as we seem determined to so to ourselves. Is the Russia of the late Romanovs really our model, a selfish, superstitious empire thrashing toward self-destruction in the name of a doomed status quo?

 

We should ask ourselves why we have failed to persuade more of the world that a war with Iraq is necessary. We have over the past two years done too much to assert to our world partners that narrow and mercenary U.S. interests override the cherished values of our partners. Even where our aims were not in question, our consistency is at issue. The model of Afghanistan is little comfort to allies wondering on what basis we plan to rebuild the Middle East, and in whose image and interests. Have we indeed become blind, as Russia is blind in Chechnya, as Israel is blind in the Occupied Territories, to our own advice, that overwhelming military power is not the answer to terrorism? After the shambles of post-war Iraq joins the shambles in Grozny and Ramallah, it will be a brave foreigner who forms ranks with Micronesia to follow where we lead.

 

We have a coalition still, a good one. The loyalty of many of our friends is impressive, a tribute to American moral capital built up over a century. But our closest allies are persuaded less that war is justified than that it would be perilous to allow the U.S. to drift into complete solipsism. Loyalty should be reciprocal. Why does our President condone the swaggering and contemptuous approach to our friends and allies this Administration is fostering, including among its most senior officials. Has "oderint dum metuant" really become our motto?

I urge you to listen to America's friends around the world. Even here in Greece, purported hotbed of European anti-Americanism, we have more and closer friends than the American newspaper reader can possibly imagine. Even when they complain about American arrogance, Greeks know that the world is a difficult and dangerous place, and they want a strong international system, with the U.S. and EU in close partnership. When our friends are afraid of us rather than for us, it is time to worry. And now they are afraid. Who will tell them convincingly that the United States is as it was, a beacon of liberty, security, and justice for the planet?

 

Mr. Secretary, I have enormous respect for your character and ability. You have preserved more international credibility for us than our policy deserves, and salvaged something positive from the excesses of an ideological and self-serving Administration. But your loyalty to the President goes too far. We are straining beyond its limits an international system we built with such toil and treasure, a web of laws, treaties, organizations, and shared values that sets limits on our foes far more effectively than it ever constrained America's ability to defend its interests.

I am resigning because I have tried and failed to reconcile my conscience with my ability to represent the current U.S. Administration. I have confidence that our democratic process is ultimately self-correcting, and hope that in a small way I can contribute from outside to shaping policies that better serve the security and prosperity of the American people and the world we share.

 

Belgium 1 Israel 0

 

"Don't eat Belgian chocolate," the Israel consul in Florida ordered the large Jewish community there.



In Israel, anti-Belgian curses reached an ear-splitting new crescendo.  Miserable Belgium! Mad Belgium! Megalomaniac Belgium! And again and again, Anti-Semitic Belgium! Neo-Nazi Belgium!



The Israeli ambassador was, of course, recalled from Brussels. No wonder, how can Israel keep an ambassador in the world capital of anti-Semitism?



Read the rest of Uri Avnery's "War Crimes and Ariel Sharon: It's OK to Eat Belgian Chocolate" at http://www.counterpunch.org/avnery02222003.html





 

Resources on Iraq

 

The Trans National Institute (TNI) has put together a collection of resources to help us make sense of the developing situation. go to

http://www.tni.org/issues/iraq/iraq.htm

 

...and North Korea

 

Read Molly Ivins splendid "primer" at

here



Japanese Communists' analysis of world situation available on line


 

John Manning writes:

 

There is now available on line a remarkable study of the world situation, titled `Capitalism and Socialism in the 2 1st Century" by Fuwa Tetsuzo, Chair of the Central Committee of the Japanese Communist Party, which I would recommend to anyone concerned about the future or even the present.. Fuwa, who has been the JCP's top theoretical and political leader, has been able to find time despite a tight world situation, to teach a Seminar on Marx's Capital, in which 300 leading activists of the JCP have met every two weeks of the year 2002, in the course of which they read and discussed Capital , all three volumes!

 

The recently-posted lecture was delivered to an audience of thousands at this year's Akahata Festival, on November 3. "Capitalism and Socialism in the 21st Century" is at http://www,japan-press.co.jp

 

Corner House Briefing, no. 27, "The Origins of the Third World: Markets, States and Climate", by Mike Davis, is now available at www.thecornerhouse.org.uk This is the first in a series of briefings which explore issues related to women, population control, public health and globalisation.



The briefing chronicles the first of several nineteenth century famines in India and China. At the time, many policy makers ascribed the famine to Malthusian pressures - too many people, too little land, too little food - an explanation that survives today. But Malthusian explanations were not only wrong-head at the time: they were also contributory causes of the deaths that occurred. The briefing outlines a revised understanding of nineteenth century economic history that throws light on how many of the current challenges of so-called "development" came about: it also calls into question the wisdom of development policies still pursued today and the justifications for them.



A summary is available here or you can read the full text in PDF version (36 pages laid out as in printed paper version) here. If you prefer the HTML format go to here



The Corner House website at  www.thecornerhouse.org.uk now contains all back issues of the Corner House briefings in both PDF and html versions - suitable for printing out or for reading on screen. It also has a wealth of articles, presentations, submissions and reports on similar topics to the briefing papers.








Socialist Resistance

 

...is a new magazine from the British Section of the Fourth International. Check it out at www.socialistresistance.net