Weekly News Review Archive

15th May, 2002



Top EU General calls for merger of Union defence capacity with NATO

Chair of the EU's powerful Military Committee General Gustav Hägglund, has called for the merging of operational military aspects of the Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy with NATO's European arm. The new body - which General Hägglund describes as a "community of values" - would then be able to deal with crises in Europe and just beyond its borders. Hägglund wants to see a division of responsibilities in which "NATO Europe" would take care of its own region, leaving the US free to "police" the rest of the world. The proposal, which has as yet no official standing, was prompted by fears that a growing gap in military capacity, especially in relation to technology, was making it impossible for the EU to co-operate effectively with the United States.

That this is the prime consideration makes it clear that the General and others who think like him see it as part of a medium-term strategy which would, logically, include pressuring member states into increasing their defence budgets. As budgets are under pressure to comply with the Maastricht criteria and the dictates of the European Central bank and Commission, this could only be achieved by finding savings in public spending elsewhere.

Biggest UK Trade Union campaigns against euro

Unison, the UK's biggest union and the one which represents the majority of public sector workers, has launched a new anti-euro campaign with a leaflet sent to each of its 1,250 branches.  Commenting on his union's decision to campaign against the euro, General Secretary Dave Prentis warned that accession by Britain to the euro zone would be "a disaster for public services." Unison's message concentrates on the financial aspects of monetary union, pointing out that the so-called Maastricht criteria, to which members must adhere, would have made Gordon Brown's recent boost to investment in health care and education impossible.

Bush Junta’s latest attacks on Cuba undermined by US government advisers

The latest accusations from the Bush junta terror tsar John Bolton accusing Cuba of developing biological weapons would be funny if only relations of power in the world were otherwise. As revealed in this week’s New Scientist, the US has long been researching and possibly manufacturing biological and chemical weapons in blatant contravention of international law, while US government officials, presumably appointed by the legitimate, elected regime which preceded Big Oil’s coup d’état, have briefed ex-President Jimmy Carter to the effect that Bolton was lying.

In the European Parliament the United Left Group has put forward a resolution attacking Bush’s anti-Cuban lie campaign, while in Britain Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn tabled a motion which has since been  signed by 40 MPs. If you live in Britain or are British then you can help by writing to your MP, whatever his or her party, urging them to sign or, if they already have, thanking them for defending Cuba’s rights and reputation.  If the Member is unlikely to be politically sympathetic to Cuba, you could point out that official US advisers have said there is no evidence for Bolton’s claim (see the article from Cuba Solidarity elsewhere on this website), and that ex-President Carter’s visit to the island and the spirit in which he has been received demonstrate that, for those who wish to bring about political change, there are better, more democratic ways than inventing tales of biological weapons. More information and an updated list of signatories can be found at this website

Terrorists

The U.S. is equipping and training foreign armed forces with some of the world's worst human rights records. Yet since September 11, the Bush administration has stepped up training operations, while congressional and public oversight has declined. A new study, U.S. Foreign Military Training: Global Reach, Global Power, published by Foreign Policy In Focus, a left-leaning US think tank, finds that 51 foreign militaries receiving U.S. training through the IMET (International Military Education and Training) program have "poor" or "very poor" human rights records, according the State Department's 2002 Human Rights Report. The study, written by human rights and military analyst Lora Lumpe, details how more than 150 institutions in the U.S. and abroad are now involved in training about 100,000 foreign troops each year, with U.S. Special Operations Forces alone training foreign soldiers in more than 100 countries. The study is the first to describe and link together the broad range of military training programs, and analyze the human rights and civilian oversight issues.

Some of the major findings of the report include:

Since September 11 the administration has offered new police or military training to numerous countries with poor human rights records, including Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Colombia, and Yemen.

The Bush administration's March 2002 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations request asked for more than $1 billion in new military aid, including $100 million in weapons and training for countries without any congressional oversight. The bill specifically proposes that the Pentagon be allowed to discard human rights and other conditions that Congress has previously enacted to minimize abuses of U.S. military aid.

The Executive Branch (i.e. the Junta) is delaying release and seeking to scale back the Foreign Military Training Report, which is the only comprehensive public accounting of global military training programs, thus restricting the flow of information to Congress and the public.

The study concludes that the U.S. government needs to ensure that the fight against terrorism is "pursued by means consistent with our democratic ideals." At a minimum, it calls for an "increase in transparency surrounding military training programs in order to ensure public accountability, as well as greater dialogue and cooperation between congressional committees with oversight responsibilities."

This new FPIF Special Report is available at: this website or as a printer-friendly pdf file here

In Brief

The perfect pathogen has arrived: Millions of people may be infected, and planet earth will never be the same. The advent of widespread mad cow disease--and the corresponding human epidemic of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)--has many nations on high alert. The perfect pathogen--which causes mad cow disease in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans--is a malformed protein molecule known as an infectious prion, and until recently, the unprecedented mechanism of its awesome destructive power was disbelieved by many of the world's leading biologists. Scary, huh? Read more at this website

Racists are racists, or are they? Exciting Spectre competition: "The Government provoked outrage yesterday by announcing that asylum-seekers living in new Home Office accommodation centres will be under curfew and their claims for sanctuary will be rejected if they are found to be absent at night." (Independent, May 15, 2002) This is the same government whose leader this week lectured the rest of the EU about the dangers of the rise of the far right.  If curfews on refugees are “centre left” and Pim Fortuyn was “far right”, then, as they say, I’m a Dutchman. A handsome prize for any reader who can explain why we should vote for Blairites but call the LPF, whose policies and rhetoric are less blatantly racist than those of the truly alien Blair or “Swampman” Blunkett, fascists.

Independent Politics News’ (US) editor Ted Glick writes to say that they have a number of copies of the Spring issue left and are about to begin publication of the Summer number, which will be out late June. “If you can use some to distribute to people you know or to take to conferences, meetings, etc., let us know how many you can use. We ask for .50 cents per issue but are willing to be flexible about it. And if you have an idea on an article for the Summer issue, or want to write a letter to the editor, we'd like to hear from you.” Contact Ted at indpol@igc.org

  Quote of the week

“Only the British government is still playing along with the pretence. Everyone else has twigged that this is not a "war on terrorism", nor a "war on weapons of mass destruction". Nor can the nudge-and-a-wink sponsors of the coup against Venezuela's elected government convince anyone other than hapless Foreign Office junior Denis MacShane that they are leading a "war for democracy". It is instead an open-ended war to make the world congenial for the most chauvinistic elements in US public life. Every government in the world they dislike is to be removed, every grudge they have been nursing from the cold war (there can be no other reason for targeting Fidel Castro) is to be exorcised. Military force may be used in some cases; while in others the well-tried methods of destabilisation, sanctions and coup will be deployed.”                                          Andrew Murray, Stop the War Coalition (UK).

                                                       The  guardian,  May 15, 2002