E uropean Parliament rejects Ports Directive

22nd November, 2003

"I don't formally recognise George Bush because he was not officially elected. So we are organising an alternative reception for everybody who is not George Bush." -Mayor of London Ken Livingstone inviting the whole human race to his party

In a huge victory for the militant workers who organised a series of demonstrations against the liberalisation and deregulation of Europe’s port services, the European Parliament this week voted by 229 to 209, with 16 abstentions, to reject ultra-liberal proposals from the EU Commission.

“The rejection of the new ports directive by the European Parliament is a great victory for the workers who would have been affected by it,” said Erik Meijer, Euro-MP for the Dutch SP and co-ordinator for transport issues for the United Left Group (GUE-NGL). 

“The directive would have meant that dock work would have been opened up to untrained, poorly paid workers. Dock workers from all over Europe have been demonstrating outside the parliament at each stage of the debate, and a few weeks ago I participated in a massive demonstration in Rotterdam against this attempt to steal the bread out of people’s mouths. I want to send my congratulations to all who took part, and to all dock workers who will benefit from this victory.”

Dutch and Belgian unions feared that Rotterdam would become a playground for cowboy companies.   They maintained the pressure on the European Parliament to reject the new neoliberal law right up to the last minute.  For Meijer, the vote represented a historic decision. “It is the first time that EU legislation has been thrown out as a direct result of Europe-wide action of this kind.”

  European Social Forum

Movements for social justice and against imperialism, militarism and the destruction of the environment movements gathered last week at the second European Social Forum, in St Dénis and three other left-led municipalities on the outskirts of Paris last week. An estimated 60 000 people from all over Europe and beyond took part in over three hundred meetings on topics such as Iraq, minority rights, democracy, resistance to neo-liberalism and privatisation of public services. Anti-imperialism, anti-Zionism, labour rights, the new European constitution were also debated. The forum ended with a major demonstration in central Paris.

You can read all about the ESF on the Forum’s own website here  For transcripts of some of the speeches and reports of a number of meeting organised by the Trans National Institute (TNI) go to


One of the speakers at the Forum, previously interviewed in Spectre, was Susan George. She has recently written an excellent article on “The Paradoxes of Human Rights”: “One of the paradoxes of the international human rights system is that international institutions, such as IMF and World Bank, commit some of the worst violations of the economic, social and cultural rights. National and international political institutions could make all human rights a reality yet they lack the political courage to do so. The world global justice movement is fighting to force

them to change their minds.” Read the rest at here

The Emperor visits his province

“Who can even remember -- it might as well have been the Neolithic age – the moment when Bill Clinton exuberantly walked the streets of London high-fiving passers-by near Trafalgar Square (where demonstrators on Thursday are planning to pull down a 20-foot high statue of our own Uncurious George)? Only a few years have passed and yet we've all disappeared down some rabbit hole. As I write this, Air Force One is descending on London's Heathrow Airport

and the President readying himself to step out and be greeted by Prince Charles, but that description hardly catches the moment. "He" will arrive with his imperial court and a veritable army of protectors, advisers, jesters, and spinners. Bush, in fact, no longer moves anywhere in anything less than an imperial processional. Like some juggernaut, it literally transforms the landscape in his path, turning his surroundings either into a series of Potemkin villages or into a completely sterile environment. His passages through the world are little less than those of a planetary ruler -- though in Roman imperial terms, his reign seems closer to Nero's (without the patronage of the arts) than to Augustus's.” Read the rest at here

Protests at the Junta Jefe’s visit were not limited to London. In Glasgow on Wednesday, over 2000 protestors filled the city centre, while smaller crowds gathered in other towns and cities in England, Scotland and Wales.  The Glasgow march, which brought rush hour traffic to a standstill, was addressed by speakers from trade unions, antiwar groups, religious organisations both Christian and Muslim, and Members of the Scottish Parliament from the Scottish Socialist Party, Scottish National Party and Greens.  Many of the protestors later joined buses which left at midnight for the big London march.

FTAA in Miami


“The Free Trade Area of Americas meeting in Miami gathered advocates of "free trade", meaning "free for takeover" by a handful of US banks and corporations. But since the WTO meeting in Cancun developing countries have learnt how to build alliances to resist the US pressure.” Saul Landau explains why the Free Trade Area of the Americas is “Good for Big US Corporations; Bad for the People” here . John Cavanagh and Sarah Anderson wonder whether developing countries can continue to present a united front against a US corporate agenda at here

For ongoing coverage of the protests accompanying the FTAA Miami gathering, go to here  Progressive Response has devoted a whole issue to the FTAA at here

 Hold On to Your Humanity: An Open Letter to GIs in Iraq

By STAN GOFF (US Army Retired)

Dear American serviceperson in Iraq,

I am a retired veteran of the army, and my own son is among you, a paratrooper like I was. The changes that are happening to every one of you--some more extreme than others--are changes I know very well. So I'm going to say some things to you straight up in the language to which you are accustomed.

In 1970, I was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade, then based in northern Binh Dinh Province in what was then the Republic of Vietnam. When I went there, I had my head full of shit: shit from the news media, shit from movies, shit about what it supposedly mean to be a man, and shit from a lot of my know-nothing neighbors who would tell you plenty about Vietnam even though they'd never been there, or to war at all.

The essence of all this shit was that we had to "stay the course in Vietnam," and that we were on some mission to save good Vietnamese from bad Vietnamese, and to keep the bad Vietnamese from hitting beachheads outside of Oakland. We stayed the course until 58,000 Americans were dead and lots more maimed for life, and 3,000,000 Southeast Asians were dead. Ex-military people and even many on active duty played a big part in finally bringing that crime to a halt.

When I started hearing about weapons of mass destruction that threatened the United States from Iraq, a shattered country that had endured almost a decade of trench war followed by an invasion and twelve years of sanctions, my first question was how in the hell can anyone believe that this suffering country presents a threat to the United States? But then I remembered how many people had believed Vietnam threatened the United States. Including me.”

Read the rest of Stan Goff’s moving, disturbing account of his Vietnam experiences and their relevance for today’s conflict in Iraq at


The WTO website now includes a dedicated page for member governments to make known their use (or intention to use) provisions allowing cheaper pharmaceutical products to be traded more easily across borders under compulsory licensing.   Go to here
to find out who’s going to get the drugs they need at a price they can pay and who’s not.

Year One of the Prestige Oil Spill

The Prestige oil tanker sank on November 13th, 2002. But this Thursday marks not the one year anniversary of an accident, but year one of a decade-long disaster. Despite this, criminally little has been done to prevent the recurrence of a similar catastrophe. Read a Greenpeace update at here


The Russian oligarch Khodorkovsky has tried to establish a dialogue with the people directly in an attempt to free himself from dependence on the state. But the owner of a major corporation who is trying to hang on to his slice of the pie taken from the people back in the early 1990s is one thing; a politician who has issued a challenge to the regime is another thing entirely.” Read all about the only Russian billionaire not contemplating buying an English football club. For the moment he has more pressing concerns. Read Boris Kagarlitsky on “Comparing Khodorvsky” at here

Noam Chomsky: Invasion as Marketing Problem

Establishment critics of the war on Iraq restricted their comments regarding the attack to the administration arguments they took to be seriously intended: disarmament, deterrence, and links to terrorism. They scarcely made reference to liberation, democratization of the Middle

East, and other matters that would render irrelevant the weapons inspections and indeed everything that took place at the Security Council or within governmental domains. The reason, perhaps, is that they recognized that lofty rhetoric is the obligatory accompaniment of virtually any resort to force and therefore carries no information. The rhetoric is doubly hard to take seriously in the light of the display of contempt for democracy that accompanied it, not to speak of the past record and current practices.” Go to here read the rest.

Fearing for the safety of conference participants, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), canceled a planned symposium following the Aug. 19 bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad that killed 22 people and injured 150 others.

That cancellation symbolizes the fallen hopes of Iraqi women since the U.S. invasion. President Bush promised that a U.S. war would improve the situation of women in Iraq. Instead, Iraqi women have been besieged by violence, unemployment and other crises set off by the occupation.

"The situation for women is worse now than before the war," said Eman Ahmed Khammas who directs the Occupation Watch Center in Baghdad. "Because of the security situation, it's really very difficult to move around and very dangerous. Families are afraid for their daughters and don't allow them to be outside on their own. Two weeks ago, they found a bomb in front of the gate of my daughter's school. And there are many kidnappings and rapes. I know a girl who was kidnapped just a few days ago."

Yanar Mohammed, co-founder of a new Iraqi group called the Organization of Women's Freedom, agrees that women are worse off under the U.S. occupation. "Organized gangs are kidnapping women, to be exploited and sometimes to be sold. This has created fear and horror for women. Many families now have prevented their girls from going to school."

The above is an extract from Andrea Buffa’s look at the situation of women in Iraq, one of the many fine articles in the new edition of the US anti-war publication War Times. To read the rest, and make sure others do, if you live in the US you can request free bundles for distribution in your area (in multiples of 25. Contact distribution@war-times.com. Tell them how many you want and where to send them. If you live outside the US, go to here for more information. You should also visit this site to find out how to make a donation to keep this votal initiative going.