Weekly News Review Archive

5th October, 2001




Editorial: EU arrest warrant another blow to freedom

 “Some of the most difficult issues relate to the definition of terrorism.”

                                                                           -Kofi Annan

The perpetrators of the attack were clearly hoping to create an atmosphere of fear and suspicion. In this, they were successful, in Europe as well as in the US. Within hours of the atrocity, rumours of planned attacks were rife. Newspapers began to explain to their readers how vulnerable we were - at work, in the metro, at the airport. The European Parliament was alleged, by a British newspaper, to have been the target of a deadly gas attack planned for the previous February.

We are told that dozens of suspects have been arrested, including some here in the Netherlands, and others in Germany, Belgium, England and elsewhere. The idea that the accomplices of the terrorists who flew three jumbo jets into buildings full of people may have lived amongst us is indeed frightening.

It was in such an atmosphere that the ministers of justice and home affairs of the fifteen member states met, on September 20, to discuss measures to fight against terrorism within the European Union. To their credit, the ministers immediately identified a major problem in the fight against terrorism: that of definition. The attacks on the WTC were certainly terrorism. Peacefully demonstrating, and even demonstrations where a section of the crowd is not content to be peaceful --is not. The distinction is clear. Or so you would have thought. Yet one response to these acts of terror has been to add to the calls to restrict the right to demonstrate which began in the wake of Gothenborg and Genoa.

Notwithstanding Belgian Agriculture minister Jaak Gabriels' description of opposition to biotechnology as "intellectual terrorism", most people agree that terrorism involves the taking, threatening or reckless endangering of life. Are all such acts then "terrorist"?  If so, then European countries would have been obliged to extradite to apartheid South Africa anyone associated with the ANC, which certainly used violence to further its ends. If Afghan or Iranian women took up arms against the barbaric misogyny of their countries' laws, then sought refuge abroad, governments would have to send them back. One person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter, one decade's terrorist another's respected politician. People once defined as terrorists now sit in the governments of Israel, South Africa, Malaysia, East Timor and many other countries.

In the case of Osama bin Laden this seems unlikely. But it is not Mr bin Laden's rights which principally concern me. Terrorism, and perhaps especially suicide attacks, are notoriously difficult to deal with within a democratic legal and political system. This is, however, no excuse for the suspension of essential freedoms, or systems designed to preserve them. On the contrary. Because "terrorism" tends to be defined flexibly, with a meaning adapted to the needs of the moment, we need to be especially vigilant in defence of those rights designed to protect us from arbitrary arrest.

This is clearly an opinion which is not shared by the EU ministers. Having admitted the difficulty of defining terrorists, the Council moved immediately to announce a system which will bypass extradition. Extradition gives national authorities the power to satisfy themselves that the evidence against the accused and his or her likely treatment in the extraditing country will meet their own standards.

This fundamental right is now to be limited, at least within the European Union. Instead of the centuries-old system of extradition, which safeguards not only the rights of the accused but those of peoples to make and enforce their own laws according to their own standards and customs, we are to see the introduction of an EU arrest warrant.

Such a system will take the control of who is arrested on Dutch or British soil, for example, entirely out of the hands of the people of the Netherlands or the UK, their elected representatives and those answerable to them. Whilst some countries’ ministers insisted that it be confined to crimes defined as "terrorism", this is not sufficient.

No EU states have the death penalty or practise systematic human rights abuses. Yet we have seen in recent years criticism by Amnesty International and others of the treatment of alleged members of the IRA in the United Kingdom and of the ETA by the Spanish authorities. We have seen this year violent behaviour from the police in Italy. Overall, respect for human rights cannot be taken for granted in all member states at all times.

Laws introduced as an immediate response to crises are almost always bad laws. The EU arrest warrant is being rushed through at a time when people are perhaps less than usually inclined to concern themselves with the rights of those accused of terrorism. Yet we should remember that being accused of terrorism does not make one a terrorist. Holding unsavoury or unpopular views does not make one a terrorist. That is, in essence, why we have laws to protect the rights of accused persons, and why constitutions guarantee freedom of speech.

The extradition system, like the rights to know what one is accused of, to have legal representation and a fair trial, has been a vital aspect of the defence of individual freedom for a very long time. There is no evidence that it has ever added a single victim to terrorism's tally. It may well, of course, be inconvenient and laborious for police officers and political leaders, but democracy is like that. In combating terrorism, is it not democracy which we are trying to preserve?

European Parliament United Left Group opposes US warmongering

In a declaration adopted last week at a special conference of the United Left Group, a grouping of 42 Euro-MPs from radical left parties known as the GUE-NGL, the Group expressed its sympathy and solidarity for the victims of the terrorist attacks of 11 September and offered its support for the fight against terrorism.

"We welcome the measures to cut terrorists off from their sources of funding", a spokesperson for the GUE-NGL said, but made the point that "only the UN may take the necessary decisions to combat terrorism and organise and co-ordinate international activities stemming from this".  The Group’s statement said that "We reject the logic of war of the Bush Administration and call on the Member States of the EU not to back the United States' campaign of vengeance.”  States do not “have the right to take the lives of innocent people. The fight against terrorism cannot be won through war. It will lead to an endless spiral of hate and violence". Instead the left MEPs, who come from 10 different countries and a variety of radical traditions, propose “tackling the roots of the evil by stepping up the fight against poverty, strengthening measures aimed at promoting development, democracy, human rights and justice.”  The statement also calls for limitation and control measures on the export of arms and military technology.

A few days later, however, at the Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg, the Group voted against accepting without question a list of “terrorist-linked” groups whose assets would be open to seizure or freezing. “We can’t accept that without any document proving such links we should vote to approve it. The list moreover, is not exhaustive and the Parliament will have no control over who is added or removed. Our opposition to terrorism is unequivocal, but this is the reason why we voted against this proposal,” explained a spokesperson.



Israeli and British peace activists amongst Alternative Nobel Prize winners



On Thursday the jury of “The Right Livelihood Award”, better known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize”, announced that among this year's award recipients are  Israeli peace organisation Gush Shalom (Peace Now) and two of its leading activists, Uri and Rachel Avnery. The award granting ceremony will take place at the Swedish parliament in Stockholm on December 7, the same venue where a day later the official Nobel Prize will be awarded.



The Jury commended “Gush Shalom and its co-founders Uri and Rachel Avnery, who have shown the way to peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and worked for several decades with courage and dedication to promote its acceptance and implementation."


British anti-nuclear weapons group Trident Ploughshares will also be amongst those picking up the prizes in December.

The Alternative Nobel Prize was founded in 1980, with an endowment from a Swedish-German philatelic expert,  who used the proceeds of the sale of his valuable collection of rare postage stamps. As every year, the award was divided between four, with the other two winners being Brazilian liberation theologian Leonardo Boff and Antonia Abreu, founder of Venezuela’s children’s orchestras.

The prize is particularly important since the discrediting of the Nobel Peace Prize when it was awarded to state terrorist Henry Kissinger.

To show your appreciation of Gush Shalom, you could answer their call to vote in a poll which asks whether international observers should be sent to Israel and Palestine. Poll is at their website

Cuba ratifies anti-terrorist agreements    

President Fidel Castro told the United Nations on Wednesday that Cuba will complete its ratification of all 12 international anti-terrorism pacts this week. The announcement came in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. President Castro, in a letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, also called for a new international anti-terrorism treaty to enhance the existing accords. Terrorism should be combated, Fidel wrote, "with the full support of the world public opinion and without unnecessary, useless and dangerous wars that multiply violence and hatred among the peoples."

This week sees the 25th anniversary of the terrorist attack on  Oct. 6, 1976  which killed Cuba's youth fencing team. The team was flying home after winning an international tournament.  The event was only one of the more spectacular examples of the sort of terrorism Cuba has faced in the last four decades – all without a word of US or UN condemnation. 

Cuba blamed the bombing on two Cuban Americans who were initially captured and jailed in Venezuela but later left prison. Havana said they were both working for the CIA.  One, Orlando Bosch, lives in Florida, while the other, Luis Posada Carriles, has been in jail in Panama since November, 2000, after an alleged attempt to assassinate Castro there. "You cannot eliminate terrorism if some terrorist acts are condemned while others are silenced or justified," Cuba's U.N. ambassador, Bruno Rodriguez, said in a speech to the General Assembly this week. 

In a letter to Kofi Annan, Fidel also drew attention to the fact that the ratification was as much in homage to the innocent victims of that terrorist act as it was a response to more recent events, telling Mr Annan that “tomorrow, Thursday October 4, the Government will appeal to the National Assembly of People's Power that has been convened for a special session to pay homage to the victims of terrorism in our country, to ask for ratification of our adherence to the nine instruments that are in the process of approval and ratification. The said homage is being paid on the 25th anniversary of the terrorist act that, in the proximity of Barbados, blew up in mid flight a Cubana Airline aircraft taking the lives of 73 passengers on board.

Protests

Police officials estimated the crowd in the two marches through Washington DC last weekend at about 7,000, while some organisers put the figure closer to 25,000. We’re used to that game, of course, but what to make of the New York Times report that it was “a few hundred”. Would the Times deliberately lie? Does the State of New York have an equal opportunitie3s law insisting employers hire a quota of people who are totally innumerate? We demand to know. Anti-war rallies also took place in other US cities, notably Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Meanwhile, in Amsterdam, around 7,000 rallied at the Peace Monument in Dam Square. Demonstrations were also held in numerous cities in Britain, Spain, Greece and Switzerland, where a reported 2,500 gathered in Geneva. In Sasebo, Japan, a southern port near a military base, some sixty people gathered to protest the government's plans to provide support for an expected U.S. strike on terrorists.

Does George W. have a grasp of key foreign policy issues?  

You know the answer, right? But Michel Chossudovsky, Professor of Economics at the University of Ottawa knows it in much more detail. When you read some of the stuff the illegal occupant of the White House has said about what goes on in that strange nether world known as “abroad”, you want know whether to laugh or shake with fear.  Go to the Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG) site

Then again, maybe it’s unfair to condemn Dubya for not reading more foreign policy stuff, and we’re not just referring to the well-known fact that after a few lines of text his lips get tired.  It just isn’t in the papers. Los Angeles Times reported recently that  “Coverage of international news by the U.S. media has declined significantly in recent years in response to corporate demands for larger profits and an increasingly fragmented audience….Having decided that readers and viewers in post-Cold War America cared more about celebrities, scandals and local news, newspaper editors and television news executives have reduced the space and time devoted to foreign coverage by 70% to 80% during the past 15 to 20 years.”

Lax airport security result of ‘free market’

Airports were publicly warned as long as five years ago that their security was utterly inadequate and chose to do nothing. Did the profit motive get in the way? Again, Spectre’s on-the-ball readers will be first there with their fingers on the buzzers for this one, but Matthew Duss explains exactly how this was the case on the on-line news service Common Dreams

Airport security agencies which pay minimum wages and give little training, staff fired for pointing out ineffective procedures or talking to the media, legal requirements on rest periods and eyesight tests ignored. The culprit is a system where security is contracted out to private firms and the lowest bidder wins.  Read the rest at www.commondreams.org  - though probably not if you’re about to fly from a US airport.

US Military Suppliers profit from reaction to terrorism

The extra $12 billion allocated to the Pentagon as part of the hastily-passed round of “anti-terrorist” measures go some way to explaining why military suppliers did not share in the general slump in stock values which followed September 11.  In the week following Wall Street’s return to business, merchants of death cleaned up, with Raytheon  shares rising 37%, L-3 Communications almost 36%, EDO close to 25%, Alliant Tech Systems not far behind at 23.5% and Northrop Grumman over 21.  You can read more about the people for whom no wind is too ill to blow some good at the website of the Arms Trade Resource Center,

WiTChhunt!

WiTChhunt! is a new feature in Spectre, a round-up of all the weird and wonderful things which are being perpetrated in the name of the Aftermath. Since the terrorist attack on New York City on September 11, the new McCarthyites have crawled out of their holes to attack anyone who does not go along with the illegal occupant of the White House and his “crusade”. A handy replacement for “Communist”, which for various reasons has ceased to do the trick, “terrorist” now applies to anyone you don’t agree with.

Witness the fact that Jaak Gabriels, Belgium’s agriculture minister, recently described opposition to GMOs as “intellectual terrorism”.  Meanwhile, in a newspaper in the same country, European Voice, the truly appalling right-wing journalist Gareth Harding has no truck with those who, in common with the U.N. Secretary General, the heads of most EU governments and miscellaneous commentators of left, right and centre, find “terrorism” difficult to define. Formerly a Labour assistant at the European Parliament, where he presumably learnt the important lesson that if you want to get on you have to learn to flatter the powerful whilst sounding as if you are doing something else, Harding now writes a light-weight, generally harmless piece called “Europa: Voice of the Village”  Which village, or who is its idiot, he doesn’t say. When confronted with the tricky business of defining terrorism, Harding has a simple solution, and one worthy of the fearless traditions of British journalism in which he stands: he reaches for his dictionary.  

Now why didn’t Annan think of that?  Why, indeed, don’t they make Harding Sec Gen of the UN?  Enthusing over an EU arrest warrant, the Voice looks forward to seeing them used against the “violent punks who have caused blood to flow on Europe’s streets once again.”  Not once does this luminary of the right make any of the usual noises about the importance of the right to demonstrate peacefully, or indicate that he knows that all but a small minority of demonstrators are non-violent. Nowhere does he mention that it has been shown that Barcelona police, in disguise, attempted to provoke a riot by starting a fight in the middle of a crowd. Nowhere does he condemn the murder by Carabinieri of a young demonstrator.  Defining people convicted of crimes of violence at demonstrations as “terrorists” according to Harding, would “send a powerful message to trouble-makers that in seeking to silence democratically elected politicians through coercion they risk being black-listed as ‘terrorists’ rather than receiving a slap on the wrist for promising to behave better in future.” Harding should really rename his column “Loudmouth of the Village Pub”.

And his definition?  The dictionary tells him that terrorism is “revolutionary violence” and a terrorist “anyone who attempts to further his views by a system of coercive intimidation”.

This definition would embrace the following: the ANC, NATO, everyone who took part in Russia’s two 1917 revolutions, the United States’ Founding Fathers, in fact anyone who has ever fought in a revolution, on either side, and arguably all states.  “Coercive intimidation” sounds scary, but in practice its something everyone but pacifistic anarchists approve. Whether it’s defined as terrorism or not depends on degree, circumstance, and whether the “folks” doing the coercive intimidating are agreeable to you or not. This is not a political statement; it’s simple logic, and anyone capable of stringing three thoughts together in logical progression can see that. That is why Kofi Annan, whose talents may be exaggerated but whom we are sure is capable of looking words up in a dictionary, has problems finding an effective definition.   (Note, however, to be fair to European Voice, they did print a letter by Spectre editor Steve McGiffen making all of the above points.)

As well as enabling the label “terrorist” to be bandied about in an update of the Red Scare, reactions to the WTC attack are being cynically manipulated by right wing politicians to gain their own ends. Big surprise. Last week we reported on Danish Conservative’s attempt to argue that the destruction of lives and buildings in New York necessitated bringing an end to Denmark’s opt-out from EU common foreign and security policy and  “Justice and Home Affairs”, both of which are at the cutting edge of the drive to transform the EU into a superstate.

Numerous mainstream commentators have, very tentatively, suggested that globalisation on the west'’ terms might lie at the root of what causes terrorism, risking being branded terrorist fellow-travellers themselves. No such reticence affects the neo-liberal right. Under the headline “Attacks in US lend new urgency to push for free trade”. Indeed. Apparently Alan Greenspan and Romano Prodi agree that the launch of a new world trade round this year is now “essential to restore economic growth and confidence.”  The paper also refers to the Seattle summit’s having been “torpedoed”. Might not be a bad idea for the FT subs to take a look at the appropriateness of the metaphors preferred by their journalists. To read more from the FT, you need to take out a free registration by going to www.ft.com

“Terrorism” is also the excuse given by a consortium of leading US newspapers in their decision to keep the results of its recount of ballots cast in Florida in the scandalous 2000 presidential election. The consortium had planned to publish its report this week. Naturally, teh decision not to has gone largely unreported.  Admissions by media personnel that the point of censoring publication of the ballot result would be bad for national unity at a time of crisis. Clearly then, what we all already knew has been confirmed. Forget red herrings such as the Gore “victory” in the popular vote. You don’t have to win the popular vote, you have to win in the electoral college. Whoever carried Florida won the electoral college. If Bush really carried it, publication of the fact would surely be seen as increasing his authority. The decision not to can really only mean one thing, can’t it?

The band of thugs and assorted weirdoes squatting in the White House cannot always rely on a tame media’s self-censorship. Sometimes they have to fall back on good old real censorship and outright bullying.  A right wing talk show host shocked the nation by pointing out that it was pretty absurd to call people who fly jumbo jets into buildings on purpose “cowards” and suggested it might be more cowardly to fire cruise missiles at people from hundreds of miles away.  White House Press Secretary Ari’s response was that all Americans must learn to "watch what they say and watch what they do." Actually, Ari, First Amendment says they have to do no such thing, doesn’t it? 

What the TV show host actually said was that "We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it's not cowardly."

This somewhat obvious point resulted in corporate sponsors removing their ads and the hapless host’s being bullied into an apology.

At the beginning of the week, following testimony in favour of new anti-terrorist measures by Bush’s “Attorney General” John Ashcroft  - which include increased police powers to wiretap, search private homes and businesses and seize their contents, and spy on electronic  communications - civil liberties advocates were called to testify. Republican-controlled committee staff promptly ordered TV cameras to leave, including those of C-SPAN, the public interest network that broadcasts congressional proceedings on cable television.

The action was in clear violation of the House of Representatives' rules, which state that  "Whenever a hearing or meeting conducted by a committee or subcommittee is open to the public, those proceedings shall be open to coverage by audio and visual means."

Even Voice of America has been attacked by Bush’s gang, for broadcasting an interview with a Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.  The White House Mob’s moves to seize the assets of businesses allegedly supporting terrorists have led to the closure of radio stations and web sites such as  Radio Free Eireann and its website, which, given the station’s 20-year support for the republican cause, appears to be nothing but the usual guilt by association. Under an Executive Order signed by Bush, the newly established Office of Homeland Security can seize assets "without any notice ... of any company or person that helps, supports, or does anything that can be called or labeled terrorism, or is found to be connected to terrorism in any way..."

At Long Island near New York City, 19-year-old Earth Liberation Front activist, who was charged earlier in the year with arson and vandalism, has seen his indictment changed to

"providing material support to terrorists".  Connor Cash stands accused of aiding ELF activists when he drove them to unspecified sites where acts of vandalism and arson were committed. He also allegedly bought the petrol used to set fire to five homes under construction last December.

Whether Cash did these things or not is for a court to decide, of course. But if he was an arsonist and vandal before September 11, how come he’s a terrorist now? For more information see http://www.longislandrevolt.org or contact the Connor Cash Support Committee at freeconnorcash@yahoo.com

Further south, the University of South Florida has placed a Palestinian professor on paid leave Friday after his appearance on national television prompted threatening email and telephone calls. Sami al-Arian had faced hostile questioning on a programme called ``The O'Reilly Factor.'' Most of this had concerned a no-longer functioning Islamic studies think-tank with which the professor had been involved, some of whose members have alleged links to terrorist organisations.  The university claims it is not punishing al-Arian, merely ensuring his safety and that of others on campus. The professor has been suspended before, following FBI raids on his home, but claims he is the victim of a “guilt by association exercise” and points out he was cleared of any wrongdoing after a two-year investigation.

“As we all grieve because of the terrible tragedy perpetrated by criminals and terrorists, it's simply irresponsible journalism for some media outlets to deflect the blame and look for scapegoats so that they would increase their ratings or serve their hidden agenda,” he asserted. “Arab Americans and Muslim Americans should not suffer twice, once at the hand of the terrorists and another at the hands of the media of their fellow citizens.”

Not all attacks on Arab-Americans and other people of colour are as elaborate as this. A wave of racist attacks continues to be evident in the US. Go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/OreadDaily to read more on this.  Meanwhile, away from the racist sewer of ordinary life and in the refined circles of America’s elected representatives, Senator Diane Feinstein of California has proposed issuing no student visas for at least six months. 

British activists apparently don’t always need  heavy-handed persuasion to get them to shut up. Oxfam UK have restored a petition which called on the United States to "put health before wealth" by supporting relaxation of international patent policies. The newly restored web page, however, no longer singles out the US as the biggest culprit, despite the fact that it is. In the US itself, of course, numerous events rallying opposition to various aspects of Bush’s policies, as well as the behaviour of the corporations which financed his coup, have been cancelled or scaled down   Those activists who refuse to play this game of self-censorship find that coverage of their activities in the mainstream media is even more restricted than usual.

Concerns not to appear disrespectful or divisive are, needless to say, not shared by the right, with Bush’s supporters in Congress pushing through “fast track”, which gives him dictatorial powers over trade policy, and right-wing commentators queuing up to point out that defeating terrorism requires more globalisation and liberalisation, not less.  Then, of course, there’s the so-called anti-terrorism bill itself, sections of which are so outrageous that they have persuaded the most mild-mannered of liberal commentators and Democratic politicians that there are limits to “bipartisanship”. Read all about it at http://www.aclu.org/action/anti-terrorism107.html

Aftermath

More comment on S11 and its aftermath:

“The assault on the World Trade Center was horrific, despicable, and unpardonable, but it is important not to lose perspective, especially a historical one. For a response that is dictated primarily by fury such as that now displayed by some American politicians, while understandable, is likely to simply serve as one more proof for Santayana's dictum that those who do not remember history are bound to repeat it.” To read the rest of Walden Bello’s article Endless War, go to http://www.focusweb.org

"Witness the infinite justice of the new century. Civilians starving to death while they're waiting to be killed." Arundhati Roy

The article (From The Guardian, UK) from which this quote is taken can be found at http://www.portoalegre2002.org/ a site preparing for next year's World Social Forum conference and dedicated to Globalization and its effects seen by those who resist. See also:

http://www.corpwatch.org/news/2001/0209.html

Make way for the wartime opportunists

Corporate interests and their proxies are looking to exploit the September 11 tragedy to advance a self-serving agenda that has nothing to do with national security and everything to do with corporate profits and dangerous ideologies. Fast track and the Free Trade Area of the Americas. A corporate tax cut. Oil drilling in Alaska. Star Wars. These are some of the preposterous "solutions" and responses to the terror attack offered by corporate mouthpieces.” Read the rest of The Wartime Opportunists by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman at http://www.corpwatch.org/news/2001/0208.html

“Under Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, the Homeland Security Office will coordinate 46 government agencies against terrorist suspects in the United States. Ridge will perform this function in conjunction with Bush's deputy  national security advisor, Army Gen. Wayne Downing. Bush Administration officials are still working out the "lines of authority" between the two new positions, but it's clear that from now on, the military is going to have a central role in domestic anti-terrorism activities. The reason for the military's prominence is simple: Bush wants to establish special, extra-legal military tribunals that can try suspected terrorists without the ordinary legal constraints of American justice.”



Homeland Insecurity by Douglas Valentine is at http://www.counterpunch.org/valentine2.html