Western European News Digest
Blair's Push for Police-State Terror Bill Fails
British Prime Minister Tony Blair lost the support of 49 members of his Labour Party in last week's vote on the controversial 90-day detention plan, which was defeated in Parliament 322 to 291, despite the 66-seat majority enjoyed by the Labour Party. Among the Labour MPs rebelling against the government were 11 former ministersa defeat much bigger than expected.
At issue was a police-state measure whereby Blair hoped to lengthen the time a terrorist suspect may be held without chargesfrom the present 14 days to 90 days.
The Labour rebels are warning that Blair will face more opposition, when he tries to push through such controversial proposals as increased privatization of the health and education sectors, and plans to update the Trident nuclear deterrent. Home Secretary Charles Clarke is taking the rap for the defeat, and may get the boot, but no one is fooled as to who was really defeated. Clarke had tried to negotiate a compromise, of a shorter detention period, but Blair rejected anything less than 90 days. Blair had even gotten Chancellor Gordon Brown and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to rush back to London, from trips to Israel and Russia, to support the goverment, and Labour chairman Ian McCartney, who is recovering from heart surgery, also came in to votebut it didn't help.
'Unprecedented' Parliamentary Probe of Blair's Pre-War Conduct
As part of the blowback of the Post-Cheney Era in Britain: Labour and Tory MPs have launched a Parliamentary inquiry into Tony Blair's conduct in the run-up to the war on Iraq, says Sunday Times reporter Michael Smith, who earlier broke the "Downing Street memos" on the coordinated lying and deception between Blair and the Bush Administration on Iraq.
A coalition of Tory and Labour MPs will table a motion to set up a House of Commons committee to examine "the conduct of ministers" before and after the war, Smith wrote. If about 30 Labour "rebel" MPs support the motion, it could succeed. They want to create a committee of seven privy councillors who would have the power to see all sensitive documents and call any British witnesses, including intelligence chiefs. A key issue would be the failure to plan for the aftermath of the war, said Tory MP Douglas Hogg, one of those seeking support for the committee, which is already backed by the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish and Welsh Nationalists.
The inquiry is also expected to look at the secret air war against Iraq that began in May 2002, just weeks after Blair agreed that Britain would take military action with America to achieve regime change, Smith wrote.
Ex-Ambassador's Memoirs Highlight Blair's Iraq War Failures
Sir Christopher Meyer, British Ambassador to Washington (1997-2003), has just finished his memoirs, a damning criticism of Tony Blair and the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq. He writes, "There is no doubt that the presence of American and British troops to a degree motivates the insurgency.... There is plenty of evidence around at the moment that homegrown terrorism was partly fuelled by what is going on in Iraq. There is no way we can credibly get up and say it has nothing to do with it. Don't tell me that being in Iraq has got nothing to do with it. Of course, it does. The issue is part of the price we have to pay and should be paying for the removal of Saddam Hussein and at the moment the jury is out."
Meyer was a key insider in U.S.-British relations and an architect of the Blair-Bush alliance, and has worked personally and closely with everyone in the White House, including Bush, Cheney, Scooter Libby, and Karl Rove. Furthermore, he was a true believer in the war and openly admires President George Bush, whom he claims he found to be "articulate and interesting" and unlike Blair, concerned with details, says Meyer.
Italian Magazine Connection in Yellowcake Forgeries
The key connection in the faked Niger yellowcake dossier is the Italian magazine Panorama, an investigative source told EIR. The source indicated that Panorama editor Carlo Rossella played the key role in transmitting the dossier to the U.S. outside of normal intelligence channels. It was Panorama journalist Elisabetta Burba, under Rossella's orders, who delivered the forged documents to the U.S. Embassy in Rome in October 2001, whence the embassy handed them over to the State Department.
Rossella, who today runs a national TV network, is a Catholic neo-con, who annually makes the medieval pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella in Spain. In December 2001, he travelled to the U.S. to interview leading chickenhawks in the Bush Administrationinterviews subsequently published in Panorama. This includes the famous interview in which then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice attacked Pope John Paul II.
ECB Launches Attack Against Deficit Countries in Europe
After the announcement that the ECB (European Central Bank) will no longer accept as collateral state bonds with a rating below A-: "If there were even a small downgrading, ... Greece would run an Argentinian risk. Soon after, it could be the turn for Italy and Portugal," wrote the Italian daily Il Riformista last week. The same action prompted the Parisian paper Le Monde to speculate whether "we are headed towards a war between the ECB and the [European Union] member states."
The ECB is trying to find a way to force the countries to respect the austerity criteria of the EU's Maastricht Treaty; the Bank is unhappy that the Stability Pact measures have not worked so far, and that the financial markets are not an element of control either, since the financing rates for the debt of all euro-zone countries are extremely close. To try to force the EU members into line, according to the Nov. 9 Financial Times of London, the ECB has been working on a plan for three years. Le Monde reports that the ECB is planning to differentiate debts which it considers risky from those which are less so, and will be using a criterion for selection based on Standard & Poor notations, to indicate the health of the public finances of a country and its capacity to reimburse its debts. The bad debts will be those rated less than A-.
In its coverage of the topic, the German financial daily Handelsblatt featured a front-page picture of the Frankfurt headquarters of the ECB superimposed on a historical drawing of the French Commune in 1871, with angry mobs.
Budget Cuts To Halt Italian Infrastructure Projects
By January, budget cuts will bring to halt a number of public works in Italy and force the layoff of 300,000 workers, said a confidential report for the Italian government. The state holding company ANAS, which owns and maintains most of Italy's roads, will be forced to close 60% of its construction sites, resulting in the layoff of 300,000 directly from construction and from supply firms.
ANAS needs at least 1.5 billion euros to keep financing those sites, which include major works in southern Italy: the modernization of the Salerno-Reggio Calabria, the Catania-Siracusa and the Ionica highways, as well as the Rome Beltway (GRA), the Asti-Cuneo and the Grosseto-Fano highways, among others. An additional difficulty is that, beyond the cuts, the current budget plan forbids ANAS from accessing bank credit; instead, it intends to cut ANAS into pieces and privatize it.