Western European News Digest
Still Too Many Unanswered Questions About Torture Camps
Pressure on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other U.S. officials to clarify U.S. policy on torture is building up, particularly in Poland, in the wake of revelations in the American media that the CIA kept many Islamic prisoners in remote camps in Poland. ABC News reported 11 of these prisoners from these camps were transferred to Morocco, shortly before Rice's arrival in Europe last week. ABC even listed the names of the prisoners.
Polish media have meanwhile investigated the issue, some of them coming to the conclusion that a camp at Stare Kiejkutin, in a remote northeastern region of Masuria near a Polish Air Force base, might have been one of at least two CIA-run interrogation camps. And while officially, the Polish and U.S. governments have so far denied any knowledge of the camps' existence, it is worth noting that Stefan Meller, Poland's Foreign Minister, who is due for talks in Washington next week, said the issue "requires clarification, now, and I will have, not one, but many questions for Ms. Rice."
British Law Lords Rule Against Evidence from Torture
In a ruling issued Dec. 8, seven Law Lordsconstituting Britain's highest courtvoted unanimously to uphold an appeal brought by 10 men who were arrested in 2001 on grounds they were a threat to national security. While the Special Immigration Appeals Commission ruled at that time that the government had "sound material" to support the charge, the men's lawyers said that evidence used against them was obtained by torture while they were detained in U.S. camps, and should have been excluded. Home Secretary Charles Clarke insisted that the ruling would have no bearing on the government's attempts to fight terrorism, since Britain does not ever use evidence obtained by torture.
NRW May Restore State Control of Power Suppliers
In the wake of the recent RWE power supply collapse, German leaders are rethinking the benefits of the free market. With hearings in the state parliament of North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW) Dec. 8-9, the state's Economics Minister Christa Thoben (CDU) is probing options for establishing state control of maintenance and other vital investments in the power sector. At present, controls run under the apparently non-functioning auspices of the former state-run, now privatized, power companies like RWE. A change of the state energy laws is required, to implement state controls.
The background to this is that experts are saying that the likely cause behind the recent German power collapse is a drastic decrease in maintenance work. Although an internal survey showed in 2001 that of 42,000 pylons, at least 28,000 needed replacement, RWE cut maintenance, and in 2003 even outsourced it to a private company. That company is no longer sending men up on the pylons to check corrosion and safety through direct inspections, but is doing the monitoring from helicopters!
Norbert Roemer, economic policy spokesman of the opposition Social Democrats in NRW, called for a halt in privatizations in the power sector, which he said is the "Achilles heel of industrial society that cannot be left in the hands of free market forces." The RWE power grid collapse in the Muensterland region, which left a quarter-million citizens without any power for four days, and 20,000 without for a full week, should teach a lesson about privatization, Roemer said.
German Neo-Cons Silent on Cheney, Target Steinmeier
In the forefront of those using the Washington Post leaks on German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeierthat he was informed about the United States' kidnapping of German national el-Masri more than a year ago (see U.S. DIGEST)and calling for legal and parliamentary action against him, are the two top neo-cons of the Free Democratic Party (FDP), Guido Westerwelle and Dirk Niebel, party chairman and general party manager, respectively.
Before the German elections, when they were still allied with new Chancellor Angela Merkel, neither man missed an opportunity to harshly denounce critics of the Bush-Cheney policy as "anti-American"; after the election and the formation of the current Grand Coalition, which brought in both Merkel's Christian Democrats and the Social Democratic Party, but closed out the FDP, they have escalated political attacks on the Coalition. They are collaborators in the ongoing psywar and economic-financial warfare against the Coalition, which warfare is also a protection operation for Cheney and his people who have come under massive pressure. It comes as no big surprise, therefore, that neither Westerwelle nor Niebel has ever mentioned Cheney's name in the context of the CIA flights affair, but both try to create the impression that the main culprits are Steinmeier and former Interior Minister Otto Schily (whom the Post also mentioned).
Westerwelle, at least, suffered a rebuff Oct. 8, as the Munich Court, which he had demanded launch legal action against Schily for "not acting against a crime which he knew of" (the CIA abduction of el-Masri), turned him down, as Schily knew of it only after the crime had already occurred.
Mobilization Escalates Against Italian Railway
During the night of Dec. 6-7, the Italian police made a "Nacht und Nebel" (Nazi-style "Night and Fog") raid against the protesters who were occupying the premises where work was to begin for the 54-km tunnel under the Alps, in the Susa Valley at the French-Italian border. The operation has allowed the work to start, but has triggered an escalation, whereby 30,000 demonstrators, led by local administrators and trade unionists, and including extremists but also a large chunk of the local population, reoccupied the premises on Dec. 8 after clashes with the police.
Meanwhile, the government has warned that so-called "no-global" extremists are going to expand violent protests from the Susa Valley into metropolitan areas such as Turin, Milan, and Rome. The opposition is accusing the government of pouring gasoline on the fire with its confrontationist line, aiming to provoke a Genoa-style confrontation for electoral reasons. Most of the opposition, except for the Green Party and Rifondazione Comunista, support the construction of the tunnel, but are pushing for a dialogue, in order to gain the support of the local population and isolate the extremists.
Most of the population currently demonstrating against the high-speed railway has been frightened by scare stories alleging that the tunnel work will dig out asbestos and uranium from the mountain, and that wind blowing out of the tunnel will turn the valley into a "new Chernobyl." This, coupled with the general lack of confidence in the Berlusconi government, has sparked widespread support for the protests. Another complication is the fact that the firm drilling the tunnel on the French side belongs to Italian Infrastructure Minister Pietro Lunardi.
While the most militant protesters belong to the leftist Legambiente, it is evident that the direction of the operation is coming from the mother of all environmentalist organizations: Italia Nostra. For instance, according to a preliminary investigation, some of the leading "experts" putting out the uranium and asbestos scare stories, are old assets of Italia Nostra-connected circles.
Blair Sabotage of EU Budget Solution Continues
During a visit to Hungary, British Prime Minister Tony Blair made the rather unconvincing "offer" to pay 1.4 billion euros more into the common European Union budget, on the condition that the rest of Europe agree to substantial cuts in payments received from the EU.
These cuts, which would mostly be in the Cohesion Fund for development of infrastructure in less-developed regions, would primarily affect the Eastern European members of the EU, which therefore have rejected the Blair offer. Blair, however, remained deaf to these protests, threatening the rejectionists with "no agreement in 2006 and maybe not in 2007, either," which he said would imply that Eastern Europeans would, in the end, receive only one-third of what they should get from the EU budgetbecause, without his proposed "reform," the EU would, he threatened, have "less to distribute."
Blair's hard line has already led to an alienation among long-time friends of Britain: Poland, for example, has now even asked Germany to help in the fight for Polish interests against Blair, at the EU.