Western European News Digest
Hadley Warns Europe: NATO Must Not Fail in Afghan Mission
Briefing reporters on the way to Riga, U.S. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley outlined a threefold focus for the NATO summit: 1) the NATO mission in Afghanistan; 2) steps to be taken so that NATO member-countries increase their capability to be able to contribute to missions like Afghanistan; and 3) the need for NATO increase its ties and cooperation with countries like Japan, Korea, and Australia, which are not NATO member countries but are assisting NATO in military operations.
When asked about any concern that NATO isn't up to the mission in Afghanistan, either because of logistical or political problems, Hadley said, "There is a recognition on the part of NATO that this is a terribly important mission, not only from the standpoint of Afghanistan, but what it represents, in terms of the struggle against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the war on terror." He also asserted that "it is also important for NATO that it not fail in this mission. This is a new mission for NATO. This is not the kind of operation they've done before.... NATO countries are going to find that they do not have all the capabilities they need...."
Atlanticists Goad Germany into Increased Afghan Action
At the second session of the Riga conference, attendant to the NATO summit, Atlantic Council president Fred Kempe tried to bait German journalist and "think-tanker" Christoph Bertram on Germany's refusal to send troops into southern Afghanistan and into harm's way, as part of the recent drumbeat portraying the Germans as beer-guzzling cowards. "What is going on in Germany, and how can the Germans sit in their safe North and let Canadians die in the South?" Kampe queried Bertram. "Oh, come off it," the latter replied, "I think it is a ridiculous question, the way you put it.... Don't start with the finger-pointing, because I don't think that will get you anywhere."
Arriving in Riga one day after two Canadian soldiers were killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned his allies that if they did not assist the Canadians in southern Afghanistan, the war could lose public support. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Peter McKay told the conference that "losing young men and women is the surest way" for support to wane. "If soldiers are coming home in coffins, that's a very difficult thing, especially for a younger generation."
Gen. James Jones, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, tried to smooth over this tiff, by making an idiotic distinction between "peacekeeeping" and "peace-enforcing," to explain why some NATO allies' troops get killed, and some don't.
German Victim of U.S. 'Rendition' Torture Sues U.S.A.
Khalid El-Masri, the German victim of torture under the Bush-Cheney rendition policy, gave a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Nov. 29, to discuss his lawsuit, and the five months of torture he underwent. El-Masri, who was accompanied by a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union and his German lawyer, was kidnapped in Macedonia in 2003, and held and tortured for five months in a secret prison in Afghanistan; he was finally given a visa by the State Department and allowed to enter the U.S. to attend a hearing on his case at the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, on Nov. 28. He had been denied entry to the U.S. last December. El-Masri also gave a press conference in Richmond, Virginia, where the case was heard.
El-Masri's civil suit was dismissed by the Federal Court in Alexandria in May, after the government asserted that the case could not be tried without disclosing "state secrets." His lawyers point out that, since that time, President Bush himself has publicly acknowledged the existence of the secret prison network and the rendition program. El-Masri said that what he wants, above all, is an explanation of his rendition and an apology from the U.S. government.
El-Masri debunked any notion that his kidnapping was a case of mistaken identitywhich was previously thought to be the case. While El-Masri is, in fact, a common Arabic name, those holding him knew things about him that only he and his wife had known about, his movements, his bank account, etc., indicating that he had been under surveillance for some time before he was kidnapped, and that he was never actually accused by his interrogators of being a terrorist. Even after former CIA Director George Tenet and then-National Security Advisor Condi Rice had been informed that El-Masri was innocent, he was still imprisoned for another 3-4 months!
Anthony Romero, the executive director of the ACLU, said that this same issue plays out in other contexts. He said there's a pattern and practice by the Bush Administration of casting a very broad net with the presumption of guilt. He noted, that of over 300 individuals still being held at Guantanamo, Cuba, only 11 have actually been charged with any crime. Romero also said that El-Masri would be briefing staff members of the relevant Congressional committees, on his case, including the Senate Armed Services Committee, soon to be chaired by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich).
Six Danish Mayors Urge National High-Speed Rail Network
Under the headline "Fast Trains Will Create Growth," the Copenhagen daily Jyllands-Posten reported Nov. 27 on the press conference held on Nov. 23 by mayors of Copenhagen, Aarhus, Aalborg, and three other cities, presenting the results of a study they commissioned from Denmark's Technical University (DTU), on the benefits of investing to build a high-speed train system. JP quotes Traffic Minister Flemming Hansen saying that he doubts that there is the basis for it in such a small country.
The paper's editorial calls for using an even faster technology that can achieve 350 km/hour, as in France and Spain. The DTU study has a picture of the Shanghai maglev system, with a caption which says that it can run at 430 km/hour, but does not mention that it uses maglev technology.
Chirac Invites Russian President to Paris
As Jacques Chirac, who turned 74 Nov. 29, arrived in the Latvian capital Riga for the NATO Summit Nov. 28, he announced that he had invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to his birthday event in Paris later in the week. (As it turned out, Putin was unable to attend). This special gesture deserves attention, as Putin's Russia is under massive black-propaganda attacks by the West at present (the "energy war," the cases of the Litvinenko poisoning and Politkovskaya shooting, etc.).