Western European News Digest
U.S. Military Moves Destabilize Europe, Threaten Russia
The U.S. is proposing the installation of 10 interceptor missiles and a radar, divided between Poland and the Czech Republic, two former Warsaw Pact countries. Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolaned announced Jan. 20 that the U.S. has now officially proposed to deploy missile defense radar on Czech territory. In Poland, the conservative green government had barely been installed when, a short two weeks later, on Jan. 22, U.S. Embassy spokesman in Warsaw, Andrew Schilling, reported that the United States wants to open formal negotiations with Warsaw over the possibility of basing part of its missile defense system on Polish territory. Schilling said the request was first made Jan. 19 to Polish officials, and that a "formal diplomatic note" would follow. Poland's Defense Minister Radek Sikorski, a close friend of Lynne Cheney, indicated that the Polish government was willing to talk. "Our most important ally is asking us for something and naturally, as an ally, we reply that as on any important issue, we will want to talk with the U.S.," Sikorski said on TV N24 television.
Meanwhile, Russia has reacted against the announced U.S. plans. Russia's Ria Novosti and Interfax news agencies quoted Col. Gen. Vladimir Popovkin, the chief of Russia's Space Forces, as saying on Jan. 22, "Our analysis shows that the placement of a radar station in the Czech Republic and an anti-missile position in Poland would create a clear threat for Russia."
Italian Crisis Provoked by Bush-Cheney War Policies
The coalition government led by Romano Prodi is facing a foreign-policy crisis as a result of internal opposition to the Bush/Cheney war policies. The immediate issue of the crisis is the coming Parliament vote on refinancing the Afghanistan military mission; however, the government is split on two other issues that have helped to catalyze a broad popular discontent: the planned enlargement of the Vicenza (Aviano) U.S. air base, and the extraditions in the case of the Abu Omar abduction.
Three parties of the government coalitionPdCI (Italian Communist Party), Greens, and PRC (Communist Refoundation Party)are threatening to vote against the government decree on Afghanistan, if it does not contain a shift in the direction of an exit strategy.
The internal opposition has enough votes in both houses of Parliament to defeat a government bill on Afghanistan; thus, the government is faced with three alternatives: 1. forcing an executive order to refinance the Afghanistan mission, in which case there will be a government crisis; 2. accepting opposition votes, in which case there will be a government crisis as well; reach an agreement with the internal opposition.
As to the Vicenza issue, already 120 members of Parliament, belonging to the government coalition, have signed a petition against the enlargement of the U.S. air base. Sen. Silvana Pisa, a member of the Defense Committee of the Senate and a party colleague of Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema, gave EIR a copy of an article she published on Jan. 16, in which she connected the decision on the Vicenza base to the "surge" policy in Iraq. Pisa wrote that Italy has no interest in accepting the doubling of the air base, "the more so, when today U.S. bases are serving a political-military strategy [the war on terrored.] which has made the world more insecure." "The new scenarios outlined by the U.S. military policy (from the surge in Iraq to the bombings in Somalia) raise concern about a global destabilization," Pisa wrote.
Slaying of Hrant Dink Triggers Turkish Outpouring of Sympathy for Armenian
Whoever was behind the killing of Armenian-Turkish intellectual Hrant Dink on Jan. 19, may have hoped to provoke chaos in Turkey, discredit its bid for EU entry, and exacerbate conflict between Turkey and Armenia, and Armenia and Azerbaijan (which were about to hold talks on Karabakh). Instead, the assassination generated an outpouring of sympathy and support for Dink, from the Turkish population as a whole. It is as if the nation's conscience had been stirred to acknowledge that the entire issue of the Armenian genocidewhich Dink wrote abouthad been exploited and manipulated in a morally unacceptable fashion. Dink had been indicted and convicted for having offended "Turkishness" according to a bizarre paragraph of the penal code, known as 301, and had been given a suspended sentence. He was a target of ultra-nationalist circles and had received death threats.
The funeral in Istanbul was attended by masses of ordinary Turkish citizens, 100,000 or more. Some mourners shouted, "Shoulder to shoulder against fascism" and "Murderer 301"referring to the law. In an unprecedented show of solidarity, they carried hand signs saying, "We are all Hrant Dink" and "We are all Armenians."
Although Turkey and Armenia have no diplomatic relations, the Turkish government officially invited the Armenian government to attend, which it did, in the person of Deputy Foreign Minister Arman Kirakossian. The Archbishop of the Armenian Church of America, Khajag Barsamyan, also attended. Armenian Defense Minister Sarkisyan called for better relations so that Armenia can "establish ties with Turkey with no preconditions."
As far as the investigation goes, Aykut Cengiz Engin, Istanbul's chief prosecutor, said that they have found no link between the murder and "known ideological or separatist" illegal organizations, but added: "we are investigating in detail the possibility that it was carried out by an organization."
British Physicians: Bush's War Is Killing Iraqi Children
A group of nearly 100 eminent British and Iraqi doctors, backed by a group of international lawyers, has written to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, describing to him the horrendous conditions which face Iraqi children in British hospitals, the Belfast Telegraph reported Jan. 19. "Sick or injured children who could otherwise be treated by simple means are left to die because they do not have access to basic medicines or other resources," they wrote. "Children who have lost hands, feet and limbs are left without prostheses. Children with grave psychological distress are left untreated." Hospitals lack oxygen masks, sterile needles and surgical gloves. Intermittent gas and electricity supplies mean boiled water cannot be regularly supplied. Water is contaminated because of failed waste and sewage disposal systems.
The doctors wrote that Britain, as one of the occupying powers, has to comply with the Geneva and Hague Conventions that require the U.S. and Britain to "maintain order and to look after the needs of the population." But, they say, "This they failed to do and the knock-on effect of this failure is affecting Iraqi children's hospitals with increasing ferocity."
According to a recent Save The Children report, infant mortality in Iraq is 59 per 1,000 live births, among the highest in the world; only 50% of the pre-war number of doctors remain in Iraq; and as many as 260,000 children may have died in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-British invasion.
EU Lauds German Austerity Efforts, Demands More
In a statement issued Jan. 22, EU Commissioner for Finances Jose Joaquin Almunia said that the German government had made great strides toward budget consolidation, i.e., fulfilling the Maastricht criteria, so that punitive actions or even sanctions by the Commission, could be averted. However, Almunia added, Germany should make absolutely sure that the newly attained budget discipline not be softened, that new energetic steps be taken to ensure that the budget remained consolidated into 2008 and thereafter.
Arrests Now Being Made in 'Peerage-gate' Scandal
British police officers arrested Ruth Turner, political advisor to Prime Minister Tony Blair, at her home on Jan. 19. According to the Guardian Jan. 20, the police fraud squad questioned her for six hours on her role the cash-for-peerages investigation, in which Blair allegedly offered honors, such as knighthoods and appointments to the House of Lords, in return for financial support for the Labour Party's election campaigns. Turner is also suspected of perverting the course of justice which could include destroying documents and tampering with witnesses." She was released on bail. Blair's office released a statement supporting Turner, and claiming that all charges would be refuted.
The police have now questioned about 100 Labour Party members, including the Prime Minister himself.
Revolt Brewing in Germany Against Bio-Diesel Lunacy
Peter Hahn, chairman of the German Brewers Association, said in Berlin Jan. 19, that increased production of bio-diesel is consuming more and more barley needed for brewing beer. Since growing of barley has shrunk, under European Union guidelines, to almost half of what it was in 1991, the increased use of barley to produce bio-diesel is forcing the brewers to look for expensive substitutes, one effect being rising prices for beer. Moreover, it is absurd and immoral to use food ingredients for fuels, Hahn said. Hahn also charged the German government, along with the EU Commission, with generously subsidizing growing barley for fuels, on farmland otherwise set aside for growing barley for food.