Western European News Digest
British Dagger for Cheney: He Planned Iraq Occupation
May 3 (EIRNS)In an exclusive interview with the May 2 London Guardian, Geoff Hoon, British Secretary for Defence during the 2003 Iraq war, said that the planning for the aftermath of the military victory over Iraq had been wrong because of the role of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney.
Hoon, now Minister for Europe, said, "Sometimes ... Tony [Blair] had made his point with the President, and I'd made my point with Don [Rumsfeld] and Jack [Straw] had made his point with Colin [Powell], and the decision actually came out of a completely different place. And you think: What did we miss? I think we missed Cheney."
Hoon said that Britain had argued strongly against the summary dismissal of Iraq's 350,000-man army and police forces, but the U.S. was uncompromising. The sacking of so many with military training and weapons allowed "Saddam's people to link up with al-Qaida and to link up ultimately with Sunni insurgents" to foment sectarian violence. It was also a mistake, Hoon said, to fire all state employees with Ba'ath Party membership, because "they were first and foremost local government people ... they weren't fanatical supporters of Saddam."
This occurred, Hoon said, because dealing with the U.S. Administration was a "multi-dimensional jigsaw puzzle." Hoon, The Guardian reports, "accepted that Britain had greatly underestimated the influence of the neo-con Vice President Mr. Cheney, and had lacked a comparable figure able to engage him regularly over the war."
Committee Blocks Funds for European Missile Defense
May 3 (EIRNS)The Armed Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee voted unanimously yesterday to block funds for construction of an anti-missile defense system in Poland, a system which has been repeatedly denounced by Russian leaders.
While the House voted up funds to continue development of radar and interceptors that could be used in the Czech Republic, they could also be used in the U.S., if the Czechs vote not to allow them.
Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), chair of the subcommittee, said in a recent interview, "There has to be a debate" on the Eastern Europe deployment. In an April 19 speech to the Atlantic Council, Tauscher said that the Bush Administration had conducted only "limited bilateral negotiations" to extend the missile defense system to Europe; that there is currently "no NATO consensus on the Bush Administration's proposal"; and, that the U.S. Missile Defense Agency "has only concluded one successful test of the ground-based system since 2002, which occurred in September 2006."
In his statement at the May 2 hearing, ranking Republican Rep. Terry Everett (Ala.), acknowledged that no agreements had been reached with either Poland or the Czech Republic to station this system.
Labor Gets Bloody Nose in Loss to Scottish National Party
May 3 (EIRNS)With the final vote tallies still uncertain as of this writing, it appears that outgoing Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour Party took it on the nose in today's election. In voting marred by 10% spoiled ballots, Alex Salmond has just claimed victory for the Scottish National Party (SNP) in a 47-seat SNP/46-seat Labour split for the 129 seat Scottish Parliament. But, it is unclear whether, lacking a clear majority, Salmond can form a government, since the Conservatives are the third-largest party with 17 seats, and the Liberal-Democrats fourth with 16. Since both these latter oppose Scottish independence, which is supported by the SNP, leading Liberal-Democrats have already rejected any coalition, if it means a referendum on independence from the UK in four years.
In elections to the Welsh Assembly it appears that Labour won about 25 seats of the 31 needed to have an absolute majority in the 60 seat Assembly. Here, it is easier for Labour to turn to the Liberal-Democrats with restoration of the old Lib-Lab coalition which existed in 2002-2003. Horsetrading has apparently already begun by Rhodri Morgan, the Labour First Minister.
The elections in the British Isles reflect an overall pattern of increasing ungovernability in Europe, which has resulted from the capitulation of governments to globalization. Most significant, of course, is the May 6 election of neocon Nicolas Sarkozy as President of France, whose result will be an increased destabilization of that nation.
British Directly Insult Wolfowitz in Brussels
May 2 (EIRNS)British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, scheduled to appear at a press conference with embattled World Bank chief Paul Wolfowitz, cancelled his appearance, claiming that he had to leave early to campaign in Scotland. British officials told the New York Times, however, that "appearing side by side with Wolfowitz had become a political liability."
To add further insult, Brown was replaced by Hilary Benn, the British International Development Secretary, who stood next to Wolfowitz as he was grilled by the press on the mounting calls for his resignation. It was Benn who had announced last September that the UK was withholding 50 million pounds from the World Bank in protest over Wolfowitz's withholding of loans from numerous nations for political reasons. Benn also publicly lambasted Wolfowitz just before the annual meeting in Washington last month, for undermining the credibility of the Bank.
Locust Fund Alert From Austria
May 3 (EIRNS)In the wake of initiatives, last week, for a parliamentary hearing on hedge fund plans for aggressive takeovers in Switzerland, warnings are also being issued in neighboring Austria, against similar fund plans for takeovers of the 50 biggest corporations of the nation. The Vienna daily Die Presse today carries an article in its economic-financial news section, declaring an alert against the danger of hostile takeovers. The article is accompanied by a picture of a real, green-colored locust. References to "locusts" are also made in other Austrian wires and media.
London Trumpets Coming 'Brutal Adjustment' for Spain
May 5 (EIRNS)The collapse of Spain's real estate bubble can bring down the Spanish monetary system and economy, with ramifications for the euro, is the message delivered by Ambrose Evans Pritchard in the April 26 London Telegraph. Spain's Central Bank has reportedly done a study which concluded that home prices in Spain are 35% overvalued, a bubble which bank governor Miguel Fernandez Ordonez blames on the low interest rates and loose credit resulting from Spain's adoption of the euro.
But now that monetary policy is tightening, Evans Pritchard projects that Spain could find itself in a "monetary squeeze just as the economy swings from boom to bust, more or less the fate suffered by Britain ... in 1992, except that Spain has no way out." He suggests Spain may have to abandon the euro, citing the forecast of a strategist for Banque AIG, that Spain will face a "brutal adjustment over the next two years." The stock market slide of the past week is no correction; "it has a very, very, long way to go."
Lobbying for Maglev Projects in Scotland Intensifies
April 30 (EIRNS)As the Glasgow Herald and other Scottish and British news dailies reported yesterday and today, James Ramsbotham, CEO of the North East Chamber of Commerce of the United Kingdom, having just returned from a ride on the maglev in Shanghai, on April 28, said, "We are a 21st century economy mired in 20th century transport links, which increasingly cause us problems around the major conurbations. Maglev would revolutionize travel in this region and would make the North East a much more cohesive place in which to live. The economic benefits of such a link would be incredible. And it were rolled out across the U.K., it would shred existing journey times to the major cities."
The economic benefit was also prominently addressed by Scottish Labour Party leader Tom McCabe, who said on April 28 that, whereas the cost of a maglev connection between Scotland's two biggest cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow, was 200 million pounds sterling per year, maximally, the benefit of having the combined workforce of both cities coming together by maglev would be in the range of 500 million.