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<nettime> my turn
Ivo Skoric on Thu, 9 Dec 1999 01:06:40 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> my turn


The apparent state of democracy

In Blair's Britain a journalist got arrested by the military police for 
publishing the truth in his book about the British intelligence services 
capability of surveillance of their citizens. Tony Geraghty, a respected 
journalist who was the star defense correspondent of The Sunday 
Times of London in its glory days and has since written half a 
dozen books, wrote the book "The Irish War," about the centuries 
of conflict in and about Ireland.  A year ago this month, six Ministry 
of Defense police officers appeared at Mr. Geraghty's home on the 
Welsh border, searched it, seized a mass of his papers and 
arrested him. He is charged with violating the Official Secrets Act 
by publishing material given him without authority by an official. The 
maximum penalty is two years in prison.

Twelve years ago Yugoslav Ministry of Defense police officers 
arrested four Slovenian citizens (three journalists - Jansa, Tasic, 
Zavrl - and one military officer - Borstner), searched their homes 
and offices and seized their belongings. They were charged with 
violating pretty much the same type of law (although the three 
Mladina journalist did not even manage to get to publish the 
material given to them without an authority by the official, also 
arrested). They all served prison terms, ranging from 1 year to 4 
years (military official got the longest term). But that was 
Yugoslavia, and not the oldest planetary parliamentary democracy. 
Igor Bavcar, who today is Slovenian Secretary for European Affairs, 
was at that time heading the ad-hoc formed Council for Protection 
of Human Rights, a body dedicated to gathering local and 
international support for the accused foursome. Blair’s bureaucrats 
should study well how the trial and its aftermath completely ruined 
the Yugoslav Army’s standing in Slovenia: until then, there were 
some doubts that YA troops were not friendly to Slovenia. Those 
doubts were removed with the commencement of the trial. One 
should, therefore, be cautious not to ruin the fragile peace just 
reached in Northern Ireland, with some Orwellian monster-process. 

“In a book on a long-running civil conflict, the author briefly 
describes how his government uses surveillance systems to trace 
suspected enemies of the state. He is arrested, charged with a 
serious crime, his house ransacked and papers seized. Did this 
happen in China, or perhaps Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore? No, it 
happened in Tony Blair's Britain. It is an astonishing story, and it 
discloses a dirty little secret: The Blair government has 
authoritarian instincts.” - wrote Anthony Lewis in New York Times. 
What might the long due, but slightly unexpected, sarcasm of the 
super-serious New York newspaper convey? Did the Brits 
misbehave recently in some way hurting the U.S. global interests? 
How did the UK delegates vote at the WTO conference in Seattle?

As for the Seattle events, there are several shocking discoveries:
1) police started throwing tear gas before there were any signs of 
violence or vandalism among protesters - that came to me from 
several sources who were there on the streets - this also means 
that the police acted violently before they got the mandate from the 
mayor to do so - it was the Seattle police who unleashed the first 
act of violence by firing tear gas canisters and rubber bullets and 
throwing concussion grenades at the crowd
2) some of the protesters who acted violently and incited 
vandalism, turned out to be plainclothes at the end
3) the group of youth who according to the observers committed 
most of the vandalism was followed and gassed by the police but 
they were not stopped or arrested immediately
- this all testifies to the possibility that police used a range of 
provocateurs on the inside and on the outside of the protesters to 
break up the protest. What would be the motive for such an action? 
Wouldn’t the peaceful albeit massive protest do less harm to the 
WTO conference than for long in the U.S. unparalleled police 
violence, shutting off the downtown area of one of the American 
most vibrant cities and arresting hundreds of law-abiding citizens? 
Joe Franko, American Friends Service Committee regional director 
of the Pacific-Southwest Region spent the time of his arrest from 
Wednesday afternoon until Thursday morning with his hands tied 
behind his back with a plastic shackle. In the end the WTO 
conference collapsed, failing to heed to the U.S. interests, and 
showing that WTO is becoming, not unlike the UN, an independent 
global regulatory body, with all of its advantages (it is not any more 
really a tool of the developed world to make the exploitation of their 
former colonies legal) and disadvantages (it is basically yet another 
wasteful bureaucracy). The protest and the subsequent apparently 
unprovoked police action were therefore successful in derailing the 
U.S. corporate interest, which was what protesters wanted and 
what police was allegedly there to obstruct. 

What is the most dangerous aspect of WTO? The secret 
arbitrations where three bureaucrats decide in secrecy whether 
some poor country is not “open enough” for the rape by multi-
national corporations. The country may be directed to amend its 
laws to be more suitable for the rape, or face non-negotiated 
sanctions. But the WTO has no power to enforce those decisions 
except by sanctions, which, as we know from the examples of the 
UN sponsored sanctions, almost never lead to the intended 
consequences.

This spirit of resistance is not limited to the Balkans or to Seattle, 
USA: On Monday 6 December, tens of thousands of Dutch 
secondary school students went on strike against government 
education policy. The government "Phase Two" policy curtails 
education prematurely for many students. This year,
the Dutch government was willing to spend much taxpayers' money 
on throwing NATO bombs on the Balkans; destroying human lives, 
and also, eg, many schools. However, money for good schools in 
The Netherlands is a different matter ...

There were big strikers' marches; including one of over 20.000 
students and teachers in The Hague, the government city. This 
was much more than the organizers had expected.

Dutch peace activists participated in the march. They distributed 
leaflets of solidarity with the students; and also calling for solidarity 
with schools in Yugoslavia, by helping the OBJ (the Dutch 
Foundation for Reconstruction of Primary Schools in Yugoslavia). 
These leaflets were very eagerly accepted by the marchers. Also, 
solidarity postcards with Yugoslav schools, and anti-war brochures, 
were sold. Through the leaflets, thousands of students learned for 
the first time about the strike in Leposavic (Kosovo) on November 
23. Students and workers protested Clinton's Kosovo visit there. 
Big business Dutch dailies had not mentioned that protest. 

In The Hague, some students threw fruit and eggs at government 
politicians; and also at opposition politician Paul Rosenmöller 
[Rosenmöller, Green Left party leader, had supported NATO 
bombing this spring; to the dismay of many Green Left voters]. The 
Special Mobile Police attacked peaceful demonstrators. At least 
sixteen students were arrested, according to RTL 4 television.

Also, members of the Bread and Roses Affinity Group were jailed in 
October on charges of trespassing for a peaceful protest at the Andover 
Raytheon Electronic Systems plant. This is the plant where guidance 
electronics for the U.S./NATO precision guided bombs and missiles is 
assembled. Protest happened in May while those bombs were being fired 
on Yugoslavia. The members of the peace group justified the protest 
against the weapons manufacturer because of a child’s death in Iraq. The 
child died because the US bombed the water treatment plant in its town. 
The bombs were made by Raytheon, the largest Massachusetts 
employer. Raytheon, that used to sell its products to Iraq and Yugoslavia 
(balkansnet.org/yugoslavery.html)  as well ({ GOTOBUTTON BM_1_ http://balkansnet.org/yugoslavery.html),} got quite greedy with the 
Kosovo war and overstated its income expectations driving its stock 
price to 75 3/8 in August. The stock plunged to 21 1/4 in October, and 
had not recovered quite since (it is 27 7/16 now). A sort of poetic justice 
is that the stocks 52 week low was on the same day the Bread & Roses 
people were sentenced: October 13.

Having used so-called vacuum bombs (fuel/air bombs) against Iraqi 
troops in the gulf war, the U.S. now has troubles condemning its 
potentially planned use against Chechens by Russians. And the 
situation with Chechenya is beyond anything we saw so far. The 
ultimatum issued by Russians to the citizens of Grozny goes further than 
both the Rambouillet (sign or get bombed) agreement or the classic 
Serbian proposition in Bosnia and Kosovo (get out or be shelled): leave 
or die.

During a break in the bombing and shelling of the Chechen capital, 
leaflets were dropped warning civilians to leave the encircled city 
before this Saturday ''by any means possible.'' The accompanying 
threat could not have been more chilling. ''Only in this way,'' the 
leaflet said, ''will you be able to avoid death.'' (The Boston Globe, 
December 8, 1999, Editorial)

Should NATO have dropped leaflets over Serbia that were nearly that 
assertive, NATO leaders would be rightfully met by the moral outrage 
globally. It is clear that Russians intend to wage this war in the NATO 
style, meaning by air power only. Therefore, there are speculations that 
fuel/air bombs may be used to deliver on the leaflet’s promise, since 
there is not much else that can ‘do the job’ from the safe distance short 
of chemical or nuclear weapons, which the world still hopes, the 
Russians would not be crazy enough to use.

But let’s see how is the Russian threat met globally: in his speech at 
Brown University in Providence, RI, a few days ago, the Deputy 
Secretary of State, Strobe Talbott bent over backwards to reassure 
Russians that the U.S. and NATO will not intervene in Chechenya no 
matter what Russians do, despite his personal disgust with the methods 
Russians use. 

"In Chechnya there is no question whatsoever about Russian 
sovereignty. Rather, it is a question about the methods the 
Russians are using to deal with a secessionist threat a terrorist 
threat. We feel it is kind of a classic case of them administering a 
medicine which is at least as bad as the disease itself. . . . That's 
the nature of our concern in Chechnya." That’s a very encouraging 
statement for citizens of Grozny. (www.kavkaz.org)
                                  
The U.S. vital interests shifted from the North Caucasus to the 
South Caucasus with the agreement on the construction of Trans-
Caspian and Baku-Ceyhan pipelines from Azerbejdjan to Turkey 
through Georgia signed at the OSCE summit in Istanbul (November 
18-19), and ultimately lead to The U.S. Congress National Library's 
Strategic Center recommendation to Congress that financing to 
Georgia should increase over the next 2-3 years to ensure 
"Georgia's political and military integration into NATO and Western 
structures as soon as possible". A genuine fear that such 
"integration" may provoke an aggressive response from Russia will 
not, however, hinder Georgia's push for greater autonomy from her 
northern neighbour - or its willingness to use US weaponry to do it. 
On the eve of the October election, the Speaker of the Georgian 
Parliament, Zurab Zhvania joined his three-year-old son for a joyride 
on a US military helicopter. Asked why, he quipped: "My son has 
to get used to U.S. and NATO military equipment". Georgia is 
definitely a hot-spot to watch now. Check { GOTOBUTTON BM_2_ www.iwpr.net }www.iwpr.net for news 
from Caucasus. Russia's second military campaign against 
Chechnya has attracted widespread concern over the border in 
Georgia. Russian military helicopters and aircraft have already 
violated Georgian air space, bombing targets near the Chechen 
border on two occasions. Azerbaijan has also been hit. In sharp 
contrast to the media in Russia, not only did Georgian readers and 
TV viewers get the Chechen side of the story - complete with 
graphic imagery of the devastation they were enduring under 
Russian air attack - but they were also hearing it from the 
Chechens themselves. The Georgian media were also drawing 
heavily from western media, which had already turned critical of the 
affair.

Russia and Georgia issued a joint statement on the Conventional 
Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, signed in Istanbul, setting 
terms and negotiating conditions for the complete withdrawal of the 
Russian forces from Moldova and Georgia. In the run-up to the 
OSCE summit in Istanbul (November 18-19) the Georgian media 
turned to Chechnya once again. Reports accused Moscow of 
violating their commitments on troop withdrawal under the 
Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, and linked 
these concerns with Russia's military presence in Georgia. Russia 
maintains forces in Georgia, ostensibly as peacekeepers in the 
aftermath of the country's own separatist civil conflicts in Abkhazia 
and South Ossetia after Georgian independence in 1991.

Given its geographical position, a compliant Georgia is key to 
Russian influence across the Caucasus. Linked with Turkey, Iran 
and her strategic partner, Armenia, Russia would continue to 
influence every ongoing process in the Near East and would wield 
considerable influence along the Euro-Asian economic corridor. But 
the proposed pipelines and sustained pressure to downgrade her 
military presence in the region have begun to chip away at Russia's 
position. Russia risks losing her dominant influence in the 
Caucasus, should a fully independent Georgia emerge. With this in 
mind, the motive behind Russia's repeated accusations of Georgian 
collusion with Chechen militants becomes all to clear. Such 
accusations are part and parcel of Russia's increasingly vocal 
campaign in support of her military presence in Georgia. Russia is 
preparing the ideological ground for a final blow to Georgian 
independence. In the run-up to the elections on October 31 the 
removal of Russian bases was a key campaign promise for virtually 
every hopeful candidate. Shevardnadze, true to form, preferred to 
make vague and non-committal statements on the issue. The 
president claimed Georgia would "knock on NATO's door in 2005". 
The mere mention of "knocking" on NATO's door produced a storm 
of media criticism in Russia. The Moscow daily Nezavisimaya 
Gazeta wrote "Georgia's President declared that his country will 
become a NATO member by 2005 and the Azeri government 
intends to locate a U.S. military base near Baku. Should NATO 
troops be located in the Caucasus, we will witness the rise of 
separatism in the North Caucasus".

Oil is going to bypass both Chechnya and Russia, so the outcome 
of Russians actions in Chechnya is irrelevant for the corporate 
interest. However, what Talbott did not say at Brown University is 
about the NATO intention to eventually snatch Georgia, after letting 
Russians do whatever they want with Chechnya.

Meanwhile, another ailing war criminal faces extradition: South Africa is 
tinkering with Ethiopian request to extradite Mengistu Haile Miriam. This 
further establishes the practice in which the persons potentially guilty of 
the crimes against humanity are brought to justice at the time they are 
already old, weak and nearly unfit to stand the trial. I guess Milosevic is 
taking notes, and securing a private hospital somewhere for his old days.

In Kosovo, we learn from NATO secretary general in his op-ed for the 
Washington Post, everything is rosy:
- more than 800,000 refugees have returned home with 
unprecedented speed (they were driven away from their homes with 
even more unprecedented speed...) 
- the hostilities have ended (that would need some more 
elaboration...)
- all Serb forces have withdraw (hopefully)
- the Kosovo Liberation Army has been disbanded and demilitarized
by the international force known as KFOR, handing over some 
10,000
weapons (this also remains to be seen - if the disbandment of KLA 
was actually successful)
- there were only 25 murders in October (which indeed is a better 
record than almost any place in the world; but what with “The KLA 
and its affiliates continue to murder dozens of people a week–as if 
having expelled roughly 90 percent of the Serbs in the province 
weren’t enough.”? /NY Press, December 1-7, 1999; Kosovo Korner; 
By: Christopher Caldwell/)
- the U.N. civil police have taken over responsibility for law and 
order in Pristina and Prizren (I guess, given that the UN police does 
such a marvelous job in keeping law and order, maybe they can do 
it on the streets of American cities as well)
- a few days ago, the first multi-ethnic class of the Kosovo Police 
Academy graduated - judges and court officers are being appointed 
on a multi-ethnic basis
- the U.N.'s winterization program is about 70 percent complete
- the World Food Programme is providing aid to 650,000 Kosovars
- the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and others are 
currently providing shelter kits benefiting 380,000 people
- the whole province resembles one enormous building site, with 
bricks, mortar, sand and the sounds of construction everywhere
- some 500 schools have been demined, and 300,000 children went 
back to school this fall to be taught in their own language for the 
first time in 10 years
- the main power plant in Kosovo was recently reopened and the 
amount of electricity generated in Kosovo today is almost triple the 
level produced over the past few years (this is particularly sweet - it 
is like the communist reports on the progress of the country’s 
rebuilding after the WW II: so now the same power plant makes 3 
times more electricity because of the faith and strength of our 
NATO commrades)

So, what motivated Lord Robertson’s exuberant optimism? Money. He 
wants more money. He wants the UN to pay the bill of keeping civilian 
law and order, and he wants the UN member nations to foot the bill. This 
does relieve NATO from civilian duties, but does not relieve the US, a 
notorious dead-beat with its UN bills, from its obligations. Does this 
cause a slight friction between the UK (Lord is obviously British) and 
US, which spent unbelievable amounts of money during the bombing 
raids?

``There's a very thin line between success and failure in Kosovo, 
and we're walking that line at the moment,'' Lord Robertson said in 
an interview after meeting U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

While the NATO-led peacekeeping operation in Kosovo has been a 
success given the level of violence in Kosovo over the past 10 
years, he said, the U.N. civilian effort hasn't moved quickly enough. 
Robertson said he and Annan agree that a key problem is money.

``The message from the NATO secretary-general is that if we make 
a very small investment now, it will save a colossal amount of 
money later if it all goes wrong,'' Robertson said.

Kosovo needs a 4,200-strong civilian police force to take over work 
being done by the NATO-led force known as KFOR, but there are 
fewer than 2,000 police in the province now, he said.

Kosovo also needs a fair and objective justice system and civil 
administration, he said, and it needs to pay the salaries of 
teachers, judges and the Kosovo Protection Corps, the civil 
defense unit that includes many members of the Kosovo Liberation 
Army.

Last week, the commander of NATO forces in Kosovo, Gen. Klaus 
Reinhardt, told the alliance the United Nations was $120 million 
short to pay civil servants and $10 million short in funding the 
Kosovo Protection Corps. (Associated Press. December 6, 1999; 
NATO Chief Urges Kosovo Investment; By EDITH M. LEDERER)

The fact that situation in Kosovo stabilizes, does not mean that the 
conflict is solved. The situation in Bosnia stabilized, too - but the conflict 
is still present and obvious. Stability without conflict resolution spells 
out an interminable need for international force presence. Conflict 
resolution, however, is not a matter of money...

Ivo

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