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Year 2001 No. 167, October 4, 2001 ARCHIVE HOME SEARCH SUBSCRIBE

Blair to Address Emergency Parliament Session

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Blair to Address Emergency Parliament Session

Commentators Scorn Tony Blair’s New World Order

Government’s Proposed New Powers

Concern over Jobs Crisis

NATO Formally Invokes Article 5

Taleban Demands Evidence and Respect for International Law

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Blair to Address Emergency Parliament Session

Tony Blair is to address an emergency session of parliament today after effectively putting Britain on a war footing with the Taleban in his Brighton speech before flying to Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In his speech to the Labour Party conference, Tony Blair called for a new world order.

It is being speculated that the Prime Minister will finally show evidence that Osama bin Laden was behind the terrorist attacks. It is being suggested that Tony Blair will announce that the "global alliance against terrorism" put together by Britain and the US is about to launch land and air raids in Afghanistan.

Tony Blair's office has refused to give any details of his impending overseas tour, citing security concerns. But Russian President Vladimir Putin said in Brussels that he was due to see him in Moscow on Thursday. Tony Blair is then expected to leave Moscow on Friday. Pakistani foreign ministry sources said he would then make a brief visit to Pakistan. Sources in the Gulf said Tony Blair would also visit Oman, where some 20,000 British troops are holding military exercises.

Since coming to power on May 1, 1997, Tony Blair has committed British troops to conflicts in the Balkans and West Africa, and has been the staunchest ally of US imperialism in its military adventures, such as the bombing of Iraq, as well as being the most enthusiastic champion of the aggressive NATO military alliance and working to give the EU a military identity.

Article Index

Commentators Scorn Tony Blair’s New World Order

Commentators have scorned Prime Minister Tony Blair’s vision of good triumphing over evil in a world rising from the ashes of the World Trade Centre as somewhat premature.

Analysts are saying that Tony Blair’s rhetoric on tackling global problems like poverty and weapons proliferation are unrealistic and sound rather familiar, as Tony Blair has attempted before to outline a new world order according to his moral code.

Political analysts are saying that Tony Blair, in his role as a coalition-building international statesman, is getting carried away.

"The Middle East Peace process, Kyoto and climate change, a revival of nuclear non-proliferation... all these are challenges now amenable – according to the Blair rhetoric – to the balm of internationalism which we were now being made to understand was the only way for the world to survive," political commentator and author Hugo Young wrote of Tony Blair’s speech. "This was pretty unrealistic."

Analysts also point to previous Blair attempts to outline a new world order.

In 1999, Tony Blair made a major speech in Chicago in which he set out his "Doctrine of International Community". In that speech, he called for a new push on free trade and closer co-operation between nations on the environment. Instead, the World Trade Organisation talks in Seattle collapsed and the United States decided to withdraw from the Kyoto protocol to combat global climate change.

In 1999, Tony Blair was setting out his justification for international intervention in Kosova. This week, he was preparing the world for a military strike on Afghanistan.

Andrew Rawnsley, chief political commentator of The Observer, writing in the London Evening Standard, mocked: "Thus spake the president of the world".

He said: "No wonder he sped back to London so quickly. There’s that much to do. Never mind the small matter of apprehending Osama bin Laden, decapitating the Kabul regime and defeating international terrorism. Tony Blair yesterday dedicated himself to resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict, creating a New Africa, stopping drug trafficking, conquering global warming, and lifting from poverty all the dispossessed billions huddled on this planet. The man wants to save the world from terror, starvation, disease, not forgetting deforestation. The shining city on his oratorical hill was of a new world order of planetary compassion, fairness, and love, sweet love."

Rawnsley continued: "One half-awed, half-ironic Cabinet minister I spoke to afterwards described it as ‘the inaugural speech of the President of the World’."

Andrew Rawnsley writes: "Blair talked affectingly about the United States as if America was his constituency, but he never once mentioned George Bush. He dwelt a while on the economy, but there was no name check for Gordon Brown. It was all Blair. Those legions of phrasemakers and bite-crafters employed at Number 10 had very little to do with this performance. I’m told that the final text was not substantially different from the first draft that he wrote one evening last week. There was hardly a trace of the fingerprints of the atheist Alastair Campbell.

"This is me, that’s what Blair was saying with this speech. And it was a speech which could have been delivered by no one else. I can think of no other member of the Government, nor any leader elsewhere in Europe, who would embrace everyone in his oratory as ‘the children of Abraham’. I can think of no previous prime minister - with the possible exception of William Gladstone - who would deploy the phrase to describe a desire to reconcile Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

"We have long known how much of Blair’s faith is imported into his politics. He has often framed struggles in terms of good and evil. He has been animated for a considerable time by the themes of this manifesto for a new global order. It is not that he is newly arrived at the view that the world is mutually dependent. The desperate condition of Africa has for a considerable time been a Blair passion. He has long been an advocate of the need for humanitarian intervention. What distinguished this speech was the vividness and the comprehensiveness with which he drew together his arguments against isolationism and for internationalism."

Andrew Rawnsley goes on to say; "For Tony Blair, the new world born out of the atrocities in America is a world in which there is an even stronger case for Britain becoming a fully engaged partner in Europe. Since 11 September, he has hardened in his view that the political case for joining the euro is compelling. The passage on the single currency was his clearest public expression yet of his private desire to take Britain into the euro before the next election. He said it surely aware that the eurohaters would accuse him of trying to smuggle the single currency into Britain by dressing it up in khaki. He said it surely knowing that it would be unpopular with the sceptical Gordon Brown. You could tell how much this disturbed the Chancellor by the speed with which his outriders fanned out to try to spin the media that nothing had really changed."

He says of Tony Blair: "Not only does the evangelist believe in heaven, he talks as though it might be built on earth. He projected Britain - and thus himself - as not just the world’s police force. This medium-sized island in the North Sea is to be the world’s peacekeeper, aid worker and archbishop, imam and rabbi.

"This asks to be jeered as hubris. Tony Blair leads a Government which is struggling to get the trains to run on time and to provide hospitals that are clean. As he candidly admitted, many of the basics of public services in Britain remain a disgrace. If the man can’t fix the school lavatories, what hope for plumbing in a new world order?"

An Evening Standard editorial comment in the same newspaper refers to "Mr Blair’s grand vision". The comment points out that Britain is by an immeasurable distance the junior partner in the coalition formed by the United States, and it is worrying to see the Prime Minister’s rhetoric becoming more strident than that of President Bush.

The editorial continues: "It will be a great mistake if the Coalition extends its explicit ‘war aims’ to include the destruction of the Taleban, merely because the Taleban is a conspicuous evil. Mr Blair follows President Clinton in delivering ringing words declaring that something will be done about Africa, but it is wildly unlikely that fine words will be followed by effective deeds. The Prime Minister’s sweeping panorama would carry more conviction if he seemed to have a more effective grip on the mundane problems of public services here at home. And when he goes to Oman later this week to see ‘our boys’ in the desert, please God he will not be photographed riding in the turret of a tank."

The editorial concludes: "Mr Blair’s premiership currently stands on a knife edge between the brilliant and the bathetic. It is most likely to achieve the former if he does not seek grandeur abroad, while failing to address the humdrum challenges of modern Britain."

Article Index

Government’s Proposed New Powers

New proposals are being drafted quickly and the first among these are expected to become law within a few weeks. Three emergency Bills are to be introduced.

The government is proposing some changes in tandem with the European Union (EU) but is pushing ahead with others on its own. The proposals have provoked opposition from civil rights groups, within academic circles and amongst concerned people as a whole.

The proposals include the deportation of anyone suspected of terrorism. Suspects within Britain will be detained, deported or extradited with greater ease. The appeals process in extradition cases will be cut short to prevent terrorist suspects exploiting the law by "playing it long".

Immigration laws will be reviewed to ensure that asylum applications of anyone suspected of being a terrorist are not considered. A new system of work permits similar to the US Green Card will be introduced to clamp down on illegal workers and encourage in skilled workers to fill in gaps in the labour market.

The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, wants to examine the potential for a new work permit regime, creating four permits. These will include permits for highly skilled migrants, which would allow people with significant professional qualifications to enter the country without a job in order to seek work. The system is expected to be introduced from January next year. Overseas students who graduate in the UK will be able to apply for a work permit without leaving the country. David Blunkett will also hold talks with employers and unions about the potential for a system of quota-based permits for those parts of the economy handicapped by severe labour shortages. He is also looking at introducing temporary permits for seasonal workers.

Other proposals will allow law enforcers full access to passenger and freight information, by air, train or sea.

Bureaux de Change are to be licensed and regulated on the basis that they are said to be the main route for laundering money for terrorists and criminals. It will be illegal to deal with unlicensed bureaux. Bureaux de change centres in Britain processed an estimated US$6 billion last year, of which only 8 per cent was traveller money. About two-thirds of the transactions are being said to be illegal transfers.

Police will be given powers to monitor bank accounts suspected of being used for terrorist purposes. This will bring to Britain powers already in force in the north of Ireland. Banks are already required to report suspect dealings. Now the onus will be placed on financial institutions to report suspicious money movements and the police could step in directly with powers to freeze a suspect account at the start of an investigation related to terrorism. At present they can freeze it only when there is evidence.

Other countries will be asked to implement a United Nations Security Council resolution ensuring that their financial institutions report suspect transactions.

Customs and Excise and the Inland Revenue will be given powers to exchange information with the police ‘‘where appropriate’’.

Professional groups such as lawyers should be required to report transactions with suspected terrorist connections. Lawyers are being asked to examine all their client files to see if their clients could be linked with the terrorism. Those who fail to comply face an end to their careers, the Law Society has warned.

Incitement to religious hatred will be made an offence. So far incitement only to race hatred is an offence.

The proposals include increased powers of surveillance including the right to monitor emails.

‘‘We cannot have a situation in which it takes years to extradite people," Tony Blair said in an interview on the BBC this week.

‘‘We cannot have a situation in which people come in and abuse our asylum procedures and are then allowed to remain, claiming asylum. And we cannot have a situation where, if we know someone is a suspected terrorist, we do not have the legal power to detain them indefinitely until we find a country to deport them to," he said.

Tony Blair has asked for an all-party backing for the new proposals. Most of these measures have the full backing of the Conservatives.

‘‘We have promised to co-operate with the government in new moves on deportation and extradition,’’ a Conservative Party spokesperson said. ‘‘We will support the government in nailing and blocking of funds for terrorist organisations. The government needs to move quickly and we will work with them to achieve effective legislation.’’

The one move the Tories are expected to oppose is powers for an EU arrest warrant. New party leader Iain Duncan Smith is opposing it on the ground that Britain must not surrender powers to the European Union, the plank on which he won his election as Tory leader.

There is unease that many of the changes will be used to target minorities, particularly Muslims. ‘‘These are very disturbing political changes,’’ Penny Green, Professor of Law at Westminster University said. ‘‘You are getting legislation that is not strictly necessary as a knee-jerk reaction to a particular event.’’ She said, ‘‘In practice such legislation will be used against certain minority populations as a means of social control.’’

The attack on the United States has been made an excuse to choke Islamic groups, Yasha Maccanico from Statewatch, a civil liberties watchdog, said. ‘‘So many of these measures have so little to do with terrorism,’’ he said. ‘‘It is as if the attacks on the US made it possible to pass in one swipe legislation they had trouble getting through before.’’

Existing laws already cover some of the new powers proposed, Rodney Austin from the University of London said. ‘‘The government already has powers to detain indefinitely someone they believe is doing things not conducive to public good.’’ Much of the new legislation is needless, he said, because ‘‘if they were to look up existing legislation, they will see that they can already do pretty much all that they want to’’. New legislation and the present mood will mean that Muslims in particular will be subjected to excessive scrutiny, Rodney Austin said.

New legislation can mean that Britain could be violating the European Convention of Human Rights as it stands today. That was incorporated into British law under the Human Rights Act of 1998. ‘‘The government might now have to make amendments to derogate from that and also to derogate from the European convention,’’ said Rodney Austin.

Article Index

Concern over Jobs Crisis

The government is being urged by the Manufacturing, Science and Finance union to convene a manufacturing summit to help stem the huge number of job losses in the industry. The MSF says that the US terror attack has worsened the crisis facing manufacturing companies.

The union tabled an emergency motion for the Labour Party Conference calling for the summit. "We need the Government to convene a high level summit of business and trade union leaders with ministers to co-ordinate a strategic response to the current crisis," MSF General Secretary Roger Lyons said. He said that the government should be offering selective assistance to parts of the country worst hit by the economic downturn.

The union also called for firms to be given protection from bankruptcy so they can operate while their shares are suspended.

ASLEF General Secretary Mick Rix told the Tribune rally at the Labour Party conference in Brighton that airlines had used the terror crisis as an excuse to push through industry restructuring. The union leader said that, during a recent trip to the US, he had counted 70,000 jobs being axed by three different airlines, moves he claimed were designed to protect profit margins rather than the companies involved.

Mick Rix told the audience: "We have seen since September 11 excuse after excuse for bosses to make workers redundant. In the UK we have seen the same thing with the airline industry. Within three days of September 11, BA made a crucial economic decision to pull out of Gatwick. These companies have been waiting for an excuse to restructure. I have not heard one Government minister condemn that atrocity that is taking place."

Mick Rix complained that ministers were continuing to push their plans for the greater use of the Private Finance Initiative in the health and education services, as well as a Public Private Partnership on the London Underground. He told the audience: "You can’t ask workers to go to war and stab them in the back at the same time."

Article Index

NATO Formally Invokes Article 5

On October 2, NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson announced that based on a "classified briefing" with the US, NATO was formally invoking Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. Article 5 states that "an armed attack on one or more of the Allies in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all". NATO first announced on September 12 that Article 5 would be invoked subject to evidence provided by the US that the September 11 attacks were external terrorist attacks.

In a released statement, Robertson said that US officials briefed the North Atlantic Council and provided "classified evidence" of who is responsible for the attacks. Because the briefing was classified, Robertson said, no details would be given. George Robertson also said that similar briefings were being given to NATO governments in their capitals. According to news sources, the US was beginning with Canada, Britain and Australia with NATO and "other key countries" to receive diplomatic cables later in the week.

The briefing was given by Ambassador Frank Taylor, the US Department of State Co-ordinator for Counter-terrorism, US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and US Deputy Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz, according to the NATO Secretary-General. "The facts are clear and compelling. The information presented points conclusively to an Al-Qaida role in the 11 September attacks. We know that the individuals who carried out these attacks were part of the world-wide terrorist network of Al-Qaida, headed by Osama Bin Laden and his key lieutenants and protected by the Taleban," Robertson said.

George Robertson continued, "On the basis of this briefing, it has now been determined that the attack against the United States on 11 September was directed from abroad and shall therefore be regarded as an action covered by Article 5 of the Washington Treaty."

According to news agencies, Robertson declined to answer reporters questions as to how NATO would translate the decision into "operational action", saying that the US would come back to NATO at a later date with any requests.

Article Index

Taleban Demands Evidence and Respect for International Law

On September 30, a Taleban envoy in Islamabad, Pakistan, demanded that the US provide evidence that Osama bin Laden was involved in the September 11 attacks in the US, news sources report. Mulla Abdul Zaeef, Afghanistan’s ambassador in Islamabad, told reporters, "I want to once again categorically say that Osama bin Laden will not be handed over to anyone."

Zaeef said that US President George W. Bush should not issue orders to the Taleban as he is not the ruler of Afghanistan to issue orders to the Afghans, new sources report. He also warned that it would be a terrorist action if the United States launches an attack on Afghanistan without providing any evidence. The Americans should realise that any such attack will be against international principles and law, Zaeef said.

In an October 2 interview with CNN, Zaeef said that Afghanistan wants to solve these problems through negotiation and not war. He said that Afghanistan’s policy is clear and that "negotiation is the way of solving our problems. This way we can clear anything, this way we can find a way together and work with the people." When asked if the Taleban government would hand over Osama bin Laden if evidence were provided, he said, "Handover is the other option and the other action. We want that (option), if Osama bin Laden is involved in this action and if this action was a terrorist action." He said that if his government were provided with evidence, then they could negotiate that option.

On Bush’s comments that there "is no time to negotiate", Zaeef said, "We are an independent nation and Afghanistan is an independent country. We have the right to contact people, we have the right to know what is the problem, ... what is the evidence, what is the proof. If they don’t contact us and all they want to do is enforce something ... I think this is very far from a stance on justice."

When asked if the evidence was sent to Pakistan and that if Pakistan was to give the evidence to Afghanistan, Zaeef answered, "We don’t want to follow (this) way. We want direct (communication) because Afghanistan is an independent country and the nation is an independent nation. ... Why are they not able to contact us, why don’t they respect or honour or talk with our government? If they are talking through Pakistan, this is not suitable. They should directly speak with us, directly solve this problem with us. They should, they are able, they are not non-able."

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