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Year 2001 No. 210, December 7, 2001 ARCHIVE HOME SEARCH SUBSCRIBE

Jack Straw Threatens Iraq

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Jack Straw Threatens Iraq

What Kind of Choice Is Alan Milburn Offering Patients?

London Regional Forum on the Mass Party Press Studies Legitimacy of States

Interim Government Established
Humanitarian Crisis
Afghanistan Eyed as New Energy Transit Route

Geneva Convention Applies to Palestinian Territories

Actions of Romanian Workers

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Jack Straw Threatens Iraq

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw speaking in the House of Commons has said that Saddam Hussein's refusal to allow weapons inspectors into the country could have military consequences.

The threat came as Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon gave a keynote speech in London threatening that Britain would be prepared to launch strikes on other countries that hold "terrorists".

Training in the armed forces is expected to change to meet this new target following the September 11 attacks, he said.

Jack Straw has also urged Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to capture the terrorist leaders responsible for organising the suicide bombings in Israel over the weekend. He told the Commons: "If there is to be a pathway first to a ceasefire and then to peace, president Arafat has got to take action to lock those terrorist suspects up".

Thus is the British government preparing to commit further aggression and trample human rights under the signboard of the "war against terrorism".

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What Kind of Choice Is Alan Milburn Offering Patients?

On December 6, Health Secretary Alan Milburn made the announcement in the House of Commons that he was setting out changes that would help transform the NHS from an "old-style nationalised industry" into a "modern" organisation focused on patients' needs. He said that NHS patients that have waited for more than six months for operations will be able to get treatment in a hospital of their choice whether the hospital was public of private. However, the pilot scheme will be restricted to heart patients. Ministers were also said to be in talks to bring foreign private firms "lock, stock and barrel" to Britain to treat NHS patients. This idea is for companies to bring doctors and nurses from abroad as they build hospitals in Britain.

Critics of the government have already pointed to the immense cost of paying the private sector to carry out the operations and that it does not address the real issues of shortages of doctors, nurses and hospital beds due to the long term and sustained underfunding of the NHS. By referring to the NHS as an "old style nationalised industry" Alan Milburn is signalling that New Labour intends to complete the task it has set itself of privatising the health care system in Britain whilst claiming that this will not mean patients will have to pay. In particular, following its Concordat with the private sector signed last year, the government is dramatically increasing the number of operations carried out by private companies. It is estimated that in the first year this will be 100,000. Also, they are presently building an "express surgery centre" solely aimed at providing operations for patients from the NHS and besides private hospitals that will be involved.

According to reports, now that this Concordat with the private sector is firmly in place the government plans to raise the share of Britain's national income spent on health to the European Union average of 8% of Gross Domestic Product by 2005. Spending is set to rise to a total of £52.6 billion next year - up £4 billion on 2001. In last week’s pre-Budget report, Chancellor Gordon Brown paved the way for tax increases by calling for an "enduring national consensus" in support of a publicly-funded NHS with significantly increased capacity.

Alan Milburn told MPs that "It will for the first time be the patient's choice and that choice will no longer be between waiting longer for treatment and paying for treatment." Whilst he admitted that the situation reflected the years of underfunding the service had suffered. However, Alan Milburn claim that the issue is one of "choice" and "focusing on patient needs" is a self serving argument to cover over the chronic underfunding of the NHS and justify choice of the transferring of health care provision to the private sector so as to focus on the needs of health care multinationals to use the planned increase in funding from the taxpayer to maximise their profits. This is the kind of choice the Health Secretary is offering. Would not patients choose that the National Health Service meet the health care needs of all members of society if this were offered?

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London Regional Forum on the Mass Party Press Studies Legitimacy of States

The concept of the legitimacy of states, failed states and the domino theory currently being developed by the New Labour government on behalf of Anglo-American imperialism was discussed at recent Forum of Party activists, supporters and members in the London region. With an intention to elaborate the line as expressed in the pages of WDIE and Workers' Weekly, the discussion elaborated on the ideological foundations of the Party’s standpoint.

The Legitimacy of States and the Domino Theory editorial published in the November 1 edition of Workers' Daily Internet Edition commented on British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw’s October 22 speech to the International Institute of Strategic Studies. The editorial, starting point for the Forum’s discussion, explained how Anglo-American imperialist values were being forced on all peoples, countries and states as part of the imperialist New World Order. Probing the ideological foundations of the commentary gave those present the opportunity to consider and elaborate the significance of the Party’s line.

It was pointed out that the imperialist New World Order had been initiated in 1991 with the aggression against Iraq, which occurred in the aftermath of the collapse of pseudo-socialism in Eastern Europe and the imminent collapse of the Soviet Union itself. Such events had not deterred the imperialist forces, led by Anglo-American imperialism, from continuing the Cold War in the new circumstances. The intention being the same - global domination.

During this period the strategic orientation of the New World Order had been given a political and ideological framework by the Paris Charter signed in November 1990 under the auspices of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The Forum’s participants elaborated on the Paris Charter, which had been established in conditions in which the people’s demand for resolution of concerns about human rights, democracy and sovereignty could be addressed in order to move society forward. However, far from providing such concerns with a solution the financial oligarchy and their political representatives and ideologues determined to impose an outdated vision on the world in order to prevent a new society from emerging. The values inherent in the Paris Charter were neither new, nor useful, merely being an attempt to renovate values based on a 19th century Eurocentric model. The essence of the theories of legitimacy of states, domino theory and humanitarian intervention being developed by Jack Straw and Tony Blair resuscitated the outlook and justifications of 19th century colonialism and imperialism – in the contemporary world. As a result the problems ostensibly being addressed - democracy, sovereignty, human rights and others - were in fact neglected. Instead Anglo-American imperialist values were being used as the sole criteria for conferring legitimacy on states - under threat of interference, intervention, annexation or annihilation. In a practical sense the values on which these retrogressive notions are based are also being imposed through diplomatic, political and other means – as a means of blackmailing and dominating the worlds people.

In this context the events in Afghanistan were given coherence. The Forum highlighted how such aggression reflected the aim of Anglo-American imperialism to achieve its geo-political goals in the region by force.

The significance of the British Labour Party in the ideological underpinning of the drive of the financial oligarchy and bourgeoisie to prevent society from moving forward was particularly emphasised – especially as it gave the progressive forces in Britain the responsibility of countering retrogression at its source.

The Forum’s discussion also covered a range of topics concerned with modern definitions of the state, the renovation of society, the need to defend the advances made in the 20th century, and the rehabilitation of colonialist outlook, the stands of the anti-war movement and other topics.

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Interim Government Established

On December 5, it was reported that a deal had been struck in Bonn, Germany on an interim government for Afghanistan. The text of the agreement established a 29-member interim governing council with a 5-member executive. Hamid Karzai was nominated interim leader. The interim government will rule for six months starting December 22 until the Loya Jirga (grand assembly) is opened. The assembly will appoint a transitional government for 18 months until a constitution is approved and elections held.

According to news sources, "Thus far, the Northern Alliance has agreed to four candidates to chair the 5-member executive -- including members of the majority Pashtun ethnic group -- which would leave the way clear for the mainly Tajik and Uzbek members of the Alliance to claim the bulk of other posts in a 29-member interim administration." Former President Burhanuddin Rabbani "wants all the other posts to be agreed to in Kabul, though the United Nations and other delegations want a full administration to be named in Bonn, lest the Northern Alliance exploits its position in Kabul to squeeze out other groups," reports said.

On December 6, the UN Security Council passed a resolution approving the agreement. The Security Council is also seeking agreement on the "immediate deployment of a UN-mandated force to guarantee the security of other participants in an interim government, but Rabbani has repeated his position that as few as 200 UN troops would be sufficient to provide security for any summit meeting in Kabul," news reports said. "But with the threat of withholding billions of dollars for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, western diplomats believe that the Northern Alliance will have to bow to their demands," the media reported.

Meanwhile, Richard Haass, co-ordinator for U.S. diplomatic efforts on Afghanistan, said during meetings in India that he saw "no conflict between military operations in the country and setting up an interim authority agreed by Afghan factions at their meeting in Bonn," the media reported.

"Coalition military operations will continue, there will be a co-existence. I see no tension between the military campaign while an interim authority flourishes in Afghanistan," said Haass, who is also director of policy planning at the US State Department.

He told reporters that the coalition had no plans to stay in Afghanistan longer than was necessary but it could not leave the job half done. "Nobody wants Afghanistan to become home to terrorists and drug traffickers," he said.

Haass, who held talks with Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh, said the coalition would work with governments around the world to target the Al Qaida network, which could be present in up to 60 countries, news reports said.

"We are looking at Al Qaida cells in 40, 50, 60 countries ... we want to create a world where it will be difficult for them to operate -- to deny them sanctuary, deny them resources," he said.

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Humanitarian Crisis

The organisation Save The Children warned last week that Afghanistani children were dying even before the cold had set in, and now temperatures are plummeting. An estimated 150,000 people are living in "flimsy tents in a refugee camp near Mazar-i-Sharif, where snows have arrived and temperatures are dropping below freezing every night," Save The Children said.

Mazar-i-Sharif, close to the border with Uzbekistan, is a key distribution point for aid agencies trying to deliver food and clothing to the rest of the north and down to the central highlands, which Save The Children said will soon be totally cut off by the snow. But the humanitarian effort is being severely hampered by the refusal of the Uzbek government to re-open the Friendship Bridge leading into the zone until the U.S. provides military security at the border crossing -- which US troops have refused to do, news agencies report.

Save The Children's Brendan Paddy told the BBC that a journey which should take 40 minutes is taking up to 10 days as agencies try to find alternative routes through Turkmenistan and Pakistan. According to Paddy, temperatures could still drop another 20 degrees -- to the point where warm clothing will take priority even over food.

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Afghanistan Eyed as New Energy Transit Route

According to Iranian News Agency IRNA, Iran has shrugged off Afghanistan being coveted as a new route for the transit of the Caspian energy to the world markets, with Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi saying that only "territorial realities" as well as the "security" of the competing countries will determine the race.

Iran, which has already been competing to see the Caspian energy pipeline pass through its soil amid fierce US opposition, may feel the crunch with Afghanistan being eyed as a new potential transit option. "We believe that Iran is still the best site, after taking all effective factors into account in the feasibility studies of such a transit route, especially for a pipeline," the Persian daily Resalat cited Kharrazi as saying on Thursday. He did not rule out Afghanistan to rise up as a new rival against Iran in having the shortest and the most viable route for the transportation of the Caspian energy, mainly oil and gas. "Afghanistan will not remain unstable forever, and when security is established, foreign companies will seek their interests in that country," Kharrazi said. "However, territorial realities and security of countries are the most decisive factors," he added.

While Iran is vying for a slice in the Caspian energy pie, the United States has been trying to route oil and gas around the Islamic Republic. According to economists, Washington wants to put Afghanistan in a position to act as a hub between Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, where resources lie, and Pakistan and the Indian Ocean to the south. Iran, although being the most viable transportation site, has already been left out in the cold as Turkey and some US oil companies have championed a Caspian oil pipeline route from the Azerbaijan capital Baku to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. Turkmenistan, however, has exported several billion cubic meters of gas to Iran in recent years, to the dismay of Washington. A US oil company suspended studies on a gas pipeline project from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via Afghanistan in 1998.

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Geneva Convention Applies to Palestinian Territories

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, called again on December 5 for the establishment of an international monitoring presence in the occupied Palestinian territories to ensure that global human rights standards were being observed.

"It is important to emphasise that neither the Israeli policy of targeted assassination of Palestinian civilians, nor Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians, can be reconciled with provisions of international humanitarian law," including the Fourth Geneva Convention, Mary Robinson said in a statement to the conference of so-called High Contracting Parties to the 1949 Convention.

The High Commissioner noted that UN bodies such as the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights have repeatedly reaffirmed the "de jure applicability" of the Convention to the occupied Palestinian territories.

"The protection of the victims should be the overriding concern of the UN and its agencies and programmes," she said, pointing out that Article 1 of the Convention placed a duty on the High Contracting Parties "to respect and ensure respect of" the provisions of the Convention "in all circumstances."

To meet this challenge, the High Commissioner said, legal and diplomatic mechanisms were available under the UN Charter, in addition to those created by the Convention itself.

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Actions of Romanian Workers

About 15,000 car, defence and postal workers marched through the Romanian capital Bucharest on Thursday, November 29, to the beat of a brass band, demanding job security and higher wages.

They shouted slogans with their fists in the air and set off hand-held sirens, while the band played patriotic music at the protest organised by a trade union that has 750,000 members.

The protest on the streets of Bucharest in icy weather was one of several over recent days. With winter setting in, fears have increased that officials will slash jobs in state-run industries to control spending.

"We've had enough! Down with the prime minister!" the workers shouted. Romania's poverty bites harder in the winter, when heating bills rise along with the price of fresh produce. Other prices also traditionally increase around Christmas. The government has recently raised utility prices, which it says is to bring them up to international levels.

"We want higher wages, lower taxes and a risk bonus," said Elena Baciu, a postal worker from Bucharest. Defence industry worker Gheorghe Stoica said that his factory in the town of Plopeni, north of Bucharest, was short on orders, forcing him to work only part-time and cutting his earnings.

Although a 4 percent economic growth rate is predicted this year, few people's living standards have improved. Unemployment is about 8 percent.

Thousands of defence industry workers also marched through the streets of Brasov on Wednesday, December 5, demanding a special law to protect their rights and guarantee their jobs. The workers also insisted that the cabinet adopt a restructuring plan that would ensure that defence factories would continue to operate with a full workforce. Employees from other companies in the town joined the protest to demand job security and higher salaries.

The protests also reflect a loss of faith in Romania's new government. Prime Minister Adrian Nastase has been criticised for pandering to the West in the government's quest to join NATO while putting a gloss on ordinary people's problems.

President Ion Iliescu on Friday, November 30, called for national reconciliation. He stressed Romanians should stay united and work together for achieving the main goals of the nation for the immediate future: European and Euro-Atlantic Integration. Iliescu spoke of the December 1989 Revolution, saying "We have a moral duty towards those who sacrificed themselves for the country."

Romania is heading towards EU and NATO membership, and the economy is showing signs of growth, Iliescu added. However, he acknowledged that there was still a long way to go until Romanians will enjoy prosperity.

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