The Friends of California Libre...

20 June 2003

Seal the Borders and Batten Down the Hatches

Greetings, many friends,
Shall we start off with a bang?

> All Out to Protest Bush in L.A. on June 27!
> Help make this protest huge!
> Friday, June 27, 6 PM
> Century Plaza Hotel

The Century Plaza, if you don't know, is in the middle of Century City. There is, last time I checked, no parking. If you going to this, please let me know as I will be on the bus and need a ride home! Also be warned...don't take it lightly if you go. The police tend to take a dim view of people in the streets of Century City...expect trouble. (Yes, Sandra, you can wear your gas-mask.)

Maybe the enclosed picture from San Francisco will inspire you (thanks, Adam). There is nothing else, sadly, amusing in this screed...well, mabye this (thanks, Miles):

Here's the most shocking bit of news I've read this week...guess how we make the peace in Afghanistan? Believe it or not:
US Turns to the Taliban
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
The Asia Times

And the second most shocking, sort of:
U.S. extends its hegemony over the Net

It just feeds my pre-4 July patriotism:
Reasons why Californians should secede from the U.S.
Headline: California: trendsetter or 'rogue state'?
Byline: Mark Sappenfield Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Date: 09/30/2002
If the Bush administration is serious about bringing "rogue states" into line, perhaps it should start with California. At a time when few states are moving in directions radically at odds with Washington, the Golden State has forged a different - and often combative - policy line on virtually every issue but national security.

Some of you may have heard of a counterterrorism aide in the White House who recently resigned in disgust...his remarks can be found here:

I've also been asked about the remarks of Ms. Clare Short, the minister who resigned from Tony Blair's government and then revealed that the war against Iraq had been planned well before the final votes in the UN...or the US:
Short: I was Briefed on Bush and Blair's Secret War Pact
Patrick Wintour, Chief Political Correspondent

If you want to encourage your Congressional representatives to do some investigating of Bush's WMD "evidence", you can do so at this website:

Because right now everyone's sitting pretty like we're ruling the world.

Not that affairs in Iraq are going so well...remember all the people who predicted (and rather archly, I think were hoping for) disaster in Iraq? Their comparisons to Vietnam are becoming more lucid by the day:
America's Rebuilding of Iraq is in Chaos, Say British
By Peter Foster
The Telegraph
The Next War Is This War
By Michael R. Gordon
New York Times

And on to Europe...
For all the American remarks on their cowardice, the French are suggesting the only really viable course in the Middle East (though I doubt the US or Israel would ever accept):
** France mulls Mid-East peace force **
The French foreign minister says he will raise the possibility of sending peacekeepers with the EU.
< >

They also maintain their brave face as the "noble opposition":
France Chides Washington Over 'My Way' World View
By Reuters

Allow me to insert a remark and a question; I actually think it's a little disingenuous for the French to suggest anything to the Israelis. Much as I like France, it was the second-most anti-Semitic country I've been in (the US being first and Spain pulling up a hard third) and it's positioned itself, wisely I would think, as an ally of the Arab world, where French is a common second tongue. And my question...several people on the other end of these screeds are in La France, and if you could send something from there...? I know (a la M. Alex Bonnie) that France has its own troubles to sort out.

Then there's the little row between the US and the rest of the globe over the International Criminal Court...seems our law is good for everyone but us. Why worry, as the saying goes, if you're not doing anything wrong? Even China (to embarrass the US, naturally) is about to sign on to this agreement.

The Europeans are making support of the ICC a condition of membership, much to the irritation of the US Government...but isn't that the so-called "interference in domestic affairs"?

But what the hell do the Europeans know anyway? Look what they've done to poor Adam Ant (thanks, Geri):,,2-2003270621,,00.html

At the end of this screed, look for an article on Mr. Rumsfeld's remarks concerning NATO.

As the rhetoric against Iran starts to ramp up, the occasional good article appears in the American media. I hope we see more of these...Iran is a large, sophisticated country, one of the few truly "independent" countries in the Middle East. It's not a devastated country like Afghanistan or a weakened dictatorship like Iraq...and we're having no luck at really "conquering" either of those two countries. Any talk of war against Iran is madness:
British and American intelligence and special forces have been put on alert for a possible conflict with Iran within the next 12 months, as fears continue to grow that Tehran is secretly building a nuclear weapons programme....

Here is an insightful article on that country:
Change in the wind

And an interesting interview with a government official in Iran:

Finally, Mr. Rumsfeld's remarks on NATO:
U.S.: However Impolitic, Rumsfeld's Remarks May Reflect NATO Readjustment
By Jeremy Bransten
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stoked divisions in NATO anew yesterday. He said Washington may have to stop funding the construction of new NATO headquarters in Brussels and stop sending U.S. officials and soldiers to Belgium unless the country changes its controversial war crimes legislation. Belgium today replied that there is no need to alter the law since it has already been adequately amended. At a time when the alliance has been trying to repair divisions caused by the Iraq war, do Rumsfeld's words signal that effort is failing?

Prague, 13 June 2003 (RFE/RL) -- With characteristic bluntness, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has blasted Belgium for a controversial law that allows the country to prosecute war crimes suspects, regardless of their residence or citizenship. And he warned that Belgium could pay a heavy price unless it abolishes the measure.

Rumsfeld, speaking yesterday in Brussels, said lawsuits based on Belgium's universal competence law are "absurd." The law gives Belgian courts the authority to prosecute individuals accused of war crimes, regardless of the crimes' connection to Belgium or the accused's presence on Belgian soil.

He added that the existence of the law calls into question Belgium's ability to host NATO headquarters.

The U.S. defense secretary went one step further, announcing that Washington is suspending funding for the construction of a new NATO building in Brussels.

"Until this matter is resolved, we will have to oppose any further spending for construction for a new NATO headquarters here in Brussels until we know with certainty that Belgium intends to be a hospitable place for NATO to conduct its business, as it has been over so many years," Rumsfeld said.

The disputed law has already led to lawsuits against former U.S. President George Bush Sr., Vice President Dick Cheney, and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, dating from the 1991 Gulf War, and more recently against General Tommy Franks, the U.S. commander in Iraq this year.

Confusion has now emerged in Belgium as to how the country will respond.

Earlier today, Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel noted that a recent amendment to the law limits its powers, allowing for cases to be sent to the defendants' country of origin, if that nation is deemed to have a fair and democratic legal system. That is what Belgium did in the case against Franks last month, although the other suits are still pending.

Michel said there is no reason to change the law any further or to abolish it.

But Andre Flahaut, Belgium's defense minister, said a further change in the law might be subject to negotiation.

One thing appears certain. Rumsfeld's comments will open further divisions at a time when NATO is trying to mend internal relations disrupted by the Iraq war. Although he is known for his frequent undiplomatic remarks, there is evidence that the U.S. defense secretary was not speaking off-the-cuff.

Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a little-noticed amendment that asks the U.S. Defense Department to research the potential costs and logistics of moving NATO's military headquarters out of Belgium.

With the administration of President George W. Bush giving increased emphasis to NATO's newer members, such as Poland, some argue that the alliance should move its center eastward to reflect new realities. Many others ask whether NATO could, in fact, survive such a move.

Military analyst Timothy Garden of Britain's Royal Institute for International Affairs points out that since NATO works by consensus, reaching unanimous agreement on moving the alliance's headquarters out of Belgium would be nearly impossible. Garden believes that if the United States seriously pursues this goal, it could endanger the alliance's very viability.

"There are lots of strains in NATO and the threat either to push the headquarters presumably to the East -- which would be re-centering, if you like, the American perception of the 'new Europe' or interfering, as it would be seen, in the internal affairs of a NATO member, that is Belgium, trying to get it to change its laws to suit the United States -- either of those looks as though they would be intensely damaging to what already is a very bruised organization," Garden says.

Despite the increasingly high-profile role of countries like Poland in NATO, Garden says that if you look at the facts, Rumsfeld's so-called "new Europe" is big on enthusiasm but low on the military capabilities and financial resources that it can contribute to the alliance.

"The new European members that have come into NATO are, although very willing to give vocal support to U.S. policy, very limited [in their capabilities]. They may have some niche capabilities. If we take the example of the Polish proposal for looking after a sector of Iraq, the Poles during the Iraq conflict provided 200 support troops in a conflict which needed 200,000. And now that they're going into the post-conflict period, they're saying that they would welcome taking the headquarters role for this small sector, but they can only provide about 2,000 troops. And yet, the numbers that are needed are much greater than that," Garden says.

Aside from Britain, he says France and Germany continue to form essential military pillars for NATO and that will not change for quite some time.

"If you look now in Afghanistan, the biggest contribution is from Germany, and France has expeditionary capabilities. So, freezing them out is in nobody's interest because they have real capabilities that are useful to NATO, to the U.S. and to international stability, however it is flagged," he says.

Jeffrey Gedmin, director of the Aspen Institute in Berlin, an independent think tank devoted to international affairs and trans-Atlantic relations. He agrees that the likelihood of NATO moving its headquarters out of Brussels in the near future is very slim. But he says Rumsfeld's statement -- however undiplomatic -- reflects the fact that a certain readjustment is taking place both within Europe and between certain countries of Europe and the United States and that this will have a long-term impact on NATO.

"This is an alliance which is in flux. The Cold War, we could say, is really, really, really over now, and I think we're at the beginning of asking the hard questions in a practical sort of way. To answer your question: I don't think NATO is moving anytime soon. But I think issues are going to be raised, not only about cost but strategic relevance, proximity to regions where we're going to be operating in the next 10, 20, 30 years, the interests of the West Europeans and the interests of the Central and East Europeans," Gedmin says.

Gedmin notes that the impetus for redefining the trans-Atlantic relationship comes as much from the United States as it does from countries like Germany and France, which are seeking to create pan-European structures that will give the continent a new, more robust political identity and likely change long-term ties with Washington.

"We're both in the process of renegotiating this relationship. It doesn't mean full-blown strategic divorce, but it's not the same kind of tightly integrated unit that we used to have," he says. "It's different now. And I think people are poking around and tapping around, sometimes even in the dark, trying to find out what is still relevant and in what ways. If we look at a map of Europe, we see that Western Europe is fixed, Central and Eastern Europe is being fixed and the likeliest hot spots and conflicts of the next 10 and 20 and 30 years will not be where I'm sitting here today in Berlin. And maybe it does make sense to contemplate moving some of our structures, institutions, and forces elsewhere, where they are closer to those regions."

If that happens, then perhaps Rumsfeld's words will be
remembered as prescient -- not just impolitic.

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