Expansion Brings Uncertain Future
ATHENS — April 16 may turn out to be a historic date for Europe, the day leaders of the European Union (EU) and 10 candidate countries signed documents in Athens sealing the biggest enlargement in EU history. But will it be celebrated or mourned? Will size turn out to matter? In short, will the newcomers — mostly Eastern European countries — help unite the continent or tear it apart?
The candidates include Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Malta, countries Washington has recently taken to calling the "new Europe." Letting them in could alter the political order. Many candidate countries, eager to protect national values, will inevitably defy Franco-German leadership. Poland is already expanding its influence.
Current members are already bitterly divided over Iraq. Britain, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Denmark supported Washington’s war. France and Germany, both champions of European integration, led the campaign to stop it. Some candidates sided with the US and Britain — Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, while the leaders of several member states, including Britain, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Denmark, issued a joint statement backing the attack.
Since then, France and Germany have attempted to mend fences with the US and UK. But they haven’t given up on turning Europe into an important competing regional power and major player in a multi-polar world. The problem is that, at the moment, most prospective members seem willing to accept a world dominated by the US — or at least don’t share Franco-German dreams.
BRUSSELS — EU leaders have asked 72 countries to open up their markets to private water companies, according to leaked documents. An exchange of e-mail reveals that the requests came after a period of intense "cooperation and consultation" between water companies and trade representatives of the European Commission, the EU’s executive body. Not coincidentally, the most recent round of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations focuses on opening up world markets for this type of "trade in services." For more, visit The Public-i ( www.public-i.org ).
BAGHDAD — After days of arson and pillage, the scorecard on destruction was telling. US troops held back, allowing mobs to wreck and burn the ministries of Planning, Education, Irrigation, Trade, Industry, Foreign Affairs, Culture, and Information. They also did nothing to prevent looters from stealing or destroying priceless historical treasures in the Baghdad Archaeological Museum and a museum in Mosul.
But two Iraqi ministries were untouched and untouchable. Tanks, armored personnel carriers, Humvees and hundreds of US troops stood guard at both. Which two? It’s obvious: the Interior Ministry, with its vast wealth of intelligence information, and the Ministry of Oil. There, the archives on Iraq’s most valuable asset, its oilfields and massive reserves, were quickly sealed off from the mobs and looters, safe to be shared by future oil partners when Iraq’s state oil company is inevitably privatized.
The US could spare 2000 soldiers to protect Kirkuk’s oilfields, but not 200 to protect Mosul’s museum. In mid-April, US engineers confidently predicted that Kirkuk would be pumping oil again "within weeks."
Fun with Scandals: Casper (Weinberger) of Arabia
With construction, defense and engineering giant Bechtel slated for a key role in rebuilding Iraq (see Page 6), let’s look at Casper Weinberger, the former Bechtel VP and director who became Reagan’s Defense Secretary. While he and Reagan Secretary of State George Schultz were with Bechtel, the company took on the largest construction project in history – building an entire city, Jubail, in the Saudi Arabian desert.
Known as "Cap the Knife" for his Nixon era eagerness to cut social spending, Casper of Arabia subsequently pushed hard for military spending increases, leading to Pentagon procurement scandals. Weinberger also beefed up "counter-terrorism" operations, notably the Army’s "black" aviation unit in support of CIA projects. His Special Operations Division spent $400 million on secret missions in its first three years.
Deeply involved in covert schemes, Weinberger escaped punishment for Iran-Contra by claiming he had opposed trading arms for hostages. After retiring, Queen Elizabeth made him a knight.
"Awesome" Tie Ins
TOKYO — Ready to cash in on War-speak, Japanese electronics giant Sony has patented the term "Shock and Awe" for computer games. The phrase was trademarked in the US on March 21, just a day after the bombing started. The plan is use it for computer and video games, as well as a broadband game played via the internet among PlayStation users.
Companies are scrambling to commercially exploit the war. The US market is expected to see a flood of T-shirts, toys, board games, train sets, sunglasses, mugs and fireworks — all branded with slogans like "Operation Iraqi Freedom" and "Battle of Baghdad." The phrase "Shock and Awe" was coined by former US navy pilot Harlan Ullman.
WASHINGTON, DC — Working with the Bush team, Congressional Republicans are maneuvering to make the sweeping antiterrorism powers granted to federal agents after the 9/11 attacks permanent.
When The USA Patriot Act passed in October 2001, moderates and civil libertarians said they could only support it if many crucial provisions were temporary. Those provisions were expected to "sunset" at the end of 2005 unless congress re-authorized them. But Senate Republicans are now discussing a proposal, spearheaded by Sen. Orrin Hatch, to repeal the sunset provisions and make the new powers permanent.
ATLANTA — Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor is a man with a mission — in his case, banning vibrators and other sex toys. In April, Pryor filed his second appeal with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, challenging a recent federal court ruling against the ban.
The 1998 law was challenged by six women who either sell sex aides or said they need them for gratification. US District Judge Lynwood Smith Jr. said the law violated the constitutional right to privacy. It’s his second ruling on the same case. He tossed out the law in 1999, sending it back to district court. That led to Pryor’s second appeal.
By the way, President Bush recently nominated Pryor to join the 11th Circuit as a judge.
Islanders Face Deadly Legacy
VIEQUES — Finally bowing to pressure, the US Navy permanently closed its base on the Puerto Rican island on May 1. Weapons testing and exercises have been moved to Florida, where the Navy already conducts live bombing practice with little public outcry. But Vieques residents say the environmental contamination and medical ills left behind will plague them for years.
One Puerto Rican government study says the island’s cancer rate is 25 percent higher than on the mainland. The bombing range was eight miles from the nearest residence, but islanders believe decades of Navy testing is responsible for at least some of their health problems. The list includes cancer, asthma, skin problems, kidney failure, and heart abnormalities.
The Navy admits little. But it did test napalm bombs at one time, and does admit accidentally firing uranium-tipped bombs at the island in 1999. The only hospital has faced perplexing problems: cancer patients with non- metastasized tumors, many cases of kidney failure, and too many children with high levels of heavy metals in their blood.
After 60 years with a military-based economy, Vieques badly needs development. Three quarters of its 9500 residents are poor, compared with half on mainland Puerto Rico. Tourist dollars are beginning to trickle it, but this could easily turn into a wave of Miami Beach-style hotels. A 150-room Wyndham resort opened in February.
DynCorp Wins the Legal Irony Prize
COCOA BEACH, FL — DynCorp, a big name in private military-intelligence-industrial services (TF, August 2001), has become a winner in the post-war Iraq sweepstakes. The prize — a $22 million contract from the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. A successful high-tech private military company (PMC), as well as the largest US military contractor in Latin America, it has the contract to "re-establish police, justice and prison functions in post-conflict Iraq."
According to a congressional aide who asked not to be identified, the deal could be worth $500 million before it’s over. But there are "some strange things about how this contract was issued," he claims. "Why wasn’t it put up for bid? Why was DynCorp the chosen recipient?"
The company already has many federal contracts. Still, this one raised eyebrows, perhaps because of the company’s own legal problems. Last year, DynCorp paid large settlements to two former employees who blew the whistle on corporate managers and employees engaged in sex trafficking in Bosnia.
"At first I just told the guys it was wrong," said employee Ben Johnston, "then I went to my supervisors, including John Hirtz, although at the time I didn’t realize how deep into it he was." Johnson finally complained to the US Army Criminal Investigations Division in Bosnia, which confiscated a videotape of Hirtz having sex with two girls. He was fired, but no rape charges were filed.
In another case, Kathryn Bolkovac, a former UN International Police Force monitor under contract to DynCorp, charged the corporation with wrongful termination after she blew the whistle on police officers involved in sex trafficking. DynCorp settled with Johnston just hours after a London court ruled on Bolkovac’s behalf.
Moral Rot Redux
SAN RAFAEL, CA — Kellogg Brown & Root, the giant Texas construction firm that has so far received a $7 billion "no-bid" contract to rebuild Iraq oil facilities, also benefited during Vietnam War, reports author William Turner. When Lynden Johnson escalating that war, Turner noted in a recent letter, the pretext was "a report, later proved false, that a North Vietnamese patrol boat had fired on a US destroyer in Tonkin Bay. The beneficiary: Brown & Root, whose founders George and Herman Brown had financially godfathered LBJ’s political career. The company was awarded lucrative contracts to build military installations in Vietnam, notably the huge base at Cam Rhan Bay."
Today Kellogg Brown & Root is a subsidiary of Halliburton, the company that paid Dick Cheney $30 million when he ran for vice president. "Rather than let the UN complete its inspection process, George W. Bush plunged straight into an invasion on the pretext that Iraq possessed doomsday weapons. The beneficiary: Halliburton. Now the propaganda bleat is to demonize Syria, with Iran on tap, raising the specter of a serial quagmire."
LBJ lost his presidency when the moral rot of the war turned people against him, Turner reminds. Bush may yet lose his for similar reasons.