No. 197, Oct. 24-30, 2002

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White House losing patience with UN over Iraq

A protester demonstrating against US moves towards war on Iraq is arrested by New York City police officers outside the US Mission to the United Nations on October 21, 2002, in New York.

Compiled by Eamon Martin

Oct. 23 (AGR)— White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said on Oct. 22 that US efforts to negotiate a new UN resolution on Iraqi disarmament were nearing an end, and said Washington’s patience was limited.

“We will continue to work in the United Nations,” Fleischer told reporters on Air Force One as president George W. Bush traveled to a political rally in Pennsylvania. “It’s coming down to the end... The United Nations does not have forever,” Fleischer said.

He said the United States continued to favor a single resolution mandating Iraqi compliance with disarmament and inspection terms. Such a resolution would pave the way for a full invasion and occupation of Iraq should Iraqi president Saddam Hussein fail to comply.

On Oct. 21, US Ambassador John Negroponte gave a new draft resolution to envoys from the four permanent council nations — France, Russia, China, and Britain — as US, German, Kuwaiti, and Czech forces conducted a mock drill in nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare in Kuwait, and while marines trained in new mock cities on military bases on Guam and in southern California.

Also that day, US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the US was “making it clear that it’s time to wrap this up and would like to see this finished.” He signaled that the US was unlikely to compromise any further to meet the concerns of the other UN Security Council (UNSC) members.

The latest draft was immediately met with stiff disapproval by two veto-wielding UNSC powers. France has pushed for a two-stage process in which a force resolution would be considered only if Iraq failed to comply. On Tuesday, France’s foreign minister insisted that the French aim is the return of weapons inspectors and the elimination of any alleged weapons of mass destruction — and not the overthrow of the Iraqi government.

Russia’s foreign minister said Wednesday the latest US version does not meet Russian criteria, while warning the United States against making “ unacceptable” demands on Baghdad.

The French proposal has the majority of support on the Security Council.

Bush, on arriving at the rally in Pennsylvania, indicated that he is running out of patience with the UN.

“The UN can’t make its mind up. If Saddam won’t disarm, we will lead a coalition to disarm him for the sake of peace,” Bush said. “[The United Nations] must resolve itself to be something more than the League of Nations, must resolve itself to be more than a debating society, must resolve itself to keep international peace.”

On Friday, the US State Department asserted once again that Bush has the authority to attack Iraq even if the UN does not give the United States the support it has been seeking and not getting for five weeks.

In any case, the US already has a force of 60,000 within striking range of Iraq, and would be in a position to launch a land war as early as December. The past six weeks have seen intensive, and largely undisclosed, movement of US service personnel and material to the Gulf. The number of US troops in striking range of Iraq has risen from fewer than 20,000 in August.

General Tommy Franks, the US commander of the “war on terror”, and a possible military administrator of a post-Saddam Iraq according to the most recently leaked Pentagon reports, is already in Qatar with senior officers. Fuel trucks and river crossing equipment — both essential for any march on Baghdad — were loaded aboard ships in Charleston, SC, on Oct. 23.

Bush has authorized US combat training for Iraqi opponents of Hussein, and the Pentagon has identified as many as 5,000 recruits for an initial training phase to begin next month. Bush authorized the training in a National Security Presidential Directive on Oct. 3 that also approved the expenditure of $92 million in Defense Department funds, officials said. Defense and State Department officials intend to brief Congress next week on plans to instruct the Iraqis in basic combat as well as specialized skills to serve as battlefield advisers, scouts and interpreters with US ground troops in an invasion force. Others in a force eventually to number about 10,000 will be trained as forward spotters for laser-guided bombs and as military police to run prisoner of war camps inside Iraq. Military officials declined to say where the instruction would take place, but said it would not be in the Middle East region.

Last Thursday, Bush had signed the Congressional war resolution, authorizing him, at his sole discretion, to decide when diplomacy has failed and force should be used against Iraq. The day before, the Senate gave final congressional approval to the biggest increase of military spending in two decades, awarding the Pentagon with $355.1 billion.

During the signing, Bush promised to “help Iraqi citizens find the blessings of liberty within their own culture and their own traditions.” But he made no specific mention of his administration’s plans to occupy Iraq for possibly years before the country would be allowed to hold free elections.

“Our goal is to fully and finally remove a real threat to world peace and to America,” Bush said in a reference clarified by Fleischer to mean both Hussein’s alleged weapons and the leader himself.

This past week, Iraqis, by official reckoning, had re-elected Hussein as president with 100 percent of the 11.4 million votes cast.

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said that the referendum on Hussein’s leadership reflected the determination of Iraq’s 22 million people “to stand up to the United States.”

“In every Iraqi house there are weapons, rifles and other conventional weapons, and they are ready to fight from house to house, from street to street,” he said, “and if the Americans come to Iraq they will be faced with great resistance and they will suffer great losses.”

Visiting with troops, deputy commander of Marine Forces Europe Maj. Gen. Arnold Fields confirmed this view, saying, “It’s going to be an urban fight and probably very bloody, but we are well prepared.”

On Sunday, Hussein announced a “complete, comprehensive, and final amnesty” for all prisoners, including those accused of political crimes and crimes against the state. The amnesty was intended to thank the Iraqi people for their “unanimity” in last week’s referendum.

The amnesty included “prisoners, detainees and fugitives... including those under sentence of death, inside or outside Iraq.” The exception was for murderers, who would be released only with the consent of the victims’ families.

Also this week, Iraq has taken steps to return Kuwait’s national archive, which was looted by Iraqi forces during the 1990-91 Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. The first box of documents was handed over in the demilitarized border zone along the Iraqi-Kuwaiti frontier under UN supervision on Sunday.

Aziz said the government has had no links with al-Qaida or Osama bin Laden, denying a charge frequently made by the Bush administration.

“We have no connection with al-Qaida or Osama bin Laden,” Aziz said on Friday night.

Aziz implied that Bush’s demand for a new round of weapons inspections, under more stringent conditions, was a pretext to prepare the path for the US to invade Iraq and topple Hussein.

He contended that the real US purpose was to take control of Iraq’s oil fields.

Oil prices fell to a one-month low as traders scaled back their expectations of a US-led attack on Iraq amid signs the Security Council might be nearing a compromise resolution. Energy analysts fully expect prices to spike — some say as high as $60 per barrel — at the outset of an attack.

Sources: Agence France Presse, BBC News, CBS, Independent (UK), Iraq Journal, Miami Herald, New York Times, Reuters, Stars And Stripes, Washington Post

Corporate consolidation focus of Media Democracy Day

By Gabriel Packard

New York, New York, Oct. 18 (IPS)— Shallow “drive-by” journalism, suppression of news stories, a lack of diversity — business as usual for the media giants, say organizers of Media Democracy Day (MDD).

The problem, according to the groups behind Friday’s MDD, a worldwide movement that started last year in Canada, is that “the current media system has been abducted by a group of six to nine mega-media conglomerates.”

“AOL /Time-Warner, as an example, controls over 12 film and television companies, multiplex cinemas in 12 countries, 29 cable/digital providers, 24 book brands, 35 magazine titles, 52 record labels, theme parks and stores in 30 countries, four professional sports teams, AOL US, AOL International, and eight other major Internet portals. At last count,” says MDD literature.

A very small group of very big companies controls almost all of the American media, they point out, and continued mergers mean the group gets smaller while the companies get bigger.

Already, “quite a limited range of political opinions and perspectives are given space and time in mainstream press and media,” says Rachel Coen of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a US media watch group. “It becomes more limited the more mergers and consolidation occurs.”

The US government body responsible for regulating the media and preserving diversity is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). According to Coen, “the FCC is utterly failing the American public, but it’s doing a fairly good job protecting corporate interests.”

So if the FCC isn’t going to stop the corporate-media juggernaut, who is?

This is where the MDD comes in. It includes events in over 20 cities in countries from Australia to Bangladesh.

In Rosario, Argentina, a poll to run from Oct. 18 til the end of the month, will ask people, “what news have you looked for in the media but not found?” A report will summarize the results, and a newspaper will be published containing that news and photographs.

In Barcelona, Spain, supporters will go on an “Undemocratic Media Bicycle Tour.” Organizers say they will visit offices of newspapers, radio and TV stations and press agencies, “stop in front of them, make some noise, and attempt to stop their work and reclaim attention.”

They will be accompanied by “Projectorcycle” and “Screencycle,” which will show “incriminating” video evidence of media bias.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, more than 350 media educators and activists will meet for the founding summit of the Action Coalition for Media Education (ACME).

“We’re going to kick off with a toast to Media Democracy Day,” says Eliza Dichter, who helped plan the ACME summit, and is also co-founder and senior editor of Media Channel, a media interest network. “What’s really exciting,” says Dichter speaking about ACME, “is that this is the first time that media educators, media reformers and policy activists can all get together (to) work in harmony and learn from each other.”

ACME plans to harness this cooperation into three main fronts of action: educating, advocating independent media, and supporting media reform. All of these will be pursued at many levels, from the school board to Congress.

“Education is a crucial part of social change,” Dichter says. And media education is crucial to the purpose of ACME.

“In an age when most people get most of their information visually — through television, film, computers, video, etc. — citizens need to know how to think critically about what they see and hear,” she says.

The coalition will also provide a forum for teachers, health officials and community leaders, who will then spread the information nationwide, she adds.

“A fundamental part of it,” says Dichter, “is teaching individuals how to use communications technology to create independent media.” This will include instructing people on how to use video, the internet, public access TV and radio.

“By ‘independent media,’ we mean anything that is outside of corporate mass-media.”

“In an age of second-hand experience,” says David Skinner, organizer of some of Vancouver’s MDD events, “when most of what we know, or think we know, about the world is taken from the media. We all have an interest in how the media are financed and controlled, and what values and interests they promote.”

More information can be obtained at the MDD website: www.mediademocracyday.org.

Cell phones covered in blood:

Western consumer demand fuels
resource wars in poor nations

By Jim Lobe

Oct. 18— Consumer demand in Western industrialized countries for sophisticated electronic equipment and luxury goods earned at least $12 billion last year for rebel groups, rapacious governments, and warlords in resource-rich developing nations around the world, according to a new report released by the Worldwatch Institute in Washington, DC Thursday.

The 91-page report, “The Anatomy of Resource Wars,” found that local conflicts over control of diamonds, tropical hardwoods, and other minerals like coltan, which is used in the production of cell phones and other electronic equipment, have killed or uprooted more than 20 million people, most of them in Africa, over the past decade.

“From Colombia to Angola to Afghanistan, people are dying every day because consumer societies import and use materials irrespective of where they originate,” according to the author, Michael Renner.

“If you purchase a cell phone, you may very well be paying to keep the war going in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where rival armies fight for control over deposits of coltan, a commodity that just over a decade ago had little commercial value, but is now vital for the one billion plus cell phones in use today.”

But the biggest resource looter over the past decade, according to the report, was the UNITA rebel group in Angola, which finally collapsed after its founder and long-time leader, Jonas Savimbi, was killed in combat earlier this year. Between 1992 and 2001, according to the report, the insurgency sold an estimated $4-4.2 billion in diamonds mined by its forces in the northeastern part of the country.

Diamonds were also a leading source of money and arms for rebels in Sierra Leone, who gained international notoriety during the latter part of the 1990s by hacking off the limbs of unarmed civilians to terrorize surrounding populations.

Such groups have benefited from economic globalization, according to Renner. “The enormous expansion in global trade, coupled with lax or corrupt customs officials, has made access to key markets relatively easy for warring groups,” he said.

“Companies and rich nations that benefit from cheap raw materials have long turned a blind eye to the destruction at their source, and most consumers don’t know that a number of common purchases bear the invisible imprint of violence,” he added.

Although rebel and government armies battle for control of the resources, most of the violence in such conflicts are directed against civilians.

In addition to the violence used to maintain control of local populations, fighting groups often forcibly recruit boys into their ranks and girls as sex slaves for older commanders. The same armies also draft civilians, including children, to extract resources without compensation.

Resource wars also tend to take place in or near areas that are of significant environmental value, according to the report, which cited conflicts over mineral and timber resources in ecologically highly sensitive forests in the DRC, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Colombia as major examples. In many cases, indigenous populations are also threatened.

While diamonds fed conflicts in Angola and Sierra Leone, control over timber has played a major role in conflicts in Liberia, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Myanmar (formerly Burma), while drugs have fueled wars in Afghanistan and Colombia. Ownership disputes over oil fields and pipelines have also contributed to conflicts in Colombia and Sudan, according to the report.

Recent media attention about resource-driven conflicts has spurred growing calls for global rules to ban goods acquired in this way from being traded on global markets. Among the most important efforts is a certification system that would track individual diamonds from their source through international commercial channels in order to assure the eventual buyer that they are not purchasing “blood diamonds.”

In addition to endorsing a strong certification system, Worldwatch is calling for the adoption of corporate codes of conduct in resource extraction industries; support for activist campaigns that “name and shame” companies that profit from illicit commerce; and new regulations that would require companies to become more transparent in their dealings in resource-rich countries.

Renner also urges stronger efforts to reduce the availability of small arms, a major feature of resource conflicts, by adopting stricter export regimes, regulating arms brokers, and better marking and tracing of weapons.

More generally, the report calls for development aid to promote greater diversification of resource-rich developing economies in order to reduce their dependence on the resources which have spurred so much conflict.

Source: OneWorld US

 

 

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