Monday, June 30, 2003
Basra: Just Another Manic Monday - 30th June 2003, 23.00

The British forces in Basra face the same problems in the South as their American counterparts around Baghdad. The local infrastructure is unable to bear the demands of the population and, after the looting, requires urgent replacement.

From April 28 to June 4, WHO recorded 73 cases of cholera in Iraq. Sixty-eight of those were in Basra -- 10 times more than WHO officials found during the same period last year.

These figures should be approached with caution since all reporting under Saddam's regime was suspect, but they do indicate that Basra is at great risk of waterborne infection. If cholera were to increase, this would be another stick with which the local population would beat the British. Even with the lack of security, the Iraqi professionals still mouth those attitudes of dependency that blame those in power rather than take responsibility for their own communities:

The British troops in charge of this southern city do not deny that there is great need to improve security. But they point out that Mr. Hussein emptied the prisons late last year. "Imagine what would happen in New York if you opened all the prisons and gave them Kalashnikovs?" said Iain Pickard, a spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority here. Dr. Hassan does not accept such explanations. "I have no one to blame other than the British," he said. Asked if the shooters themselves were not to blame, he replied, "This is also because of the lack of law."

However, they are quite willing to moan and jump up and down if they don't receive their handouts. They even managed to blame the British and the Ba'athists, demonstrating a unique ability to weld conspiracies out of the most improbable associations.

Hundreds of former Iraqi soldiers angrily blocked the headquarters of British forces in this southern city Sunday after the coalition failed to pay back wages, an AFP correspondent reported. "The British forces had promised to pay our wages on Saturday, so we came but they told us to come back on Sunday. Today, they asked us to come back tomorrow, they are liars," non-commissioned officer Kazem Ayal told AFP. "There are members of the Baath party working with them to draw up lists, and we think they are doing everything to prevent the payment of our salaries," Ayal charged.

The Army handled the charge with their usual aplomb.

A British military spokesman at Basra's airport said he was unaware of a stand-off in the city, saying there was "just another demonstration."
Global Monitoring for the Environment and Security - 30th June 2003, 22.12

This is the system known as GMES, designed to provide the European Union with an independent system that would provide the Continent with greater security. In the meeting held in Athens on the 8th and 9th May 2003, Greek Defence Minister, Yiannis Papantoniou declared that the war in Iraq had spurred those who wished to unify European security policies.

"Recent events in Iraq have highlighted the importance of being able to protect our own interests. Europe must commit to a more united approach to defence and we must support closer ties between defence and industry. Space is the fourth domain in defence, multiplying our power at every other level - on land, at sea and in the air."

This fits with the calls from the European Convention for a common defence and security policy that would involve a European Agency for Armament and Strategic Research whose remit would include construction of a space based defence. The supporters of this policy include Greece, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain and Italy. The smaller they are, the louder their voice...

As Lt Colonel Alexandros Kolovos, Head of the National Centre for Space Applications at the Greek Ministry of Defence, explained, Greece has been among the loudest voices calling for the inclusion of defence aspects within the European Space Policy.

This policy has been advanced by Star21, the Aerospace Advisory Group for the European Commission. Taking note of the aerospace companies presented at this meeting demonstrates that the Nordic countries and especially Britain were not represented. The omission of BAe is very noticeable.

The industrial community, represented by speakers from Eurospace , Alcatel , Astrium , OHB Systems , Alenia Spazio and Thales , agreed that the European space industry is up to the challenge of meeting Europe's space defence requirements, including the production and operation of advanced military satellites systems.

Where does GMES fit into all this?

The GMES initiative aims to implement an integrated European approach for the collection, dissemination and analysis of space information and to co-ordinate the structures of the systems which produce space information.

The website focuses on the environmental benefits of this integrated system but, as the above meeting demonstrates, the security aspect is given more emphasis in politics than in public. Can we believe that this system is just designed to help farmers plan ahead in wartime?

Finally, GMES will make a fundamental contribution to the common foreign and security policy (CFSP) to which the EU is now clearly committed. The space tool is today essential to peacekeeping missions, such as the Union's commitment in Kosovo. In 1999, for example, an observation satellite system developed by the Commission's Joint Research Centre made it possible for the ECHO humanitarian aid agency to evaluate the impact of military operations on regional agricultural production.

Their agenda is very clear, and gratefully, the British military-industrial complex does not appear to have signed up.

Sunday, June 29, 2003
The Sin of Omission - 29th June 2003, 17.13

The unexpurgated exchange between Alistair Campbell and the Foreign Affairs Committee can be found here. Campbell comes across as a disengenuous sophist who attempts to decouple the importance of the dossier published in February from that published in September 2002. For example, Alistair Campbell explains that the dossier in February was originally prepared for six journalists.

I explained to the Prime Minister the purpose of the briefing paper, which was to give it to six Sunday newspaper journalists on a flight to Washington. I explained where there was new intelligence which had been cleared for public use and I explained that there was other material within the document about the nature of Saddam's infrastructure of concealment and intimidation. I certainly did not say to him, for example, that this was taken from a Middle East journal because I did not know that to be the case.

At a key point in the debate to persuade parliament that a war in Iraq was necessary, Blair stood up in the Commons and stated on the subject of the dossier:

"We issued further intelligence over the weekend about the infrastructure of concealment. It is obviously difficult when we publish intelligence reports, but I hope that people have some sense of the integrity of our security services. They are not publishing this or giving us this information, making it up, it is the intelligence that they are receiving and we are passing it on to people".

The issue here is that any member of Parliament or member of the public, hearing these words, would infer that a dossier, referred to as "further intelligence" would have been approved by the security services through the Joint Intelligence Committee. However, the man in charge of government communications and spin did not check a document designed to guarantee a majority for Blair in Parliament:

Q946 Sir John Stanley: He made the statement today, absolutely rightly, that he was left completely in the dark at the time he made his statement on 3 February that the greater part of this document had been culled off the internet and there were these two significant inaccuracies in it.

Mr Campbell: Can I just say on that at that point, neither he nor I nor anybody in a senior position on my Iraq Communications Group was aware that that was the case. That is the point I keep coming back to. In relation to the changes, I have explained those changes were made by experts within the government commenting upon what they did not know to be Dr al-Marashi's work.

Whenever this government or its representatives fail to take responsibility for anything undertaken in their name, they shift the blame to civil servants or "experts" who will never be able to defend themselves.

Update: To add to Bob's comments, it would be fair to say that Alistair Campbell is demanding that the BBC substantiate their sources when the government was neither willing or careful enough to check the sources in their February dossier.
A World Peacekeeping Force - 29th June 2003, 11.46

At a meeting with business leaders last week, Donald Rumsfeld floated the concept of a permanent peacekeeping force that could be used to stabilise nations undergoing civil conflicts. For some reason, the Guardian named this a "world peacekeeping force" and an"an apparent sharp reversal of the Bush administration's staunchly unilateralist stance". This sentence tells us more about the Guardian's inability to follow US diplomacy than it does about Rumsfeld's idea.

The postwar situation in Iraq has demonstrated that the US army has not been fully trained for peacekeeping duties and that the current 'overstretch' has led to appeals for troops from other NATO countries. Rumsfeld's view of a permanent peacekeeping force on standby has two goals: (i) to offset this weakness in the US armed forces whilst it attempts to meet the objectives of national security in stabilising failing regions; and (ii), to provide an institutional underpinning to the ad hoc 'coalition of the willing' brought together by the Iraq war. The Guardian does not note the notable omission of the United Nations in this regard.

At a dinner in Washington last week, Mr Rumsfeld told defence industry leaders: "I am interested in the idea of our leading, or contributing to in some way, a cadre of people in the world who would like to participate in peacekeeping or peacemaking.

"I think it would be a good thing if our country was to provide some leadership for training of other countries' citizens who would like to participate in peacekeeping ... so that we have a ready cadre of people who are trained and equipped and organised and have communications [so] that they can work with each other."

From Rumsfeld's words, the other motive for setting up such "cadre" of peacekeeping troops is a pre-emptive strike to avoid the European Union or the United Nations gaining a diplomatic leadership role. Given the distrust of the Pentagon for the Franco-German policies on European defence, this could also be an opening for the United States to maintain an effective role in an area where European defence has a practical application.
Saturday, June 28, 2003
I do not remember the BBC being biased against the war, quite the opposite in fact. I was appalled at just how much the BBC seemed determined to support the government line and smooth the way to an unprovoked military attack on a country that posed us no threat.
Mini Me's Foreign Policy - 28th June 2003, 20.48

Geoff Hoon, in the Commons, quietly laid to rest the sole claim of Britain to military superiority over its European neighbours: the ability to fight an independent war.

Mr Hoon added: "Most importantly, it is highly unlikely that the United Kingdom would be engaged in large-scale combat operations without the United States, a judgment born of past experience, shared interest and our assessment of strategic trends".

Therefore, the autumn defence policy paper will focus upon how Britain can fit its forces into the needs of the United States, or unspoken, Europe. Hoon argued that Britain should institutionalise its role as America's figleaf.

Calling for a US-style strategic shift from tanks to modern technology, Mr Hoon implied it was Europe's responsibility to prevent the US going it alone in future combat.

"The issue is not whether the US decides to develop a unilateral or multilateral approach over the long term," the minister told a London conference. "Whether it finds itself in that position or not will depend on the role played, and on the persuasiveness, and ultimately the capabilities of its allies."

To this end, Britain will rationalise its armed forces, yet again, as the shortcomings of areas like logistics come to the fore. Hoon also stated that the number of men in your army is not a primary factor in strategic calculations:

Similarly, achieving a powerful army was "no longer a matter of simply generating high numbers of combat forces."

Nevertheless, after the massacre of six lightly-armed redcaps, the British army is calling for more troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
From Red to Green: The Common Agricultural Policy and Variable Geometry - 28th June 2003, 17.43

The European Union, in practice, often deploys administrative and political variations at a national or regional level, in order to avoid the fundamental heresy of a division in the ranks. The negotiations undertaken at an intergovernmental level resemble cabinet government (on the British model) in that a unified settlement is presented to the observer in order to avoid breaking the fundamental European value of solidarity.

The "reforms" to the Common Agricultural Policy, announced on Thursday, were an example of this. They allowed the dissenting Member States like France to retain the old system of linking production to subsidy. However, whilst the original system was socialist in its economics, linking subsidies to production, the new system is based upon 'green' criteria: environmental standards, food safety and animal welfare. In practice, the 'milk quota' will be replaced by the number of pigs in a pen and how many hedges you plant.

These are not reforms. They are an attempt by the interested parties to maintain a subsidy for their rural sectors and, like all those paid, have found new ideological foundations for the flow of taxpayers' money. The level of subsidy does not decline, the price of food paid for by the European consumer does not fall, and the fixed prices so beloved of CAP bureaucrats are maintained. There was a small move towards a freer market:

But the price floor for butter will be cut by 25 per cent over four years while that for skimmed milk powder will fall 15 per cent over three years.

The shift towards the environment and rural development is known as modulation and the system for allocating funds may result in a further decline in the flow of CAP money to the farming sector in the UK. Epolitix rounds up the interested institutions who welcome the proposals and share a common assumption that the taxpayers shoudl subsidise rural communities and farms. A full summary of the changes in their ghastly glory may be read here.
Thursday, June 26, 2003

Our Reward

Six more British troops die at the hands of the Iraqi NRA in an area that does not affect our national interests, so this pre-war piece should raise a wry laugh from Christopher Caldwell in the Speccie:

[C]oncrete benefits are likely to materialise in postwar Iraq, where Britain will be in a much stronger commercial position than its EU partners.

He didn't say that this was for undertakers. (He also predicted that France would join in at the last minute, oh how the Anglosphere revolves).

What's far worse (except for the families of course) is that we have 14 000 troops in Iraq - between a quarter and a third of our operational capacity - and we are being told that we need more.
Wednesday, June 25, 2003
Cato on the Withholding Tax - 25th June 2003, 23.35

In a strong if slightly overwrought article, the Cato Institute clarifies the lack of intellectual merit behind the withholding tax, and permitted information gathering, agreed on June 3rd. It is a great pity that none of these economists are actually cited.

More objective and competent economists have clearly demonstrated that the concept of "harmful tax competition" is without intellectual merit, particularly given that most countries have taxes far above the revenue and growth maximizing rates, so tax competition can only be beneficial.

However, the article goes downhill by linking an incompetent policy on tax to an ideological construct of 'Europe' that wishes to enforce French levels of taxation across the globe:

Most people understand that when businessmen get together to limit competition, the public interest is rarely served, and the same is true of government bureaucrats. EU officials convinced their bureaucratic lackeys at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to develop the concept of "harmful tax competition" to justify trying to force all of the world's countries to jack up their tax rates to French-like levels.

Primarily, it is an example of where Europe has strayed from the path of liberalisation. The withholding tax is an example of high tax countries attempting to prevent their citizens accumuulating capital or property by transferring their capital to low tax jurisdictions. The single market was supposed to be about competition, not standardisation, and the concentration on rules at the expense of markets has retarded any economic impetus that the process may have brought.

Every European citizen has a duty to disregard, undermine and evade this tax.

Ten Pence for a cup of Tea

Is there any kind soul that could buy a domain name for a poor web log? Let me know if you can some loose change.

Delian Delights

John Laughland says that NATO is more tied to arms budgets than defence. Echoes of an earlier time?
Tuesday, June 24, 2003
State Funding for Political Parties - 24th June 2003, 22.55

On the 20th June, the European Parliament voted, unsurprisingly, to permit funding for European wide political parties through the Commission. It was accompanied by strict written rules to ensure transparency, although these can never prevent corruption. The only problem lies in the lines of accountability; the Parliament is responsible for laying down the rules in disbursing this cash and has stipulated barriers to entry (3% of the votes cast in the European elections in at least one-quarter of the Member states).

Monday, June 23, 2003
An Unequal Partnership - 23rd June 2003, 22.59

The EU and the US are meeting for a summit this week in Washington DC. With their relationship under strain, the EU is inevitably attempting to puff out its chest, and present itself as an equal.

"The development of the transatlantic relations on an equal footing remains of fundamental importance in every domain not only for the two sides but also for the international community," they said in their summit declaration.

However, the lack of military and diplomatic weight undermines their claims, hence a revealing search for allies to form a counterweight to the US, under the guise of flexibility.

"The transatlantic relationship is irreplaceable," Solana says in it. But he also urges the EU to move off in new strategic directions and to focus on developing relations with Russia, Japan, China, Canada and India. "None of our relations will be exclusive," Solana's document reads.

The EU is diplomatically and strategically weak, but economically strong in terms of trade and finance. However, its protectionist policies and unwillingness to open up trade barriers, has weakened its strongest card in the Doha round.
They are living down to their claims.
A Common Policy on Space - 23rd June 2003, 22.49

Here's an interesting article answering questions on the aims of European policy in space. Their major programmes are GALILEO, a satellite navigation system, and GMES, the Global Monitoring of Environment and Security Initiative. Both have a security dimension, detailed here:

What role does Space play in security and defence?

Space-based systems can respond to many emerging security needs, with both civilian and defence aspects encompassed under the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). The current action being undertaken by the EU's new Rapid Reaction Force in the Democratic Republic of Congo is a good example of a ground-based security operation being aided by strategic space technologies.

The EU/ESA Joint Task Force will look, inter alia, in the 'dual use' of space systems. GALILEO and GMES, for example, as civilian projects under civilian control, are seen as key to developing transport and environment policies. But they are also highly relevant to the CFSP, especially in reference to the Petersberg tasks, which include military missions involving humanitarian aid, evacuation, peacekeeping and crisis resolution. Space is dual by nature. We will pay an increasingly high price if we keep civil and military applications artificially separated.

Key space-based capabilities include monitoring and intelligence gathering, highly relevant when reacting to natural disasters, or in times of crisis. Space systems can also provide a robust communications infrastructure, capable of operating even when conventional means are disrupted.

The EU's CFSP will only be really credible if it is supported by an autonomous intelligence capability, which includes space assets. The European Advisory Group on Aerospace, made up of high-level personalities from the political and industrial world, has presented a document on the current situation in the aerospace field. This 'STAR 21' report, recommends that the Union develop a satellite-based defence and security capacity on a European scale.

Note that the Union wishes to develop a "satellite based defence and security capacity on a European scale". They wouldn't need to do that if they were just a common market.
Thanksgiving - 23rd June 2003, 22.41

One of the easier tasks that Iain Murray has ever undertaken is carving up the turkey that doubles as the European Constitution.

See for yourself in the NRO.
Sunday, June 22, 2003
Catch the Pigeon - 22nd June 2003, 20.04

Tony Blair, renamed for the British Prime Minister, has shown an unerring sense of direction, by racing across the English Channel to New York. His namesake, at Thessalonika this week, proved just as competent, in his ability to defend British interests.

Whilst the draft of the European Constitution was finally published, Blair found that his enthusiastic support was undermined as the cost of 'signing up' became apparent. Not only were the vast intrusions of European power into domestic policy swallowed as a necessity, but the financial rebate that Margaret Thatcher had negotiated more than two decades earlier was also consigned to the past.

But sources close to the UK delegation admitted that the government remains "deeply concerned" about the powers they were being forced to give up, including the right to veto EU changes affecting Britain’s asylum policy, employment laws and, crucially, the rebate thrashed out by Thatcher in 1984. An obscure clause that could allow other states to over-rule the UK veto over its "revenue abatement" survived the discussions.

Moreover, France and Germany are supporting Joschka Fischer as the first candidate for the new role of European Foreign Minister. Fischer, noted for his anti-American attitudes and revolutionary past, could be counted upon to promote the minority view that irked so many European countries during the Iraqi war. His candidacy can be viewed as an unwillingness on the part of France or Germany to adopt more consensual policies in this area.

In a curious inversion of meaning, Blair stated that the Thessalonika meeting now safeguarded Britain's "sovereign rights" on taxation, defence, foreign policy and border controls". Nevertheless, it is clear that, alongside Poland and Spain, Britain falls into a minority that regards the draft Constitution as the beginning of a negotiated settlement, and not as the basis for minor changes.

It is clear that the European Union now resembles a Rorschach Test and can be described in both Gaullist or federalist terms. This article, from the New York Times, captures the perceptions of both Blair and Costas Simitis, Greece's Prime Minister,

That was the gist of antithetical comments made here on Friday by Prime Minister Costas Simitis of Greece and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain. As Mr. Simitis was telling one group of reporters that the evolving draft of the constitution reflected a shared belief among all the union's members in "a federal kind of Europe," Mr. Blair was telling another group of reporters that Britain was adamant about "a Europe of nations, not a federal superstate."

As the complexities and the divisions within the European Union increase, the probabilities of a fracture grow ever greater. There is also growing evidence that Blair is no longer heartened by a love for all things continental. In echoes of the recent reshuffle, he departed a day early to spend time with his family, and found that his European counterparts considered his defence of the British veto to be a continuation of the British foreign policy pursued by Thatcher and Major.

Blair is the most pro-European Prime Minister that Britain has suffered since Heath and, irony of ironies, he finds that he is still tarred with the scepticism that all continentals expect to hear.
United Nations: Reform - 22nd June 2003, 17.28

A reform programme in the United Nations was already underway before the shock of 9/11, but it was limited to the more visible demonstrations of failure, such as peacekeeping. After the divisions in the Security Council before the Iraqi war led to a critical questioning of the UN's role, the issue of reform has been dormant, awaiting the stirrings of one of the permanent members. The tensions that underlie any reform programme stem from the ambiguous role of the United States: how far it is willing to support the United Nations or how far it prefers the contemporary arrangements, where division has promoted irrelevance.

The Foreign Office has set out an agenda for reform that attempts to resolve the problems, identified by US critics, and restructure the Security Council in recognition of post Cold War shifts in geopolitics. Bill Rammell, in his opening speech at Chatham House, during a seminar on UN reform, explained,

1. A consensus on the requirements for legitimating intervention on humanitarian or security grounds (and, presumably, removing the need for a resolution in every case).

Just as there is an ongoing discussion of the principles under which we intervene in states on humanitarian grounds, we also need to re-examine the principles under which we intervene to tackle global threats more widely. What are the circumstances in which we can agree that multilateral intervention to prevent proliferation of WMD or international terrorism is justified? Iraq, where I believe we were right to intervene, demonstrated never the less that we do not have a consensus on this issue. We should seek, if possible, to establish one, and I hope that today's discussion can take that forward.

2. Restructuring the Security Council.

We want to see all the regions of the world represented by permanent members of the Security Council. But at the moment there is no agreement and no consensus within the United Nations on future reform.

3. Reforming the procedures of the General Assembly.

4. Reforming the UN Secretariat and Conferences.

One of the Secretary General's key recommendations we need to face up to is the need to do away with outdated UN activity. Some of the UN's existing programmes and activities are redundant, no longer serve their original purpose or provide valuable output.

However there is a general consensus that we need to ensure that the agreements that come out of these events [conferences] are implemented. That is a challenge, there are questions - but they should not just be talking shops, they should be followed up by concrete actions.

The Foreign Office may have a number of motives for championing UN reform. Calls for reform have begun to appear in the last month from Canada, Australia and Russia. Britain recognises that the issue will be addressed at some point in the near future and would prefer to obtain a 'first mover advantage' that sets an agenda, incorporating US criticisms, whilst ensuring that the reform programme is not hijacked by those who would wish to use it in order to raise their profile with developing countries. In other words, they wish to head off both the Americans and the French.

However, any reforms that do not acquire the support or enthusiasm of the United States will not be implemented. Given that the energies of the Bush administration lie elsewhere, reform is unlikely to be debated in the near future.
The Government's Position on the Euro - 22nd June 2003, 16.39

Denis MacShane, at a breakfast meeting on the 19th June with the London Chamber of Commerce, provided a short concluding passage on the government's current position on the issues raised in Europe. The failures of European policy were left unmentioned:

So we've strengthened our commitment to and support for joining the euro. As the Prime Minister and Chancellor have made clear we'll be stepping up our efforts to explain why Europe matters to the UK. We intend to make the case for Britain's role in the Europe and Europe's role in the world. An enlarged Europe, pursuing economic reform, will be good for British growth and British jobs and clearly in the British interest. I look forward to engaging in this debate.
Thursday, June 19, 2003
Thessalonika - 19th June 2003, 23.23

The EU leaders and their prospective members are meeting behind protective shields to discuss the issues of the day, ie the Constitution, asylum and the transatlantic rifts. A report can be read here.

Blair has settled on his negotiating strategy, a series of distinct rubicons:

The Prime Minister wants the Government to focus on a handful of "red line" issues -such as retaining the veto on tax, social security and defence - rather than entering the negotiations with a long list of amendments to the draft treaty drawn up by a convention chaired by the former president of France Valery Giscard d'Estaing. His proposals will be presented to today's summit of EU leaders in Greece, with several countries, including Germany, expected to demand that the text is not watered down to accommodate Britain.

Of course, most of them are not subject to qualified majority voting at this stage. Typical spin: using a Straw man to defend straw men.
Sanity Prevails - 19th June 2003, 23.07

It appears that Britain will be deploying a small contingent of Royal Engineers, staff officers and Hercules aircraft for support. Better not to have offered anything but at least they are keeping overstretch to minimum.

The UK has offered to provide a small detachment of Royal Engineers and support from RAF Hercules transport aircraft, as well as staff officers to work in the headquarters. The precise number of troops to be deployed will be driven by the work to be undertaken in Bunia, which is the subject of further military reconnaissance work.

Zimwatch: Blair and Bush will be tried as war criminals - 19th June 2003, 23.01

I am not particularly fond of the Salvation Army but it appears that the comrades in Harare are moving for their impeachment, and as any fule kno, revolutionaries are never wrong...

After several weeks of uncertainty, this will definitely come as good news to all of you. The news is that by December THIS YEAR, Tony Blair and George W Bush will be history.

Many of you may think I am crazy but this is a fact. Wait and see. Come December, they will be ordinary people on the streets of New York and London, if they are not locked away at The Hague with other war criminals.

The revolutionaries are on the case.

Brother Coltrane Chimurenga and sister Viola Plummer of the famous December 12 Movement and their revolutionary residents of Harlem, our dear Reverend Walter Fauntroy who visited me last week and his National Black Leadership Roundtable, our crafty Ari Ben-Menashe and his Dickens and Madison in Canada, and our Dr David Nyekorach-Matsanga of Africa Strategy in London, the list is endless; all these plus several others that I will not mention, are working flat out to ensure that impeachment proceedings against the two criminal leaders start shortly.

Americans and their British counterparts, though they are morons by our own standards, are a straitlaced people when it comes to dealing with wayward leaders.

Thank God, as we don't have the brains to do it ourselves. And imagine this..

The two have also been spreading malicious falsehoods about our land reform exercise.

Dissent is, of course, counter-revolution. It would be gratifying to say that the Zimbabwean government had lost the plot but, in this dark world, it is the farmers, both black and white, who have to deal with the reality of that phrase.
Wednesday, June 18, 2003
HMV - 18th June 2003, 23.26

Peter Mandelson writes in the Financial Times on the issue of the European Constitution, setting out in public the themes that many in the Blairite circle share in private. Europhilia is the love that dares not speak its name, for fear of upsetting the public.

The New Labour Europhiles hold Euroscepticism in contempt and prefer to view this body of opinion as a 'dark force of conservatism', which will wither under its own contradictions. Mandelson's philosophical cod-Marxist determinism is clear to see when he gropes for an argument to describe a movement that he perceives to be a "reactionary force".

The constitution's anti-European detractors are to be found in the Conservative party and the Europhobic press. Plenty of rope, but no ground, should be conceded to them and in time they will be defeated by their own hyperbole.

Europe will succeed due to the support of those political and economic interests that, in the 1930s, would have been described as 'progressive'.

For Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's convention essentially reflects what Tony Blair has been seeking: a more effective European Union rooted in the democratic legitimacy of its member states. It certainly offers a vision that Labour and the Liberal Democrats, business people and trades unions can back with enthusiasm: deeper integration, where it is justified by the benefits, but without substantially more Brussels centralisation.

Thus, Mandelson is willing to trade the peculiar traditions of the 'common law' for the perceived advantages of European integration. and yet, he stops short of crystallising an objective for Europe. There are vague hints: such as a common foreign policy and the eventual harmonisation of criminal law. The article is couched in the 'progressive' discourse that New Labour utilises though it is rare to see a Marxist determinism surface as it does here. Since a teleogical politics is chosen by this group, Mandelson's unconvincing finish that "Mr Giscard d'Estaing has produced a smart balancing act" tells us that the Constitution is considered an important stepping stone upon the road to a European state, not the supranational mess of the current regime.

If critics of the European Constitution are pinning their hopes on British diplomats renegotiating many of the points in this document, Mandelson's article spells out the stance of many Blairites: European integration is a more important goal than British national interest.

Those who want to unpick the threads should beware of the whole package unravelling.
A Consensus on North Korea - 18th June 2003, 23.01

Geoff Hoon, Defence Secretary, used North Korea's declaration of a nuclear weapons programme yesterday to repeat the outcome of a diplomatic agreement signed in Madrid last week to intercept North Korean vessels. The dangerous and isolated regime appears to have provided a base on which the divided West can agree, although one could argue that no-one has economic interests in the Hermit Kingdom.

The countries involved in the Madrid initiative are the United States, Britain, Australia, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain. They are expected to meet again next month at a location yet to be determined.

One could argue that this is a sign of France and Germany's weakness. After capitulating over the issue of sanctions at the United Nations, they are now signing up to an agenda where the majority of the signatories were members of the "coalition of the willing".

Emotional Over Europe. 18th June 2003.

I find it hard to get worked up about the European debate these days. The argument has so long ago been won, the Euro-fanatics are so impervious to reason, there is so little we can do, that I no longer see why I should take risks with my blood pressure. That may change if the Government surpasses its own previous Stalinism by ignoring the result of the Daily Mail referendum, but, for the time being, I have little to say.

There is one thing, however, that I will comment on, and that is the claim, made sometimes by Euro-fanatics over here, more often by foreigners in vox populi clips, that the British are terribly “emotional” about the single currency & the European Constitution, & about European questions generally – a claim invariably made in a patronising tone, with a pitying, bemused expression that cries out to be wiped off the face with a fist. The Europeans, it is implied, are more hard-headed & grown-up.

This, I am glad to say, still makes me angry. I am angry just thinking about it. It is just SUCH UNUTTERABLE CRAP. Let me explain why, in terms simple enough for even a bemused Euro-fanatic.

There is nothing wrong with being emotional. Here I have in mind a rather greater “European” than Valery Giscard d’Estaing, namely Aristotle, who pointed out that all emotions had their appropriate objects. It is right to feel love for one’s children, pride in good work, anger at injustice. Emotions are wrong only when they are felt about the wrong things. Feeling the right emotions about the right things, far from being a sign of immaturity, is a sign of being grown up. There is no absolute dichotomy between emotion & reason: on the contrary, those who are never emotional about anything must often be missing the point.

The question is whether British Euro-sceptics are emotional about something that merits it. From the point of view of the dishonest kind of Euro-fanatic who pretends that the single currency is purely an economic issue or the Constitution a tidying-up exercise, then of course the answer is, “No.” But the dishonest Euro-fanatic is obviously wrong: participants in the single currency give up political control over their interest rates & public spending, and signatories to the Constitution give up political control of their laws & foreign policy, among other things. These are worth getting emotional about: they are questions of independence, of freedom, & we are right to be impatient of limits on our freedom. Most countries have a better idea how to govern themselves than any foreign country has; few know how to govern foreign countries well. If we want to be as well governed as possible, we must, therefore, concentrate on governing ourselves & forget about governing others. That means getting out of the E.U.

If reason is on our side, then it must be against the Euro-fanatics – which prompts the question why they think as they do. When they are forced into making a positive case, it becomes clear that they cleave to a sentimental vision of European brotherhood, invulnerable to argument, indifferent to national interest, heedless of history. They are, in other words, guided by emotion, & inappropriate emotion at that.

So, all you smug Eurocreeps out there who look down your noses at us – whom are you calling emotional, punk?

Monday, June 16, 2003
Most Reliable European Ally - 16th June 2003, 23.14

Andrew Sullivan, no need to guess who he is, argues that the possible outcome of the European Constitution will be a foreign policy reversal for the United States. For a commentator who was born in Britain, he has few words of grace or comfort for the land of his birth if he deigns to spare us a glance in his commentary, apart from our singular role as "most reliable European ally".

Perhaps the most exasperating theme within Sullivan's article, "The Euro Menace: The USE vs the USA", is his stance as Cassandra whilst admitting that the United States is unable to contain the rise of this new counterweight. The problem is that Sullivan, a man who has not seen this problem arise, although there have been plenty of other voices raising concerns about European integration, now undergoes a Damascene conversion and concludes, "It may, alas, be too late to prevent the worst. But better late than never." For a commentator on the Right, an ex-Brit, to come out with this face-saving formula, whilst admitting that this could be a huge blow to the aims of US foreign policy, strikes one as closing the barn door after the carthorse has bolted. A further example of his defeatist and appeasing theme strikes here: "The point is, the European idea has won every major battle it has fought. And it would be foolish to bet against it now."

However, the developments that Sullivan foresees, do not agree with the reports that have been coming out of the European Convention. The article states that a United States of Europe is essentially complete and that the new political structure will be dominated by both France and Germany. Political hegemony will be strengthened by economic supremacy as the new entrants from Central Europe will be "supplicants" who will have to obey the dictates of Europe's political masters. All of the other big countries, Spain, Britain and Italy will also be forced to kowtow in foreign policy and other matters or "foreign policy intransigence could possibly lead to marginalization within the European Union, with all the costs that could entail." Here, Sullivan demonstrates that he is unable to recognise the economic costs that individual nations already bear under membership of the Union. Marginalisation would, no doubt, be a fillip to economic growth, if it was accompanied by liberalising policies.

The weakness of Sullivan's arguments lies, partially, in the lack of engagement with Europe's fundamental demographic and economic crises. These arguments have been much rehearsed but one short-term example will suffice:

The new euro helps fulfill French ambition by becoming a fledgling counterweight to the dollar in international markets, helping erode the critical U.S. economic advantage of having the uncontested global currency. As it reaches record heights against the dollar, we will soon see whether it can at some point rival the greenback as a global currency, thereby severely limiting America's flexibility in economic policy.

A record high for the Euro limits further the inflexibility of economic policy in Germany, France and other nation states. The Netherlands are in recession, France is having a riot and Germany could soon be facing unemployment figures of five million. The reason lies in their inability to pursue structural reform, due to the sclerotic policies of their political parties and the prohibition of corrective policy during a downturn under the Growth and Stability Pact, or is that Decline and Stagnation. Under this economic cycle, the rise in the value of the Euro has come at the worst time for Euroland, especially as it is far more dependent upon exports than the United States.

The other problem with the article is its acceptance of the draft constitution as a final settlement and underestimating the power of other European countries to form alliances against the Franco-German axis. After all, the constitutional convention has been divided between large and small countries, the intergovernmental states and the Commission, the periphery and the core, without evidence of one dominating force. The Franco-German alliance had the greatest influence, through the role of Giscard D'Estaing, but the conclusion was an abandonment of their prize: the domination of Europe. Before the Iraqi war, the European Union was split but neither side was able to master the other and a face saving formula was found to paper over the cracks. The convention agreed on a common foreign policy , to be implemented at a later date.

Whilst festering over here, I recognise that De Havilland on Samizdata was right in one respect. Sullivan is unable to present a strategy that holds Britain's interests at heart:

Above all, the United States can let its most reliable European ally, Britain, know that it prizes the relationship, that it does not necessarily believe British adoption of the euro is a good or necessary thing, and that it values Britain's independent military capacity immensely. Keeping Britain both in the USE and outside of it militarily, diplomatically, and monetarily should become a prime U.S. objective in foreign policy. Without it, the United States could lose its most valuable military and diplomatic ally. If you think that's unimportant, imagine the Iraq war--diplomatically and militarily--without the fig leaf of British support.

This is the voice of a Reasonable Republican and repeats the long-term mistake of British foreign policy, usually made at America's behest, of maintaining a presence within the European institutions as a safeguard for US interests. The problem is that this conjuring act required political space to function; a political space that is fading away. It is disheartening to see a Republican of British origin repeating the failed nostrums of a foreign policy that has led us to this crisis. It also reveals that mainstream republicans, who take Sullivan's stance, agree with the foundations of Blair's strategy. Nevertheless, any shift in US foreign policy to a more Eurosceptical stance, whatever its basis, is to be welcomed. Perhaps in six months time, Sullivan will be championing withdrawal, if he values our worth as an independent ally more than our role as a stalking horse within the European Union.


Perry de Haviland mentions this website's "deep and festering suspicion of the USA". We're not suspicious, we know that the USA is not our (permanent) friend. Neither is France, China, Ireland, San Marino, Chile or Swaziland.

His problem is Andrew Sullivan's and Ramesh Ponnuru's view that America would do badly out of a European Union. Now maybe they would and maybe they wouldn't - remember that the Conservative Party in the 1970s enthusiastically supported the EEC because it would strengthen the Western Alliance against the USSR, so America's enthusiasm for Europe did and in many cases still does extend beyond rhetoric. However it is perfectly right for an American to worry about American interests.

However this is not how the wild eyed Samizdatans see it. Sullivan is "kicking the none-too-tight lid off latent anti-Americanism" by saying that keeping British semi-independence from Europe "should become a prime U.S. objective in foreign policy" as Britain is America's "most valuable military and diplomatic ally". Now some pro-Europeans may use this, considering the unpopularity of the Sumerian adventure anti-Americanism gets votes in Britain. But they'd say something like that anyway. However the idea that "his views are of little value in any positive way to people outside his American national collective" is bizarre. As far as I know it was the "American national collective" (right-Trot speak for the American nation) that Sullivan was addressing his spiel to. Why should Americans care about due process or jury trials outside their own borders? If we can't look after our own freedoms then we don't deserve them. I don't want the Americans to tell me how I should be governed even if, especially if, they care about my best interests.

What I particularly like is the shock at the idea that it might be in America's interests to keep us in the EU, no matter how awkwardly. We first applied under the most Atlanticist of Prime Ministers, Harold Macmillan. We kept in under the Cold Warrior Wilson (supported by the even more staunchly pro-American Thatcher). The treasurer of the Yes Campaign in 1975 has since claimed that CIA money played it's part in the 20-1 funding advantage for the pro-EEC campaign - although Lord McAlpine doesn't necesarily have to be believed straight away. There may be a pattern to this. Britain in the EU is in America's interests not least for the fact that as Enoch Powell pointed out it keeps Britain out of trouble in the wider world.

It may shock the Samizdatans but there are other areas where the British national interest clashes with American national interests, such as Ulster. It is not in our interests to give this to the IRA, as even our weak kneed governing classes recognise, but that's not what's happening. Why? Washington.

All this is not going to affect this small band of isolationists. Britain does badly out of the EU end of story. If America sees that for her own selfish reasons she needs to get us out then that's her business. I don't want America's sympathy, and I'm not particularly keen on America's help. But I don't want Britain to act against her national interests simply to spite America, it's as silly as acting against our interests in order to help America.
Sunday, June 15, 2003
Basic Benevolence - 15th June 2003, 22.07

One of the strongest critics of British foreign policy on the left is Mark Curtis. He reproduces the ideological analysis of stalwarts like Pilger and Chomsky, arguing that elite dominated ideologies and a normalising media present an overwhelming view of British foreign policy at odds with the reality of British action. There is even an obligatory quote from a French philosopher to substantiate his intellectual credentials.

His major argument is that Britain's foreign policy mediated through an ideological concept that he identifies as "basic benevolence".

The ideological system promotes one key concept that underpins everything else - the idea of Britain's basic benevolence. Mainstream reporting and analysis usually actively promotes, or at least does not challenge, the idea that Britain promotes high principles - democracy, peace, human rights and development - in its foreign policy. Criticism of foreign policies is certainly possible, and normal, but within narrow limits which show "exceptions" to, or "mistakes" in, promoting the rule of basic benevolence. Government statements on its always noble intentions are invariably taken seriously and rarely even challenged, let alone ridiculed. These assumptions and ways of reporting are very deep-rooted.

Curtis's outrage stems from the hypocrisy that underlies British foreign policy, since arms sales, aggressive military action and an indifference to human rights violations at one time or another, does not measure up to the ethical objectives set out under the concept of "basic benevolence". As all one-eyed men who follow ideology, Curtis argues that British foreign policy is cast into this one mould and that the public are blind to the machinations of the elite.

Overall, I believe that people are being indoctrinated into a picture of Britain's role in the world that supports elite priorities. This is the mass production of ignorance. It actively works against our interests, which is precisely why the ideological system is critical to the elite, who essentially see the public as a threat.

The weakness of Curtis's arguments lies in the fact that, whilst 'benevolence' has been a factor in British foreign policy in many guises, stretching from the 'white man's burden' in the nineteenth century to Churchillian hymns to freedom, this has not been the sole justification for British military or diplomatic action. This historian is exercised by the "ethical foreign policy" touted by Blair and has read this approach into a past whereas the importance of human rights within international institutions as a tool to undermine sovereignty and condone transnationalist actions can be traced back to the Helsinki agreements of the 1970s.

Curtis identifies one phenomenon that is very troublesome in Britain's contemporary circumstances, facing the event horizon of European integration. He states that public debate on British foreign policy is very narrow and that the elites have contributed to this, by not living up to their ethical demands.

Elites throughout history have presented their policies as in the natural order of things, which helps to obscure the pursuit of their own particular interests. An important aspect of the ideological system is rendering a single view dominant or "natural", presenting current policies as inevitable, and undermining the possibility of alternatives. "Globalisation" is presented by elites as such a natural phenomenon, and critics ridiculed as Luddites who cannot stop the inevitable march of history. These curiously Marxist, determinist views mask the elite's goal under globalisation of promoting total global economic "liberalisation" - a far from inevitable outcome, but a strategy chosen by the liberalisation theologists of New Labour, and their allies among the transnational elite.

If the current horrible policies are "normal", the alternatives are "unthinkable". Even to mention the indictment of Tony Blair for war crimes, to oppose British cooperation with the US because it is a consistent supporter of human rights abuses overseas, or even to end arms exports is "unthinkable" in the mainstream and would invite ridicule.

Curtis is correct that there is little debate on alternatives in foreign policy. However, he is wedded to the transnational discourse that shapes the foreign policy of New Labour, and omits the actual paucity of argument in Britain: on political and strategic choices in foreign policy. Moreover, the British public remain sceptical of transnationalist foreign policy in one respect: Europe, but addressing this aspect of the debate may open up the Curtis line to empirical complexities that demand more argument and less ideology. Facts are never a strong point of the Left.
Missile Defence: A Secret Agreement - 15th June 2003, 12.27

Geoff Hoon announced in Parliament that Britain has signed an agreement with the United States to allow the use of an upgraded early warning radar station at Fylingdales and unspecified "technical cooperative programmes" that would allow British companies to participate in US missile defence research and contracts.

Due to government secrecy, it is not possible to tell if the Blair government has extracted a beneficial transfer of missile defence technology for US use of Fylingdales. This deepening of cooperation is not unexpected and indicates that the Blair government is wedded in action to its Atlanticist and European strands.
How successful was the Daily Mail referendum? - 15th June 2003, 0.00

The Guardian took four electoral observers to travel across London and assess the safeguards that the Daily Mail had put in place during the referendum. The answer was not a satisfactory one, even if the Guardian's neutrality in this instant was sanctimonious and disingenuous. In a patronising article, under the headline "What a Load of Ballots",

The Guardian was not trying to queer the result of the Mail's ballot, which asked voters to answer yes or no on whether a future European constitution should be put to a national referendum.

The electoral observers concluded that the process was flawed, due to the lack of safeguards on the ballots, emails, texts etc. What they actually showed was the dangers inherent in holding a referendum, when the government holds the financial whiphand.

The government has loosened the regulations concerning the electoral process and concerns have been raised about the potential of fraud in the use of texts, post, and email as channels for casting votes. Moreover, the Blair government never implemented those parts of the Nolan Report concerning the measures that should have been put in place to ensure a fair and free referendum. As long as the government can draft the wording of a referensum, we should approach this strategy with some caution.
Saturday, June 14, 2003
A Technical Oversight - 14th June 2003, 23.43

It appears that the European Constitution "forgot" Bulgaria and Romania and did not add then to the document. Sofia foolishly piped up and reminded them...

The omission of Bulgaria and Romania in the declaration for the draft Constitution of the European Union was nothing more than a technical mistake. This is what Bulgaria's Euro-integration Minister Meglena Kuneva said commenting on the latest controversy triggered when the European Convention did not include the two countried set for 2007 entry in the governing structures of the union.
The Publication of the Constitution - 14th June 2003, 23.23

European Ministers thronged and mingled, drinking champagne, and using their onerous tax burdens for eating and drinking whilst they celebrated their attempted release from the hated obligations of democratic accountability. Beethoven's Ode to Joy, a symphonic reminder of the days when European elites, and how many of them think of themselves as a latterday aristocracy, superior because of their meritocratic roots rather than their inheritances.

The International Herald Tribune has garnered a number of quotations from the humble worthies involved and they all seem to congratulate themselves on a job well done. France and Germany repeated their support for Giscard's enterprise:

We now have a draft constitution that is worthy of the word historic,’’ said Germany’s foreign minister, Joschka Fischer. France’s foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said the constitution would allow Europe to assume a ‘‘full role on the world stage.’’

Although the IHT article repeats the argument that the document tidies up the existing treaties, the areas of disagreement in tax and security policy were glossed over in the released statements of the politicians. Andrew Duff, the Liberal Democrat arch-federalist proved as out of touch as ever:

Andrew Duff, a British member of the European Parliament, said he hoped the constitution would turn British skeptics into europhiles. ‘‘It is my belief that the fruits of our work here will one day convince many more of my countrymen and women to shed their obsessive nationalism, to become more trustworthy partners of the European Union, and to make of our own country a modern, European place,’’.

If any Eurosceptics are converted by the work of the Convention, please let me know. However, in the latter part of the article, the divisions that will appear in the intergovernmental conference could not be papered over. Britain and Spain viewed the draft constitution as a basis for negotiations:

Several government representatives suggested they were expecting significant changes to the document. Spain’s foreign minister, Ana de Palacio, said her government had ‘‘a basic reservation’’ about the document and Britain’s representative, Peter Hain, called the constitution ‘‘a good foundation for final negotiations.’’

However, Giscard and his Franco-German sponsers are unwilling to countenance serious negotiations on the draft.

In his closing speech on the convention floor, Giscard appealed to governments not to significantly change the constitution. ‘‘The closer you stick to our text, which has been discussed and reflected upon at great length, the lighter your task will be,’’ Giscard said. In Berlin, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, echoed Giscard’s sentiment. ‘‘There may be some people who suggest that we discuss the whole thing all over again from the beginning, open up every question again, and try to create something new,’’ he said, according to news agencies. ‘‘But that won’t work.’’

And just in case, you don't know the battlelines: For Britain, tax and defence; For France: it is audiovisual products. Who would have thought that a television was the dearest object for a Frenchman. How very Americaine!
Thursday, June 12, 2003
Rapprochement - 12th June 2003, 22.38

Having warned throughout the run up to the war that Blair remained as wedded to Europe, with all that entailed for Anglo-French relations, it came as no surprise to view the chumminess of Chirac and our Glorious Leader as they indulged in a "lavish" dinner.

Apart from the rift over Iraq, there has been very little evidence of a military or diplomatic rift between Britain and France. In 1940, intonations of "a common destiny" sounded Churchillian; now the echo portends a future of diminished democracy and freedom.
Paying the Price - 12th June 2003, 22.33

Belgium's Universal Competence law allowed any politically motivated activist to indict any figure for war crimes. Its universal application, hot on the heels of the Pinochet debacle, has been directed primarily at the United States and the United Kingdom for refusing to observe the favoured principles of transnational law.

Understandably, the United States has decided to take Belgium's law at its word and refuses to fly accused military and political figures to Brussels.

"The point is this: By passing that law, Belgium has turned its legal system into a platform for divisive, politicized lawsuits against officials of its NATO allies," Rumsfeld said.

If US officials are no longer able to attend meetings of NATO in Brussels, and are no longer willing to finance the construction of the Alliance's new headquarters, how long will it be before NATO moves to a more hospitable country?

The three best contenders are probably Germany, Holland or Denmark. However, if we placed the headquarters in Ulster....
Matthew Barganier makes the point that the antiwar crowd is being distracted by the momentary lack of weapons of mass destruction. That's not the point, the point was that Saddam was no threat to us which would have been the case whether or not we find WMDs. At the moment all we need is for them to find a barrel of anthrax somewhere (not even Iraqi anthrax) and suddenly Blair is off the hook. The case against the WMD argument was proved when the Americans took Baghdad without a whiff of mustard gas, if he wasn't going to use them to save his regime he was never going to use them against us.

In the meantime remember this?:

In an interview on October 14, 2001, conducted jointly by the Times and “Frontline,” the public-television program, Sabah Khodada, an Iraqi Army captain, said that the September 11th operation “was conducted by people who were trained by Saddam,” and that Iraq had a program to instruct terrorists in the art of hijacking. Another defector, who was identified only as a retired lieutenant general in the Iraqi intelligence service, said that in 2000 he witnessed Arab students being given lessons in hijacking on a Boeing 707 parked at an Iraqi training camp near the town of Salman Pak, south of Baghdad.

In separate interviews with me, however, a former C.I.A. station chief and a former military intelligence analyst said that the camp near Salman Pak had been built not for terrorism training but for counter-terrorism training. In the mid-eighties, Islamic terrorists were routinely hijacking aircraft. In 1986, an Iraqi airliner was seized by pro-Iranian extremists and crashed, after a hand grenade was triggered, killing at least sixty-five people. (At the time, Iran and Iraq were at war, and America favored Iraq.) Iraq then sought assistance from the West, and got what it wanted from Britain’s MI6. The C.I.A. offered similar training in counter-terrorism throughout the Middle East. “We were helping our allies everywhere we had a liaison,” the former station chief told me. Inspectors recalled seeing the body of an airplane—which appeared to be used for counter-terrorism training—when they visited a biological-weapons facility near Salman Pak in 1991, ten years before September 11th. It is, of course, possible for such a camp to be converted from one purpose to another. The former C.I.A. official noted, however, that terrorists would not practice on airplanes in the open. “That’s Hollywood rinky-dink stuff,” the former agent said. “They train in basements. You don’t need a real airplane to practice hijacking. The 9/11 terrorists went to gyms. But to take one back you have to practice on the real thing.”

Salman Pak was overrun by American troops on April 6th. Apparently, neither the camp nor the former biological facility has yielded evidence to substantiate the claims made before the war.

Gosh how the myths fall down. Never mind, at least we've liberated Iraq... from electricity, running water and modern healthcare.
Wednesday, June 11, 2003
The Press Conference - 11th June 2003, 22.35

In a choreographed follow-up to the statement by the Chancellor in Parliament, the strongest partnership seen in politics for a generation finally agreed to swing its support behind the Euro. Despite the ability of the press to needle Blair (though not Brown, who comes across as quite unflappable), both politicians swept questions aside and managed to provide a strong claim for a pro-Euro, pro-European consensus.

Blair made two claims that are not backed up by evidence: that the European Union will be unable to set taxes in Britain, and that, by this new campaign, the government was raising the quality of debate on Europe.

There have been other viewpoints developing over the last few days. Hamish McRae of the Independent discerned a reform programme with Brown's statement that demanded changes on the part of the European authorities as part of a longer-term goal in establsihing a free trade area between Europe and America. Apart from detecting the arguments of the Anglosphere in a pro-European form, McRae appears to be reading a remarkable amount into Brown's statements.

That would indeed be the "programme of European economic reform" that the Chancellor referred to at the end of his speech yesterday. It would also help clear the path to the "fully effective transatlantic economic partnership between Europe and the USA" that the Chancellor called for early in the speech. That would indeed be radical - a free trade area joining Nafta and the EU - much more radical than the matter of whether the time is ever right for Britain to adopt the euro.

Whether this marks teh start of a concerted campaign to burnish the European credentials of the government or marks a short-term opportunity to allay continental criticism of their 'not yet' decision, it marks a turning point in the perception of Brown as a pro-European. He has shed the carefully constructed image of scepticism. Some are now argueing that Blair wishes to portray the argument over Europe as a diehard fight between integration and withdrawal but such a strategy does not hold water. Blair understands that the draft consitution has generated a lot of friction amongst the Member States, and may not acquire the consensus required for ratification. Given his past record, The present puffs on Europe are designed to maintain his pro-European credentials and ensure that his words speak louder than his inaction.

Have you voted yet?

The Daily Mail's referendum is tomorrow. The question is whether we should have a referendum on the constitution.

To vote by e-mail, write to the following address:

Putting YES or NO in the subject header.

To vote by internet go here:

You can also vote by phone on 0870 3333 851

You can vote at a number of newsagents and petrol stations.

Most of all, get your friends to vote and if you have a British web log publicise the blessed thing.

Best of the Blogs

I've been avoiding other blogs for some time now, but two worthwhile articles have caught my eye. British Spin has a piece on the domestic fallout from the Euro decision that makes a curmudgeonly old 'scep like me quite cheerful.

Peter Cuthbertson also has a piece on the role of the national interest (ours, that is) in foreign policy. Worth a read, even though I still don't understand how WMDs - Without Means of Delivery - were a threat to us unless you go in for the Saddam was a secret Islamist. Good stuff anyway.

Welcoming Party

The Tory MEP Dan Hannan writes "Say no to the European Army, say no to Nato". It shows a surprising shift from someone who I always remembered as an ardent Atlanticist:

Ah yes, the EU. Now we come to the real reason why so many people are determined to cling to the Atlantic Alliance. For all its faults, Nato is seen as the only viable alternative to a European Army. This view, unquestioned in the British press, would be met with utter bewilderment in SHAPE, Nato's Belgian headquarters.

Bravo as they say in Peru.

Will there be a shift in other Tory Eurosceptics in the next few years? Dan Hannan is remarkably close to a few people who one would have never thought of as anything other than Atlanticists.

Freedom ain't Free

The Chronicles web-log "Winds of War" may not have been updated since last month, that doesn't mean that I shouldn't notice it for the first time.

This piece on Thomas Kramer's view on the prospects of Iraqi freedom is especially good. If you want freedom to last you have to get it yourself, not wait for the nearest superpower to overthrow your lates tyrant.

Spreading liberty just can't be done.

The Neville Chamberlain Fan Club

Those of us who think that Neville Chamberlain got a bad rap might be interested in Sean Gabb's essay/book review on Neville Chamberlain, Appeasement and the British Road to War.

Of course my opinion is that Chamberlain was mistaken to think that the security of central Europe (at least regarding Germany) was at all important to Britain, but that was one of the few areas where Churchill did not disagree with the bewhiskered one.
Tuesday, June 10, 2003
Support from those that count - 10th June 2003, 22.35

Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder both publicly supported the comments of Gordon Brown on Britain's preparations for entering the Euro. It would appear that Brown's speech was directed at European leaders rather than the electorate, given the positive reception that it has received abroad, and the criticism raised in Britain.

At the same meeting, both leaders also demonstrated their support for the draft of the European Constitution presented and moulded by Giscard D'Estaing.

The French and German leaders also used Tuesday's talks in Berlin to call for the draft European constitution to be accepted as the basis for a future treaty at the EU summit later this month. Mr Schroeder said France and Germany were "determined to support this (draft) constitution without reservation."

Such support indicates that both France and Germany have resolved any diplomatic differences over the future of Europe and that both powers have unreservedly opted for a centralised model based on state functions and core competencies. The probability of the draft constitution being adopted by the member governments with minor changes has now increased.

Will this be ready in forty five minutes as well?

The super soaraway Financial Times claims that the "Euro could add £100bn to Britain's GDP".

Sounds good, that's 9% of GDP but unfortunately "the effect would take a long time - perhaps two or three decades - to show through completely." So we won't actually see the effect, we'll just have to believe them.

We also have this little killer "the lowest figure is a gain of just 0.5 of a percentage point of GDP, worth a mere £5bn a year." So there is a factor of eighteen between the highest and lowest estimates. And we are supposed to take these figures seriously?

It is also likely that some negative forecasts were ignored in compiling this report. After all conversion costs, the loss of trade outside the Euro-zone and inappropriate interest rates can do tremendous damage to an economy (ask anyone who lost their home in 1992).

However we must also be told where the reports were gleaned from the internet, how old they are and whether any Iraqi exiles had a hand in drafting them.
Monday, June 09, 2003
What do the Europhiles think? - 9th June 2003, 22.23

Jeremy Warner in the Independent takes a far more sceptical view of Brown's Europhilia than myself. The obstacles placed in the path of entry to the Euro appear to have been crafted in order to avoid staging a referendum which the government has recognised that it could not win at this point in time.

Again, the reality of his own findings and words is very different. Leaving aside the issue of whether such a fundamental barrier can be magicked away with a wave of a couple of Government reviews within the space of less than a year, to which the answer is a definitive no, the assessments also flagged up a whole host of other obstacles.

The Chancellor put forward a substantial programme of domestic and European reform, which he deemed necessary to achieve the required degree of convergence, none of which is likely to be completed in the course of the next year. One of his demands is for reform of the European Central Bank, an independent organisation where Britain outside the euro has virtually no influence at all. The Chancellor also requires reform of the Stability and Growth Pact.

In no particular order of importance, the others were, reform of public sector pay to include a regional and local element, further reform of domestic and european labour and capital markets, reform of the inflation target, changes in the planning system to allow for the construction of more housing and in the market for long-term fixed-mortgages, pursuing the British agenda for tax competition rather than harmonisation in Europe, proposals for a new system of fiscal reporting to Parliament, and so on and so forth.

Warner, in the article, recognises that the British economy requires a rise in interest rates of 1.5% to counter a rise in the inflation rate of 1%. Membership of the Eurozone would remove this tool for fighting inflation and this argument has been reproduced by opponents of the Euro on many occasions. Warner points out that Brown engages with this argument, but only to produce policies that would attempt to overcome this vulnerability to inflation.

The difference between the Chancellor's stated position on the single currency and that of the confirmed eurosceptic is that the Chancellor thinks a degree of economic convergence can eventually be reached such that Britain won't require a 0.5 point real rise in interest rates to deal with a 1 point rise in inflation.

This includes the structural changes to the housing market that the Chancellor may start to introduce at the next Budget. Warner concludes that the policies will not provide the changes necessary to assure convergence with the Eurozone in the short term and that this will prevent the staging of a referendum. However, by acknowledging the argument and taking perceived steps to counter this economic divergence from Europe, the Chancellor may be planning to persuade the public and the Labour Party that he has taken sufficient steps to overcome the economic arguments put forward for staying out of the Eurozone.
No News - 9th June 2003, 20.07

The announcement by Gordon Brown on whether a referendum would be held on the Euro was so heavily trawled in the media over the last few weeks that tomorrow's headlines will contain no surprises. A Chancellor who places great emphasis on prudence and the perception of stability requires his appearances in Parliament and the media to reinforce the view of a steady hand at the tiller.

It will come as no surprise that Brown stood up in Parliament and stated that the tests had not been met. On all of the criteria, he said that there had been moves towards convergence though these were insufficient to justify a referendum in the British national interest. A draft referendum bill would be published in the autumn preparing for a possible campaign in the later stages of this Parliament, after a (mooted) reassessment in the 2004 Budget.

With all of Brown's campaigns to undermine the competitiveness of the UK economy, the small print contains the indications of his next move. His statement should prove sufficient to dispel the notions of any hopeful Eurosceptics who imagine the dour Scot to be their champion within the Cabinet. The Chancellor has accepted that leadership within a Europhile Labour Party requires acceptance of the Euro and, with ill-tempered pragmatism, he is attempting to engineer the British economy to fit the needs of the Eurozone.

Brown has identified the key problem preventing entry to the Euro as the housing market. The overwhelming proportion of mortgage debt is held on variable rates, making the British consumer very sensitive to changes in interest rates. This is one of the principal reasons for the higher economic volatility of the British economy after the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system as compared to its major competitors. Brown intends to 'fix' the housing market by, as yet undisclosed measures, favouring inflexible, long-term debt over the current semi-free market that offers more diverse solutions. Given his record on pensions and other financial products, we can expect an injudicious mix of higher tax and bad regulation to facilitate entry to the Euro.

Rest assured that the Chancellor will manage to undermine the competitiveness of the British economy attempting to enter the Eurozone, long before the problems of a single currency add to this forthcoming blight.
Friday, June 06, 2003
Free Life Commentary
Issue Number 106
Thursday, 5 June 2003
This article and many replies to it will be published in the next issue of Free Life Magazine:

How Much Longer Must We Endure Tony Blair?
By Sean Gabb

Gloating over the misfortunes of another is best avoided - except, of course, if that other happens to be Tony Blair. It seems for now that he is in deep and inescapable trouble over the war with Iraq. As I hoped, the coalition of interests that supported him in going to war has dissolved. The glow of patriotism that attended the war has also faded. If Mr Blair ever imagined that capturing Basra would do for him what retaking the Falkland Islands did for Margaret Thatcher, he must now be sadly disappointed.

His apparent problem is the inability to find the “weapons of mass destruction” that he used to justify our going to war. He swore blind before the fighting began that these existed, and none has been found. It is not enough to hold up a few shell cases that might have contained chemical weapons, or to point at a few vans that might have been used for producing biological weapons. We were not told that the Iraqis had once used such weapons on the field of battle, and that this was a beastly thing, or that they might want to use them again locally. We were told that their government had weapons capable of being deployed over long distances against civilian targets. And unless we are to reduce it to nonsense, that is what the phrase “weapons of mass destruction” must mean. None has been found. None of the captured officials and scientists has yet said other than that there were no weapons. Certainly, none was ever used. The Iraqis had good warning that their country was to be invaded, and the routes that the invasion would take. It is hard to imagine that they would not at least have positioned all the weapons they had, even if they had no time to use them. But nothing has been found.

Not surprisingly, Mr Blair is now accused of having lied to us. Had the coalition that supported him in the war remained in being, this might not be so important. Mr Bush is open to the same accusations, but has not so far suffered the same damage. The problem for Mr Blair is that many of those who supported him in the war did so for their own reasons, and had no general reason for liking him. Some wanted the overthrow of a bloody tyranny - arguing that we had the duty to do this because we had the power to do it. Some wanted the destruction of one of Israel’s most implacable enemies. Some wanted to see a breach with the European Union by moving Britain more firmly into an American orbit. Some wanted all of these and perhaps other things beside. These now have what they wanted, and the means to their end has now served his purpose. Their reasons for loathing him before the crisis have re-emerged, and he is dispensable.

If I hated the man less than I do, I might object to the gross hypocrisy of many of my friends. But I do not object. I had coffee with one of them yesterday afternoon. A man of great intelligence, and professionally skilled in the detection of falsehood, he supported the war without believing for a moment in the weapons of mass destruction. But he lit up and took a drag on one of his horrid cigars and rehearsed with a cynical grin his new position on the war.

“I believed Tony Blair” he said. “What else was I to do? He stood up in the House of Commons and assured Parliament and the British people that Saddam Hussein was a clear and present danger to us all. He said he had solid evidence for this provided by the security services. British Prime Ministers do not lie - at least not openly and with so little equivocation. I had to believe him, and I thought people like you were blinded by simple hatred. I now realise that I was wrong. Mr Blair lied to us. He lied us into a war that might have gone very much worse than it did. He lied us into this, and now he is lying us into a European federal state”.

This is the line also taken by the Conservative Party and by the conservative media. And what better start for the renewed debate over European integration than to paint its most committed and most powerful supporter as a liar on an issue where no doubt can exist - and on an issue where most supporters of integration opposed him? It opens him to simultaneous attack from both sides. It also allows the Conservatives to demolish his case for the European Constitution while avoiding what to them would be the unwelcome resort of discussing actual withdrawal from the European Union. Of those now calling for a public inquiry into the intelligence reports I doubt if a tenth ever believed them to be true. Their indignation is an excuse, though it is undoubtedly a very good one.

So our politics have made yet another of their strange shifts in this age of disintegrating party loyalties. And I am for now content. Both before and during the war, I hoped Mr Blair would gain no advantage from his vain and murderous policy. I hoped that he would soon be driven from office, and that his evident desire to be remembered as a great Prime Minister would be utterly frustrated.

It is too early to say that what I hoped is really coming to pass. Perhaps he will survive this crisis. But surviving is not the same as flourishing, and I cannot see how his reputation will recover. From now until he eventually does leave office, he will be a perceptibly weakened leader. He will never again have his way so easily. I shall celebrate with a long and indecent and perhaps unreadable gloat if he resigns tomorrow. Better still, though, might be another year for him in office. That would give him time enough to know what was fear and bitterness and the paranoia of one who knows he is conspired against and can do nothing about it - and would give him time enough to appreciate exactly how he will be remembered in the histories of the future.

Yes - I am for now content.
Free Life Commentary is an independent journal of comment, published on the Internet. To receive regular issues, send an e-mail
Body: Subscribe “Free Life Commentary” Your Name
Clickable version: Subscribe -

Issues are archived at

Associated websites:

This article is being discussed on:
and replies will be published in the next issue of Free Life:

Replies to Sean Gabb , Mobile Number: 07956 472199

Sean Gabb, author of the above article, declares that it may be reproduced in any form, on condition that it is reproduced in full, accurately and without any distortions of meaning; and on condition that if he would under normal circumstances have been paid a fee, he shall be paid the full going rate for the work, whenever it is reproduced.
Thursday, June 05, 2003
New York: The Intrepid - 6th June 2003 (I Think)

Just a short post after looking around the Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum. My friend and I had the good fortune to wonder in and witness a press conference for their new fund, Fallen Heroes, chaired by the Museum Chairman, Zachary Fisher. They had to remove chairs from the audience and grab passing museum goers to fill out the seats (a rather sad commentary on the whole affair).

It was quite touching to see the British contribution noted in their commemoration and the family of every fallen soldiier wiull receive $10,000 (from memory). However, whereas the tributes repeated the values of liberty, freedom, democracy and so on, including the widow of one of the fallen, I thought that, in Britain, the comment on those who died would have been "they were just doing their job".

And a commemorative garden for the British slain by terrorism will be opened in Hanover Square in New York according to the Deputy Consul.

Zimwatch: Still There

Although it's getting hot in Harrare, South Africa is still - at least in public - sticking to Comrade Bob, as are the police.

Will they crack? Yes, unless they want to be overwhelmed.

When? There's the question.

Tony Ulbricht?

Srdja Trifkovic thinks that Britain is becoming a sattelite of the US.
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Zimwatch: Kicking Off?

Both myself and Mr Chaston have been predicting the imminent fall of Robert Mugabe any day soon now. So the current unrest is again going to be seen as the herald of a new day, even if the FT don't agree. Although the police and army are loyal for now, if this goes on they will start thinking of their futures and then we'll see Mugabe gone. The regime will crumble quickly, it's when the crumbling starts - there's the nub of the question.
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Will the Tories oppose the war now it's over?

Michael Howard proved how opportunistic oppositions can (and should) be, when he indicated that the Tory Party may very well join in the hue and cry for an investigation on the really rather silly chemical weapons claims made by Blair (and most "anti"-idiotarian bloggers, lest we forget). Of course the Tories supported the war, although like many others they are claiming that they supported it not for the same reason as Blair but for secret reasons that are barely more credible such as Islamic terrorism supported by secular Saddam. However the luxury of opposition, and God knows you have to have some luxury considering all the chauffeur driven cars that the other side gets, is that the voters rarely remember where you stood. So the Tories could very well make some capital by opposing the war at last - even if it is over.

However we must define very carefully why the war party were just so idiotic in hindsight. It is not that they said that Saddam had chemical weapons, he certainly did at one point - even if that point is more than a decade ago -and there could still be a barrel of anthrax in some quarter of Basra just waiting to be discovered.

The point is that these weapons did not pose a threat to us. Saddam was too scared to use the weapons even when his regime was ending. If he didn't use the weapons to preserve his regime and very possibly his life when would he use them? Obviously not against Western cities to show that he's the big man - even if he did have the means of delivery, which he didn't. The idea that the weapons were not used because the armed forces had collapsed faster than anyone expected obviously does not square up with the idea that the regime could hide the weapons from US army experts for two months. Either he didn't have the weapons or he would never use them against us, in either case he was not as dangerous as Blair misled us (or many of us) to believe.

Blog Archive