NEWSLETTER NUMBER 3, SEPTEMBER 2003
We hereby offer you our newsletter with an overview of recent events. We can also recommend a debate about the future of the United Nations organised by The Economist on Thursday 9th of October in Amsterdam (reservations prior to October 1st at firstname.lastname@example.org) and two sessions with William Rivers Pitt, author of 'The Greatest Sedition is Silence', organised by Democrats Abroad and American Voices Abroad (AVA) on Monday, October 6th in The Hague and Tuesday, October 7th in Amsterdam.
We ask you to send this newsletter on to others who might be interested both home and abroad. You'll also find a Dutch version of this newsletter at the bottom of this message.
A lot has happened in the last couple of months, too much to discuss in detail in this monthly newsletter, hence our overview of the highlights.
The situation in Iraq is far from stable. Since the short war and the end of intense military action, the US hasn't succeeded in stabilizing public life in Iraq. Parts of the country still go without water, electricity and safety and the continuing attacks, that remind people that the former regime hasn't yet been totally eradicated, have already cost the lives of more than American and British soldiers. There is still no sign of any weapons of mass destruction, the initial motivation for invading Iraq.
Some months ago, the former UN-weapons inspector, Scott Ritter, on his visit to the Netherlands, had made it clear that Iraq simply couldn't have the purported weapons. Not only didn't it have the facilities to produce them, it was also clear that whatever chemicals Iraq once possessed had become inconsequential, since these chemicals lose their toxicity over time. His statement has recently been confirmed by Hans Blix, who was in charge of the UN-weapons inspectors right until the start of the war in Iraq. And after months of looking for them, even the Pentagon, in a recent report, had to come to the conclusion that there was still no sign of any such weapons and that the chances of ever finding them were remote (tbut still not owning up to the fact that they weren't there in the first place).
The Bush and Blair administrations are suffering a huge credibility crisis and are seeing their own supporters becoming more and more sceptical. The support for the invasion of Iraq before and during the war has diminished considerably, not to mention the loss of world-wide empathy for the US after the 9/11 tragedy. The credibility crisis in the United Kingdom has become even worse due to the Kelly affair, which has led to Labour losing one of its safest seats to the Liberal Democrats in the North Brent by-election. The United Kingdom will for some time to come remain absorbed by the Lord Hutton enquiry and even though Blair has recently insisted that he doesn't intend to resign, his statement alone is a tell tale sign of how strong the pressure of public opinion is becoming. JUST ACT feels Blair will certainly need to regain the trust both home and abroad by redirecting his foreign policies away from unilateralism and misinforming both the general public and Westminster.
Public consciousness in the US that invading Iraq without UN legitimacy was like walking blindly into a horn's nest is also growing. News reports of American soldiers dying from guerrilla attacks come in on a daily basis and even though it may be too early to compare Iraq to Vietnam the financial and emotional cost of the whole operation are losing Bush more and more points in the polls. So it's no surprise that peace rallies like in San Francisco near the end of September, are gaining momentum in the US.
JUST UNITED NATIONS
In the months after the war in Iraq much has been said about the end or the relative unimportance of the United Nations. But particularly during the last couple of weeks, there are signs that the United Nations is reclaiming its global role, albeit thanks to current circumstances and not because of the effectiveness of its current democratic structure. After the tragic attack on UN staff in Bagdad, claiming the life of the possible successor to Kofi Annan, most UN staff has left Iraq since the security situation was still to unstable to ensure the safety of those executing the UN's humanitarian mission.
Several world leaders have recently addressed the UN's general assembly. Annan gave a strong speech condemning those countries that introduced the concept of preventive rather than pre-emptive action into international politics. Annan also admitted the current democratic structures within the UN, and particularly the veto rights of the permanent members of the Security Council, kept the UN from acting decisively and from making the promises the UN charter makes come true. Annan called on all member states to come up with proposals for furthering the democratisation process within the UN. Chirac insisted that the transition of power in Iraq to the Iraqi's themselves would have to take place as soon as possible, in months not years. Furthermore Chirac received much support for his position that the US invasion of Iraq without a UN mandate was nothing short of a violation of international law and therefore a travesty. Bush asked the member states to contribute to rebuilding Iraq by providing troops and financial support and insisted that the transfer of power and the introduction of democracy would be a matter of years not months, a position that was received coolly by the General Assembly.
At the 'Keer het tij' rally on September 20th in Amsterdam about 25.000 people joined the protests against the policies of 'Balkenende II'. JUST ACT was also present to ask support for our position that the Dutch government needs to establish an independent foreign policy, instead of being an echo of US foreign policy, and that the Netherlands should more actively support the process of furthering democracy within the UN. The positive response we received during the manifestation cheers us, since we feel there are still many people out there that feel passionate about what has been happening in international politics in the last 2 years, and that some of us also have the urge to put that commitment into action.
It has become clear that The Netherlands will be providing the successor to Robertson, NATO's current Secretary General. The Dutch foreign minister, Christian-democrat Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, has received Bush's blessing since it was down to him that The Netherlands, thanks to its tradition of 'policy by compromise' managed to stay friends with everybody during the Iraq conflict. On the one hand the Dutch government decided to support the war on Iraq politically but not military and on the other hand it did not co-sign the 'Letter of Eight', a declaration of support for the US policy on Iraq by eight European countries. Therefore a Dutch Secretary General is acceptable to not only the US, Spain, Poland, Italy and the United Kingdom but also to and France, Germany and Belgium. It's without any doubt a fine result for Jaap de Hoop Scheffer personally, but landing this prestigious post is in itself still no justification for the content of Dutch foreign policy.
JUST ACT claims that the Netherlands, by giving political support to the invasion of Iraq without a UN mandate, has contributed to the undermining of the UN itself. Therefore the Netherlands has become responsible for repairing the damage done to the UN. The call by Kofi Annan to come up with proposals for the further democratisation of the UN, must be answered actively and seriously. JUST ACT strongly supports (1) expanding the number of permanent members to the Security Council to reflect the current geo-political situation in the world, by giving seats to countries like India, Japan and Brasil, (2) restricting the veto rights of individual countries by introducing the concept of 'veto by majority' or rather (3) abolishing veto rights altogether.
We continue to look for people who share our belief that it's important to sustain the public discussion on these subjects with the general public and political parties. People with a passion and with organising or other skills are encouraged to join us. Your help and ideas are more than welcome. To facilitate the interaction between you and us and among yourselves, we are working hard to establish a forum on our new website, so you'll be able to exchange ideas and suggestions for positive acts. We'll let you know as soon as the new website is up and running!
You can also support us financially by donating Ä 10 to giro account 3202913 in name of L. Pitzalis in Utrecht, The Netherlands with the remark 'donation JUST ACT'. That way we'll be able to keep bringing you this monthly newsletter and to organise our acts and meetings, debates and workshops!
If you received this newsletter via someone else and want to keep receiving it or want to cancell your subscription, please let us know though email@example.com.
***********************************************************DEBATE DIVIDED NATIONS
***********************************************************************Thursday October 9th 2003 | 20.00 to 22.00 Rode Hoed Amsterdam (www.rodehoed.nl, see under 'programme)
The United Nations are under fire like never before. The role and the mandate of the UN in fields as safety, human rights, development, environment, 'nation-building' and 'global governance' is unclear for many nowadays. Can something like an international community come from what many consider to be a chatroom and does the Security Council need to revise its composition and competence? What holds the future for the UN? Will the UN ever reach significance? This and more will be discussed in the Economist debate at the Rode Hoed in Amsterdam on October 9th, 2003. The members of the expertpanel will be:
former Deputy Secretary-General of UNCTAD and former Assistant Secretary-General of the Un, former minister for development, former member of parliament (PvdA),
Journalist and writer of 'I saw two bears', on the UN mission in Ruanda in 1995, and currently reporting from Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Mats Berdal (UK)
Professor of Security and Development in the Department of War Studies at King's College, London and currently working on his book 'The UN and the Search for International Order.'
Mark Falcoff (US)
Researcher, specialised in Latin America, and author of the monthly publication of AEI's Latin American Outlook and a member of the American delegation of the UN's Human Rights Commissions 2003.
The debate will be in English. Reservations mandatory (before October 1st!): by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Marnix Geus, Huijskens & Istha, Vondelstraat 47, 1054 GJ Amsterdam. For more information: 020-6855955.
Entrance is free.
***********************************************************************MEETINGS WITH WILLIAM RIVERS PITT
***********************************************************************Author, The Greatest Sedition is Silence, Co-author, War on Iraq (with Scott Ritter)
Managing Editor, truthout.org
MON 6 OCT @ 7:30PM
ABC Treehut, Lange Poten 27, Den Haag
TUE 7 OCT @ 7:30PM
ABC Treehouse, Voetboogstraat 11, Amsterdam
"This passionate and controversial book (The Greatest Sedition is Silence) is the work of one of America's most outspoken and talented new journalists.
William Rivers Pitt's caustic critique of the last four years of American government gives voice to the growing tide of dissent and outrage with America's leaders both inside the country and in the wider world. Burning with anger, this incisive and readable book argues that, under George W. Bush, America makes a mockery of the values of liberty and truth that it purports to stand for, and that it is now more important than ever to speak out. Starting with the 1998 Clinton impeachment, William Rivers Pitt reveals how the crisis was engineered by a group of Christian conservatives in order to bring down the Clinton government. He shows how these same individuals went on to engineer a perversion of the American electoral process, resulting in the illegitimate installation of George W. Bush into the Presidency by five like-minded conservative Justices of the Supreme Court.
In the aftermath of September 11th, America has in many senses lost its way. Citizens are counselled to 'watch what they say' by the White House, just as questions of deadly import are ignored by the government and the media. In their rush to defend 'liberty', George Bush and his allies are actually endangering the freedom of the individual, as laid down in international law. Yet how can we save freedom by limiting it? Why, after all this time, have there been no answers regarding what really happened on 9/11? Pitt's message is clear: seeking answers and demanding truth is not treasonous. In these dangerous days, with all that is at stake, the greatest sedition in America is silence." - Amazon.com
The American Book Center * Democrats Abroad * American Voices Abroad