March 19, 2003
World Media Watch
by Gloria R. Lalumia
BUZZFLASH NOTE: Once again, these are the views and perspectives of the individual papers, not of BuzzFlash or Gloria. They offer BuzzFlash readers a way of reading what other nations are saying about the crisis, whether we like it or not. We repeat: This is not an endorsement of their viewpoints.
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1//The Guardian, UK--MINIMUM WAGE RISES TO £4.50 AS SOP TO PARTY (Tony Blair will announce tomorrow that the minimum wage for Britain's low-paid workers is to rise to £4.50 an hour as Downing Street seeks to heal the deep internal wounds within the Labour party caused by Iraq... Ministers are, however, keen for "some good news stories" to coincide with the launch of military operations against Saddam Hussein, a course of action which has split the Labour party.)
Moscow Times, Russia--PUTIN SAYS HE REGRETS ULTIMATUM (President
Vladimir Putin told U.S. President George W. Bush on Tuesday that
he regretted the decision to issue an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein,
while the Foreign Ministry warned that an attack on Iraq without
UN approval could lead to "a confrontation of civilizations.")
4//Asia Times Online, Hong Kong--A STAR-SPANGLED FLAG TO THE BULL (One difference between Saturday's wave of worldwide anti-war protests, and those that occurred exactly one month ago last weekend, was that this time around the protests had a significant presence in a number of Muslim countries - including key American ally Jordan...There's a certain irony in the recent protests and the often scathing anti-American feelings prevalent in the Arab world. One of the express goals of the "war on terror" was to find a way to somehow end the phenomenon of anti-Americanism being used in the Muslim world as a "safety valve" for people's anger and frustration over the failings of their own governments. The protests in Amman on Saturday made clear that this phenomenon has never been so strong or pronounced.)
5//Arab News, Saudi Arabia--OPINION: NEO-TOTLITARIANISM (George W. Bush's very nullity as a politician throws into relief the fact that the US has long been governed, not by its people, but by interests that are happy to remain largely anonymous, do not rely on individuals for their hold on power, and are recognizable in public mainly by a soothing corporate blue... In the new totalitarian system, people can say whatever they like, and it makes absolutely no difference.)
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Guardian Tuesday March 18, 2003
WAGE RISES TO £4.50 AS SOP TO PARTY
Details of the above-inflation increase of 30p an hour were originally scheduled for a fortnight ago but were postponed as a result of the prime minister's involvement in talks aimed at restoring devolved government in Northern Ireland.
Ministers are, however, keen for "some good news stories" to coincide with the launch of military operations against Saddam Hussein, a course of action which has split the Labour party. Mr Blair will say that the government has decided to accept in full the recommendations of the low pay commission, chaired by the former CBI director general Adair Turner.
The 7% uplift will take effect in October, with a further increase to £4.85 pencilled in for October 2004 provided that the economy has managed to ride out the problems caused by the downturn in the global economy.
With average earnings growing at 3.7% a year, the prime minister, Patricia Hewitt, the trade and industry secretary, and Gordon Brown, the chancellor, agreed that the increase would provide a much-needed boost to Labour's core supporters while not jeopardising the lowest level of claimant count unemployment since the mid-1970s.
John Edmonds, general secretary of the GMB general workers' union, welcomed the rise but said it fell short of a union target of £5 an hour and younger workers were still stuck on a lower level.
PUTIN SAYS HE REGRETS ULTIMATUM
President Vladimir Putin told U.S. President George W. Bush on Tuesday that he regretted the decision to issue an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein, while the Foreign Ministry warned that an attack on Iraq without UN approval could lead to "a confrontation of civilizations."
"Putin expressed regret in connection with Washington's decision on an ultimatum and also in connection with the failure of diplomatic efforts to achieve a mutually acceptable compromise," the Kremlin press service said of the telephone conversation, which was initiated by Bush.
Putin also stressed that "in any situation, the United Nations and its Security Council must play a central role in securing the international peace and stability," the Kremlin said in a statement.
While differing over Iraq, however, the two leaders agreed that they should maintain bilateral contacts during any crisis, the statement said.
Putin also discussed the Iraqi crisis by telephone Tuesday with China's new president, Hu Jintao, and they underlined "the commonality of their positions," the Kremlin said.
The phone conversations came as Putin's chief diplomat, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, warned that a U.S.-led war in Iraq would undermine the international anti-terrorism coalition and might escalate into a global conflict.
TOP LEADERS WARN OF WASHINGTON'S DESIGNS ON REGION
Alia Ibrahim and Maurice Kaldawi, Daily Star staff
With Washington and its allies announcing the end of diplomatic efforts to resolve the Iraqi standoff, Lebanese leaders and parties are warning against the impact of the expected war and the scope of US designs in the Middle East. Several politicians predicted that the United States would easily win the war but likely "lose the peace."
"This is an earthquake hitting the whole region, and Iraq is only the beginning," said Information Minister Ghazi Aridi Monday. "The United States has already started to put pressure on Iran, Syria and Lebanon, and no one will be spared."
Agreeing with Aridi on US designs beyond Baghdad was Hajj Mahmoud Qmati, a member of Hizbullah's politburo, who said: "Iraq is the window from which the United States will enter the region." Qmati warned that a "great turbulence" was facing the region and leaders opposed to US policies.
"There is a new equation being planned for the region, and any regime that isn't to the liking of the United States will be threatened with removal."
Aridi drew attention to the weekend meeting place of the US, British and Spanish leaders, the Azores, which Spain had used to launch colonial missions before it became a haven for pirates. "So what I can say is that from this very same place, the United States is launching a new colonial, military terrorist campaign," Aridi told The Daily Star. "This is an act of piracy ... the United States and its partners are hijacking international resolutions and international legitimacy."
Qmati said it was clear that the US administration has made up its mind for war. He added that even last minute compromises by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein wouldn't prevent a US-led attack.
"This is a new stage in which it is allowed for the US to intervene and to remove any regimes without a Security Council resolution," he said. "There is a great danger facing all regimes, and we believe that things will not pass smoothly."
He also said that Hizbullah realizes it is in "a dangerous spot, but we aren't scared." He said Iraqis won't put up much resistance to the American campaign, due to their dislike of the Iraqi regime. "Accordingly, the resistance may not hold out for long, but this is not the case in Lebanon, where resistance will hold out much, much longer," he said.
A STAR-SPANGLED FLAG TO THE BULL
AMMAN - In the early part of the last century, in an essay on American adventurism in the Philippines, Mark Twain suggested that, in the interest of accuracy, Congress might consider creating a modified flag for use in Manila: The white stripes, he wrote, could easily be painted over black, and the field of stars replaced by a skull-and-crossbones.
In Amman this past Saturday they didn't take the Betsy Ross act quite that far. But as huge, unmarked, four-jet military cargo planes screamed overhead and shook the sky - a five-times-a-day occurrence in this strategically-located Jordanian capital city - at least one of the 5,000 anti-war protesters who marched against American war plans in Iraq carried a version of the Stars and Stripes in which the starfield had been replaced by a swastika.
And, as you'd expect, the slogans followed suit: "Bush, you coward, the Arabs will not be humiliated!" the crowd chanted in Arabic, along with other mantras branding Bush as, by turns, a "terrorist", a "hegemon" and a "fool".
One difference between Saturday's wave of worldwide anti-war protests, and those that occurred exactly one month ago last weekend, was that this time around the protests had a significant presence in a number of Muslim countries - including key American ally Jordan.
Not only did they march in Amman, but sizable crowds also gathered in the politically-sensitive city of Irbid, located near the three-cornered border separating northern Jordan from Syria and Lebanon. Irbid, significantly, is one of several staging centers in Jordan for American and other coalition troops whose forces are officially acknowledged by authorities in this Hashemite kingdom as numbering about 5,000 but whose unofficial rumored force is at least double that number.
There's a certain irony in the recent protests and the often scathing anti-American feelings prevalent in the Arab world. One of the express goals of the "war on terror" was to find a way to somehow end the phenomenon of anti-Americanism being used in the Muslim world as a "safety valve" for people's anger and frustration over the failings of their own governments. The protests in Amman on Saturday made clear that this phenomenon has never been so strong or pronounced.
It is also clear that the American flag - the flag of which Twain lovingly wrote, "When we [Americans] have seen it in far lands - glimpsing it unexpectedly in that strange sky, waving its welcome and benediction to us - we have caught our breath, and uncovered our heads, and couldn't speak, for a moment, for the thought of what it was to us and the great ideals it stood for ..." that flag has never before, never in its history, been so hated and reviled by so many.
JEDDAH, 19 March 2003 - The person of the US president is an irrelevance. To appeal to George W. Bush - amusing character though he may be - is like berating a broom for omitting to sweep in the corners.
The new totalitarianism prevailing in America and taking hold in its satellites around the world has learned important lessons from the failed experiments of the past. The first of these lessons is that the greatest liability to the survival of a regime is a strong and erratic leader.
A point often made in history classes is that Hitler should have stopped at Kiev instead of thinning out his eastern front to move on toward Moscow.
Thus without Hitler's deranged ambitions, the Third Reich might really have lasted a thousand years.
Similarly, if Stalin had kept his genocidal ambitions in check, the Soviet Union might have continued to enjoy its initial popularity among sections of the West and at home.
With these examples in mind, the leader has been eliminated as a factor in US politics. George W. Bush's very nullity as a politician throws into relief the fact that the US has long been governed, not by its people, but by interests that are happy to remain largely anonymous, do not rely on individuals for their hold on power, and are recognizable in public mainly by a soothing corporate blue.
Americans often seem baffled that others fail to admire their system of government. They know after all that in the US there exists a lively culture of debate, where the whole lunatic spectrum of opinion can find a platform of one kind or another (though at the same time the difference between the political parties it is actually possible to elect is vanishingly small).
They have a vibrant and largely unchecked artistic community. They have the first amendment.
Even Greg Palast, at the end of his expose of corporate power The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, found himself heartened by the American culture of customer complaint, the notion that you have enforceable rights and can sue for them in a court of law. This is, after all, the nation that gave us the concept of "animal rights."
Hollywood is happy to feed this perception by producing blockbusters like Erin Brockovitch and The Insider, where ordinary people take on corporations and win, in other words, films which, by seeming to challenge, actually affirm the existing order.
The reason for all this is that the new totalitarianism has learned a second lesson from its heavy-handed predecessors. If artists and intellectuals were able to do precisely nothing about Hitler or Stalin or any of the legion of tin-pot dictators around the world, it follows that you might as well have freedom of expression.
In the new totalitarian system, people can say whatever they like, and it makes absolutely no difference.
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© 2003, Gloria R. Lalumia, firstname.lastname@example.org
Radio for the Left at http://www.zianet.com/insightanalytical/radio.htm
otherwise noted, all original