Friday, October 05, 2007

Kosovo, The Coming Mess

The Informant is back, for now, after a hiatus of a few months or so. I will, of course, be focusing on news from Mitteleuropa, however, with a new focus on terrorism, organized crime, and all that is evil. Much attention will focus on Kosovo, which appears headed down the path to 'independence' because that is the fate the powers-that-be, (read Washington and Brussels) want pursued. The two sides, the Serbs and the Kosovo Albanians, have met face-to-face in September for talks. Why they met is anyone's guess. The U.S. has said once a Dec. 10 deadline for the talks to wrapup is here and nigh, Washington will recognize Kosovo's independence whatever the outcome of the current 'negotiations.' So, what motive exactly do the Kosovo Albanians have to negotiate, to compromise? None. All they have to do is run out the clock and they've got what they want. And what could come after could be ugly. Take this Reuters report It quotes a Croatian daily that says U.S. officials have asked the Croats to accomodate a wave of refugees, and make sure this human refuse doesn't soil the doors of EU territory. I embellish a bit, but that's what the Croat paper reports. Though Croatia doesn't border Kosovo, the eye-popping quality of the report is that U.S. adminstration guys know that should Kosovo declare independence, all hell will break loose.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Poland Wants To Do Away With Homosexual 'Propaganda' In Schools

As if things couldn't get weirder in Poland, they do. As the CEEI has been reporting off and on, the kooky goings-on in the People's Christian Republic of Poland have offered many a laugh. This one is truly bizarre. It seems the country's Education Ministry has introduced legislation that would outlaw "homosexual culture" from being taught in the classroom. What exactly homosexual culture is is never spelled out, but it seems to mean any information about AIDS and lessons telling kids to be tolerant of homosexuals. Deputy Education Minister Miroslaw Orzechowski, sounding ever so reasonable, said "there is no place for the promotion of homosexual culture" in Polish schools. Roman Giertych, his boss and leader of the right-wing League of Polish Families has offered the following wisdom" "one must limit homosexual propaganda so that children won't have an improper vew of family." Making things scarier is the fact this wacko party is a junior partner in the three-party coalition led by Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski's ultra-conservative Law and Justice party. As readers of the CEEI know, ol Jaroslaw and his brother Lech are top dogs in Poland, with Lech picking up the presidential duties. Both look alike and think alike, too. So it's not surprising that President Lech said the following on homosexuality: "If that kind of approach to sexual life were to be promoted on a grand scale, the human race would disappear." Human Rights Watch has chimed in with a condemnation on the proposed legislation, you can look at a press release here. HRW notes The proposed homophobic legislation follows a series of recent threats and abuses against lesbian and gay Poles by state officials. In June, the State Prosecutor’s office issued a letter to prosecutors in the municipalities of Legnica, Wroclaw, Walbryzch, Opole and Jelenia Gora ordering in sweeping terms investigations into the conduct of “homosexuals” on unspecified allegations of “pedophilia.”

Never boring in Poland

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Missile Defense Plan Continues To Heat Up

PRAGUE -- As if the Bush administration didn’t have its hands full already with the “war on terror” spiraling out of control in Iraq and even Afghanistan, and talk of Iran being the next target, U.S. plans to base parts of its anti-missile shield system in former Warsaw Pact nations Poland and the Czech Republic is threatening to rekindle the Cold War.

Under the proposal, the Czechs would house the radar system and the Poles the silos with 10 rockets to shoot down missiles fired from “rogue regimes” like Iran and North Korea. The United States already has missile interceptor sites in California and Alaska.

Russia, however, fears the system could be aimed at them.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says the proposal is further proof of the United States’ “increasing disregard for the fundamental principles of international law.” Putin has accused Washington of trying to reignite the global arms race.

General Yuri Baluyevsky, Russian army chief of staff, speculated publicly about whether to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, which had led to the disarmament of medium-range missiles. General Nikolai Solovtsov, commander of Russia’s missiles forces, has said Russian missiles could be aimed at the Czech Republic and Poland if they agree with the U.S. plan.

Russia is also planning to spend $189 billion to beef up its military. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has announced plans for drastic increases in the number of ballistic missiles, nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers. The Russians also plan to quadruple the number of Topol-M missiles.

In the West, the saber-rattling talk from Putin and his military illustrates that it is Putin’s Russia that is looking for conflict. Putin is viewed as a growing autocrat bent on using all means possible, namely oil and natural gas, to regain influence in the former Soviet empire and Western Europe.

However, the U.S. decision to base parts of its anti-missile system is another sign of waning Russian influence in its former empire and how Washington is creeping closer. NATO has gobbled up much of Eastern Europe and even the former Baltic Soviet republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, putting this U.S.-dominated military club right on Russia’s border. Ukraine and Georgia could join NATO in the future. U.S. military forces are in other former Soviet republics, including, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan. Russia finds itself increasingly encircled, hence the paranoid over the anti-missile shield.

Russia wants Washington to promise in writing that the missile system is not aimed at its country, according to a Feb. 6 Interfax report.

“The Russians say, ‘This is my backyard. You need our cooperation.’ They are right. You cannot stop Iran or contain Iran without Russia. You need the Russians on board,” Andrew Brookes, a space technology expert at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies, told the AFP news agency on Jan. 26.

Russian objections may be the strongest, but they are not the only ones.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung have criticized the US for failing to discuss the plans with Moscow. Iran didn't possess any intercontinental rockets that could reach the United States, Steinmeier added.

Opposition to the project is strong in both Poland and the Czech Republic. But it appears the governments in Warsaw and Prague aren’t listening. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and his Polish counterpart Jaroslaw Kaczynski have said they back the proposal. Ironically, the hostile reaction from Moscow has probably tipped more pols and the public into the pro-camp.

The leader of the Czech opposition Social Democrats, Jiri Paroubek has backed off from calls for a referendum after “being leaned on,” by U.S. officials in Prague, according to the London Guardian.

Lost in the whole debate is whether, militarily at least, there is any point to building a radar station in the Czech Republic. According to Bruno Gruselle, a researcher at the Paris-based Strategic Research Foundation, “the U.S. military already has radar stations in Norway, in Greenland, and in Britain—on top of its Defense Support System satellite alert system—which permit the early detection of missiles, wherever they come from.”

Perhaps the U.S. goal is more political than military. In his 1997 book, The Grand Chessboard, former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote that maintaining U.S. primacy would require Washington “to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to prevent the barbarians from coming together.”

None of the vassals here in “New Europe” are making any mention of that.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Polish Parliamentarian Publishes Controversial Pamphlet

A pamphlet has whipped up a firestorm of protest among Jews in Europe. Maciej Giertych, a Polish member of the European Parliament, earlier this week published his short tract, "Civilizations at War in Europe", in which he sets out some pretty controversial thoughts. According to dpa, the pamphlet contains such doozies like Jews form a "civilization of programmed separateness, of programmed differentiation from the surrounding communities (and) prefer to live a separate life, in apartheid from surrounding communities." Also that Jews "tend to migrate from poorer to richer lands." The European Jewish Congress is upset, to put it mildly. It says the book-pamphlet (not sure which) reeks of medieval hate and 19th Century racial stereotyping. They want Giertych stripped of his parliamentarian immunity and they say they could take the guy to court. Making matters worse, the European parliament actually put up coin to publish Giertych's dubious tract. According to the French daily Liberation, the European parliament has no intention to move against Giertych. German lawmaker Hans-Gert Poettering told Liberation, "There is no censorship a priori of publications published by European deputies. It is contrary to European values." The 71-year-old Giertych holds some pretty hard-right views, including opposing homosexuality, and moral relativism. He's a literalist when it comes to the Bible. Believes the "creationist" tale and once calculated the size of Noah's Ark. If interested in more of this guy's bio, check out his bio on Wikipedia.

Poles Plan To Pave Over One Of Europe's Only Wetlands

The Rospuda Valley is one of Europe's most unique wetlands. According to Greenpeace, the wetland in northeast Poland is home to a wide array of flora and fauna, many of them extremely rare, even on the verge of extinction! Sounds like the perfect place to run a road through, right folks? Sadly, the Polish government thinks so, and is going ahead with plans to build a 17-kilometer stretch of an elevated highway through the Rospuda wetland to the popular Mazurian lakes resort town of Augustow. Doubly sadly, the country's evironmental minister Jan Szyszko has signed off on the project. The highway is a piece in a bigger asphalt puzzle. The idea is to build a highway linking Poland with its fellow EU friends up in the Baltic, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Not everyone is smitten with the project, and not just granola-crunching tree-huggers. Poland's Ombudsman and the bigger honchos in Brussels, the European Commission, think the project doesn't meet strict EU environmental rules. According to German news agency dpa, the European Court of Justice could hand down fines if they find the project violates EU legislation. Greenpeace is taking action as well, more direct. They've set up a camp in Rospuda to block construction.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The European Parliament CIA Saga

Well CEEI readers, yours truly has been chronicling off and on this European parliamentary probe into CIA rendition flights and other skullduggery on European soil. Well, on Valentine's Day, they issued their final report. More precisely, the report was voted on by over a thousand lame lawmakers. Yes, that number is right. Here's how the vote broke down: 382 backed the report, 256 voted against, and 745 abstained. Wow, the European parliament is big. Anyway, the final report more or less repeated some of the stuff I've already reported. At least 1,245 CIA flights alleged in and out of Europe since 9/11. The lawmakers picked on several countries including Spain, Romania and Poland. It also said the Italian government had to know of the extraordinary rendition of Abu Omar within its territory. An Italian prosecutor wants to try 26 Americans, all but one CIA spooks, and six Italians over the 2003 kidnapping of the Muslim cleric Abu Omar in Milian. The vote broke down the left-right political spectrum. Socialist Claudio Fava, who authored the report, said, "It is the rigorous analysis of five years of excesses and abuses often tolerated in the name of the fight against terrorism." On the other side of the aisle, rightwingers accused the accusers of 'anti-Americanism." Jas Gawronski, a leading conservative, said the report, "presumes there is one chief guilty party and that is the United States. That's why we don't like this report." Think this will be anything more than another report to be tossed in the pile and forgotten, think again. EU Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini said: "It is not for the European institutions to pass judgement and to hand out verdicts but... to ask that the truth be sought." He was refurther to further probes at the national level now ongoing in several states including Germany, Spain and Portugal. On Wednesday, Switzerland started criminal proceedings against those responsible for the abduction of Abu Omar in Italy and allegedly flown thru Swiss airspace. According to the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation, U.S.-registered planes suspected of being used by the CIA crossed Swiss airspace at least 74 times since 2001.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Bulgaria and Romania To Be Launch Pad For US Attack On Iran?

Will the U.S. launch its much-feared assault on Iran from Romania and Bulgaria? Both countries are part of what Donny Rumsfeld called the "New Europe" that is not wise to the deceit and lies of Washington like "Old Europe", and has an almost starry-eyed admiration for all American, at least as far as these countries elites go, and, after all, as Mr. Bush put it, they are the 'deciders.' Well, an obscure Bulgarian news agency, Novinite, put out an item at the end of January saying the U.S. "could be using its two air force bases in Bulgaria and one at Romania's Black Sea coast to launch an attack on Iran in April." The report was picked up by Scotland's Sunday Herald and that got picked up by other papers including this report by the Turkish Daily News. As the Sunday Herald report notes Bulgaria is "setting up new refueling places for US Stealth bombers, which would spearhead an attack on Iran." Bulgaria okayed 3 bases for U.S. troops in April, 2006. As an American official told the Washington Times having bases in the Balkans would put the American nearer to the 'action'. "One of the key issues anywhere is our ability to use our soldiers where we need them." "Otherwise, we would be tying ourselves [down]. The old model [during the Cold War] was that we had forces in Europe because we thought we'd fight in Europe." It was also a sweet deal for the Yanks: Officials of both countries said the United States will not pay rent for its use of the Bezmer and Graf Ignatievo air bases and the Novo Selo army training range and storage facility. But, according to the agreement, it will cover "operational and maintenance expenses." As to whether the Romanians are in on the Iran attack plot, China's "People's Daily reported the Romanian Defense Ministry has kept its mouth shut, but the Chinese note interestingly that Defense Minister Sorin Frunzaverde is paying a working visit to the United States on Jan. 30 - Feb. 3. For those who believe this is all bluff and fear mongering, think again. As this Guardian article notes, plans to bomb Iran are well advanced at the Pentagon. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Russians Up The Ante In Missile Shield Mess

Think the Russians aren't pissed by U.S. plans to put a radar station in the Czech Republic and missiles in Poland as part of the tested-but-definitely-not-true anti-missile system? Think again. The Russian bear is beginning to roar, warming the cockles of folks who yearn for the days of the Cold War. On February 8, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov announced plans for drastic increases in the number of ballistic missiles, nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers. The Russian's also plan to quadruple the number of Topol-M missiles. It's all part of a what the Guardian calls a $189 billion 'revamp' of Russia's rusty, and rotting military. The Guardian report partially pegs the Russian military increase to anxiety over Washington's missile defense plans. This weekend, Ivanov is at a big defense-type pow wow in Munich where he's expected to chat with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Ivanov has restated some of Russia's arguments against the 'shield.' A glance at the map shows that Poland and the Czech Republic are in the wrong place to protect the United States from North Korean attack, while a launch from Iran could be brought down in neighboring states, Ivanov said. "It is common knowledge that any missile that is following a ballistic trajectory can be intercepted at the initial booster stage. If it is so... why can't our U.S. partners deploy the system in Iraq, Afghanistan or Turkey?" Ivanov said, according to the AP news agency. Asked if he understood Ivanov's concerns, Gates said "Not really." That's a real quote, folks.

Germany Going After CIA Spooks

The short arm of German law is coming for the CIA. They want to arrest 13 suspected (always suspected, not like CIA agents roam about handing out business cards blowing their cover) CIA agents for their role in the 2003 abduction of a German national. Khaled al-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, says he was abducted in December 2003 in Macedonia and flown by the CIA to a detention center in Afghanistan, where he was allegedly abused. Al-Masri says he was released in Albania in May 2004 after the CIA discovered they had the wrong man. Oops! The 13 suspects were crew and passengers on an aircraft which flew el-Masri from Macedonia to Afghanistan. My friends at Deutsche Welle have this interesting bit: Public broadcaster NDR had reported earlier that most of the CIA employees sought lived in North Carolina in the United States. NDR said Spanish authorities had learned the identities of all 13 agents on board and had copies of some of their passports. Although all of the names were believed to be aliases, NDR said it was possible, using other data, to learn their real identities. The report said three of the suspects worked for Aero Contractors, believed to be the CIA's secret airline.German arrest warrants are not valid in the United States but if the suspects were to travel to the European Union they could be arrested. Maybe during Oktoberfest? Germany, as you CEEI readers know, Hamburg, to be precise, was a hangout for the 9/11 terrorists. As the German muckracking mag, Der Spiegel, reported in 2005, it was a key 9/11 suspected who fingered al-Masri. Here's a good bit from that article: One of the key figures in the deadly Sept. 11 attacks, the Hamburg-based Yemenite Ramzi Binalshibh, told the CIA of a coincidental meeting he had once had on a train ride. He was told of a man by the name of "Khalid al-Masri" who had apparently urged Mohammed Atta's Sept. 11 pilot crew to get training in Osama bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan. Binalshibh was also told that this man "al-Masri" had helped Atta's men establish contact with a senior al-Qaida member in the city of Duisburg in western Germany's Ruhr region. Not satisfied with the CIA's mea culpa it goofed, ( and who would be?) Al-Masri has filed a landmark suit, with the help of the ACLU, against the U.S. The suit, as the BBC, nicely sums up here, claims that former CIA director George Tenet and other CIA officials violated US and universal human rights laws when they authorised agents to kidnap Mr Masri. The lawsuit says Mr Masri suffered "prolonged arbitrary detention, torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment".

Friday, January 26, 2007

Czech Town Set To Rebury Nazi Remains

You'd think few if any in the Czech Republic would want to memorialize anything to do with the Nazi regime. After rolling into the country in 1938, Nazi soldiers killed, maimed, and deported thousands as well as razed villages before the nightmare ended (at least for a brief time before the Communists unleashed their own brand of terror) in 1945.

Not so. Tucked away in the northeast of the country, not far from Poland, where coal and heavy industry is king lies the town of Hlučin. The town is testament to a time when a mishmash of nationalities lived in Czechoslovakia. Many in Hlucin were Germans. And during World War II, several hundred served not as partisans with their fellow countrymen the Czechs, but with the invading Wehrmacht.

Today, many in this town of 14,000 are proud of their German heritage. In fact, hundreds hold German passports. Now, some think its time to honor their forebears who picked up a gun to fight for Adolf Hitler's Germany. They want to rebury the remains of 3,900 Wehrmacht soldiers in the town cemetery.

"It won't offend anyone. Afterall, lots of Hluciners fought in German uniforms," explains Mojmir Sonnek, the leading organizer to rebury the fallen Nazi soldiers.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

European Parliament Names Names In CIA Rendition Probe

European lawmakers have named the names of those countries who knew the CIA was soiling on their soil and either looked the other way or held out a helping hand. Who's on the list? Britain, Poland Germany and Italy are among the 10 naughty nations listed in the report drafted by Italian Socialist Giovanni Fava. What's in the report? Not much in the way of hard facts. That doesn't mean there's no meat. Secret documents, confidential sources, including records of meetings between EU, NATO and senior U.S. State Department officials are in there. Plus, there are dozens of hours of testimony by those who said they were kidnapped by U.S. agents on European soil and transferred to secret prisons. Perhaps most eye-raising is what they got from Eurocontrol, the EU's air safety agency, according to which more than 1,200 undeclared CIA flights entered European airspace since 9/11. The EU lawguys "condemned the fact that European countries have been relinquishing their control over their airspace and airports by turning a blind eye or admitting flights operated by the CIA which, on some occasions, were being used for extraordinary renditions." The Europeans admitted they couldn't dig up enough evidence on Poland's alleged CIA torture center. The report also points the finger at the Germans for failing to accept a U.S. offer, made in 2002 to release Murat Kurnaz, a Turkish citizen resident in Germany, from the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. Kurnaz was picked up in Pakistan in 2001 turned over to U.S. authorities and held at Guantanamo as a terror suspect. He was released in 2006 after a federal judge deemed the evidence against him was too weak to hold him. The European parliament report was followed by another report, this one by Human Rights Watch which accused European countries of undermining an international ban on torture by accepting "empty promises of humane treatment" in justifying turning over terror suspects to countries where they risk being tortured. Human Rights Watch singled out Britain and Sweden, (yes, you read that right) as the worst transgressors in this respect. The land that gave us Abba handed over to the CIA two Egyptian terrorism suspects after the U.S. spooks gave their word -- who would think the CIA would lie? -- the two would not be tortured. And they weren't ............................. not, as Borat would say.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Poles And Czechs Mull U.S. Anti-Missile Shield

American plans to build part of their controversial anti- missile defense system in the Czech Republic has sparked debate in the central European country and mobilized progressive forces who oppose it. Several hundred turned up on a chilly, snowy day in late January on Wenceslas Square in the Czech capital, Prague, just part of a multi- pronged campaign against the plan. Hinting at the Soviet crackdown on the “Prague Spring” reform movement of 1968, demonstrators held up placards reading: “1968 – Go Home, Ivan! 2007 – Go home, John!” Pavel, a Prague university student said he was tired of his government “kissing someone’s ass.” The Bush administration announced on January 20 that Washington had asked the Czech Republic and Poland to base parts of the system. Under the proposal, the Czechs would house the radar system and the Poles the silos with 10 rockets to shoot down missiles fire from “rogue regimes” like Iran and North Korea. The U.S. already has missile interceptor sites in California and Alaska. A missile site in Poland would be the first outside the U.S. and the only one in Europe. Public reaction to the proposal in both countries has been lukewarm at best, while Moscow has criticized it with rhetoric reminiscent of the Cold War. Critics see it as the latest American move to expand its military grip around the globe. “The government does not have a mandate to authorize the base,” Jan Tamas, the main organizer of the “No Base” movement, which is calling for the government to at least let the people vote on the proposal. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has balked at the idea of holding a referendum, arguing, “security issues usually are not decided by referendum.” “Locating the base here will undoubtedly improve the security of the Czech Republic and Czech citizens,” Topolanek said. But many Czechs fear the base will make them a target of a terrorist attack as they are dragged into Washington’s geopolitical schemes. Nevertheless, several vox populi show a majority of Czechs actually back the plan, perhaps hoping the U.S. will at least drop visa requirements for them. Also lingering fears of Russia, may tip the Poles and Czechs into the arms, literally, of the Americans. Backers also see it as a chance for the Czech Republic to do its part in the global “war on terror,” among them the former dissident, playwright and president, Vaclav Havel, who has backed many an American intervention, including the Iraqi war. “Do the Czechs want to be a modern European society, which feels a shared responsibility for the state of the world, or would we prefer to leave the resolution of global problems to others,” Havel asked. Topolanek will face a tough task winning parliamentary backing for the American plan. His fragile center-right government was cobbled together after seven months of on-again, off-again talks. Topolanek’s Civic Democratic generally backs the radar scheme, but coalition partner the Christian Democrats are less enthusiastic and the third and oddest member of the government, the Greens, are the most hostile, saying it could back the plan if it is part of a NATO system and not just an American one. The leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Jiri Paroubek, has said most members of his party oppose the idea. The Czech and Moravian Communist Party are firmly in the opposition camp. Perhaps, some of the wariest Czechs are those living in Jince, about 30 miles southwest of Prague, where the U.S. wants to base the radar installation at a former military site. Protests have been held there as well. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg was dispatched to the region in early February to meet nervous local mayors, reassuring them that hosting about 200 Americans will pump up the local economy. Convincing the mayors will be easier than Moscow. Vladimir Popovkin, who commands the country's space forces, has said, "The radar in the Czech Republic would be able to monitor rocket installations in central Russia and the Northern Fleet." Russia wants Washington to put in writing that the missile system is not aimed at it, according to an Interfax report on February 6. “The Russians say ‘this is my backyard. You need our cooperation.’ They are right. You cannot stop Iran or contain Iran without Russia. You need the Russians onboard, “ Andrew Brookes, a space technology expert at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies, told the AFP news agency. Some experts argue there is no point, militarily at least, to building another radar station in the Czech Republic. Bruno Gruselle, researcher at the Paris-based Strategic Research Foundation said “the U.S. military already has radar stations in Norway, in Greenland, and in Britain—on top of its Defense Support System satellite alert system – which permit the early detection of missiles, wherever they come from.” Rarely if ever mentioned in the debate is whether the system will ever be operable. After spending more than $100 billion on missile defense, the U.S. hasn’t proved the system can work. Test results have been mixed at best. Not many officials in Prague or Warsaw are talking about that.