Ivo Skoric on Mon, 4 Feb 2002 22:25:01 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] Enron-Bush Axis

When, at the beginning of December last year, I taught how to 
snowboard an athletic British gentleman, I knew the war in Afghanistan 
was close to being over. He was a navy pilot, flying the re-fueling 
tankers over Afghanistan just a week before he came on vacation with 
his children to the U.S. Then the Red R e-mails started pouring into my 
wife’s mailbox - humanitarian workers were needed in Afghanistan 
immediately. And, finally, Financial Times on December 18 printed that 
Kabul real estate agencies re-opened - anticipating the horde of 
international relief workers about to come.

In the past two months there was tremendous progress in Afghanistan: 
bicycles are back on streets, music can be heard, movie theaters re-
opened, stadiums reverted to their prior use for sport activities, birds can 
be seen in their cages, women are considered human beings again and 
even allowed to attend university. Old imperial masters are back: Brits 
after 80 years officially under the UN cloak, and Russians after 20 years, 
unofficially, as the backers of certain elements in the interim government.

The old rivalries, also, are back again: the ethnic, tribal and political 
factions that mired Afghanistan in a decade of civil war, are puling the 
fragile interim administration apart, doing the bidding of their various 
foreign supporters (Iran, Russia, Pakistan, US, India, etc.). Of course, 
since they have no real power at the moment, they are just a bunch of 
noisy locals - like Kosovars in Kosovo and Bosnians in Bosnia. Each of 
them is trying to consolidate its power base. Karzai’s government lacks 
resources. Because resources are with the warlord factions that compete 
for Karzai’s position. 6 (or 7, depending on various sources) containers 
with Afghan currency printed in Germany and delivered through Russia, 
aimed at the Karzai’s government, mysteriously disappeared. As did 
Osama Bin Laden.

Karzai was invited to US Congress to listen to GWB State of the Union 
address. So, he could hear about the ‘unprecedented threats to 
civilization.’ A French Muslim trying to blow up his sneakers on a US 
plane, a US teenager flying a Cessna into a bank high-rise in Tampa, FL, 
the never identified perpetrator of the US military grade anthrax attacks 
that briefly closed the US Congress, Qalaye-Niazi village incident where 
US air force killed over 100 Afghan civilians responding to the local 
warlord’s desire to wipe out his political opponents (Zadra deceived US 
in thinking they were bombing Al Qaeda), the whole scale Israeli military 
attack against Palestinian population, the cutting off railroad links, mail 
delivery and cable TV between two nuclear weapons carrying countries 
with combined population 3 times the size of U.S., the colossal collapse 
of the largest Bush’s campaign supporter, the energy corporation that 
built its business on trading its political influence for contracts allowing 
it to sell energy at above market rates. Yet the US president, identified 
that ‘threats’ in one simple phrase: the ‘axis of evil’ that comprises of 
Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

Axis would usually hint on an alliance - but despite the individual sins of 
Iraq, Iran and North Korea in terms of human rights abuses, weapons of 
mass destruction production, weapons proliferation and support to 
terrorist organizations, there is no link, much less an alliance between 
them. Iran and Iraq are bitter enemies, that spent a decade fighting each 
other. North Korea is an isolated country ruled by an isolationist regime, 
that does sell its weapons to the highest bidder. In that scenario, 
Switzerland could also be included in the ‘axis.’ Bush sounds more and 
more like an aging Soviet leader that tries to cover-up for his regime’s 
mishandling of resources by concocting far-reaching improbable evil 
conspiracies against our way of life: we used to hear Milosevic’s cronies 
talking about the US-Iran-Albanian-Vatican axis against Serbia, for 
example. Curiously, on the other hand, we don’t hear much from W. or in 
the US mainstream media about the trial in Belgium against absentee 
Ariel Sharon for the Sabra & Chatila massacres.

Meanwhile, US did withdraw its support from the London based, Saddam 
Hussein opposing Iraqi National Congress. Why? How does that fit in 
the picture of fighting the ‘axis of evil’? Refugees come back in 
Afghanistan, and flee again, fearing the return of civil war and abject 
starvation. Oman buys US fighter jets. Pakistan, destabilized by the 
Afghan refugee crisis, weakened by the popular support for Osama Bin 
Laden, and bracing for the fight with its much larger neighbor, India, 
buys US fighter jets, too. Israel buys more US fighter jets, to fight 
Palestinian suicide bombers, I guess. India buys radar system (from 
Israel). Palestine tries to buy weapons from Iran (and gets busted). Iraq 
manages to smuggle in the Stealth-aircraft-seeing Czech radar system 
Tamara. None of this moves targets the peace and reconciliation process 
- they all aim to prolong war and suffering of local population. And the 
US is playing a willing, active role in some of them. Instead of rising 
above the fray, and trying to bring peace, it just plays along to prolong 
the war for the benefit of its defense contractors.

In that light, the speeches of O’Neil and Powell delivered at the World 
Economic Forum, seem rather bold. O’Neil not only defended the US 
decision to withdraw support from Argentina, based on the fact that they 
‘did not reform’ - which then pushed that country into the bankruptcy - 
but also said that US would muscle other countries into reforming their 
economies to fit US economic interests, too. Powell added to that, that if 
any of such countries then become desperate enough to harbor 
terrorists, they will have the benefit of experiencing the full strength of 
the US military might. The US delivered the ultimatum to the world: you 
either follow our ways, or you shall be treated as an enemy. Small, poor, 
politically unstable countries that are outside of some large alliances (like 
EU or OPEC) are at particularly high risk to become victims of the Bush’s 
administration strong-arm US foreign policy.

Green Action-Friends of the Earth Croatia, Friends of the Earth 
International and ANPED have denounced the US bullying of the 
Croatian Government against its plan to introduce a draft GMO 
(genetically modified food) law which would ban GMOs. Green Action-
FoE Croatia has received a leaked document sent by the US Embassy in 
Croatia to the Croatian Environmental Minister. In this document Croatia 
is threatened with WTO sanctions if they adopt a Law to ban GMOs. 
U.S. biotech corporations impose genetically modified organisms 
worldwide under WTO threats U.S. and Argentina use WTO threats to 
stop GMO bans in Bolivia, Sri Lanka and Croatia. Leaked documents 
show small countries face overwhelming pressure when trying to 
implement strict regulations on GMOs. Unlike Slovenia, Hungary and 
Poland - which closed their countries to the IMF - Croatia since its 
inception in 1991 was a ‘good boy’ co-operating with all the IMF 
requirements and adopting all U.S. required economic measures, policies 
and contracts - hoping that this would help their quicker accession to 
NATO and EU.

Late Croatian president Franjo Tudjman negotiated a controversial 
memorandum of understanding with Enron before his death in Dec. 1999. 
It would give Enron rights to build a power station in Croatia and run it 
for 20 years, selling power to the state electric company at dramatically 
above-market rates. The final deal was less favorable, but still fixed prices 
above market rate. The contract expires this summer, and details are 
unclear due to confidentiality agreements. Enron's power deliveries to 
Croatia ended on Nov. 30 when other European operations ceased, and 
the power station was not built. Questions about the deal intensified 
after the election of a democratic government in Jan. 2000. Tapes of 
conversations show Tudjman hoped giving Enron the contract would 
secure political favors. In the weekly Globus, President Tudjman boasted 
that if he signed the deal he would be rewarded with a visit to 
Washington and Croatian entry into the World Trade Organisation and 
NATO. He also linked the deal to avoiding his own arrest and that of 
other senior figures by the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal. 
In one meeting, Tudjman, aware of the Enron-Bush connection, 
reportedly asked Enron international operations chief Joseph Sutton how 
much influence his company had with the US State Department and 
whether it could arrange WTO entry. "Mr Sutton said he could not 
promise WTO membership, but guaranteed that Enron and the US would 
lobby for Croatia's entry into the WTO, Partnership for Peace and 
NATO." (Financial Times, Jan. 31)  

Today, Croatia’s foreign debt reaches $12bn - on a population of 5 
million people. Former Yugoslavia’s foreign debt - before the collapse - 
was $22bn - on 22 million people. The unemployment (300,000 people) is 
one of the largest in Europe. GDP per capita is $4000, while the debt per 
capita is $2500. The annual debt servicing is 3.5% of GDP - equal to the 
government’s plan for the GDP growth. That growth is hardly attainable 
with most of the fundamental assets (power, communications, shipping) 
sold to foreign corporations, and a trade deficit of $3.7bn. So, in other 
words, Croatia is economically in the worse shape than Yugoslavia was 
before the war. And it was brought there mostly by its sheepish 
obedience to the US, IMF and WTO dictates. Of course, certain people 
got very rich: those who signed the contracts disastrous for their 
country, were paid handsomely for their services by the benefitting 
foreign corporations. Zdenka Gast, who secured the ill-conceived 
memorandum of understanding with Enron, earned $500,000 - $200,000 
more than Enron contributed to George W.’s presidential campaign, for 

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