A lot of visitors have been turning up on this blog from the New York Times today, and I am delighted that we have been added to their blogroll, or blogrunner. I fear the reference will move off in an hour or two, but while it is there it is good to see this headline of mine on the NYT website, giving their readership a rather different perspective!
Barack Obama’s speech in Prague today contains the headline catching idea that the US will work to lead the way to a World free of nuclear weapons.
We will see how he takes that forward. It is a good aspiration and his speech in detail was an acknowledgement of the obvious but often denied fact that the world is not the safer for the existence of nuclear weapons. He reiterated in terms the basic premise of international agreements on nuclear weapons – that new countries will not obtain them, while those states which already possess them will seek to reduce them.
But the glaring question this opens up, is where this leaves Gordon Brown’s determination massively to increase the power and capability of Britain’s nuclear arsenal by replacing the Trident missile system, at huge cost?
Trident2 is the elephant in the room which the “Experts” on Sky and the BBC are blithely ignoring even as I type. If Obama is serious, withdrawal of US support for Brown’s plans should be one of the obvious first steps. (The missiles systems in question are American and would not be able to be fired without US permission.) Unless we see some movement on Trident2, we will know that Obama is just spouting hot air.
There are hopeful signs he may not be. As I said before, his discussions on nuclear disarmament with Medvedev were the most significant event in London this week.
His Prague speech represented another olive branch to Iran, talking unreservedly of the right of all countries to pursue nuclear power for peaceful use. The plan for an international fuel bank is a good one. Iran should listen.
If we assume Obama’s good faith, there remain major problems.
Gordon Brown will be extremely pig-headed on Trident2. Putin is a man whose intstincts are highly militaristic and Russia may be less keen to cooperate than Reagan found Gorbachev. The Iranian leadership is likely, stupidly, to insist on its sovereign right to enrich its own uranium. North Korea is led by barking lunatics, as its new “satellite launch” shows. Obama also deserves praise for not changing his agenda or the timing of his speech to make a populist, jingoistic response to North Korea. Doubtless he is being attacked on Faux News for this right now.
Obama did not repudiate the US missile shield plan, maintaining the fiction that it is a defence against Iran. I hope he is merely keeping it as a bargaining counter in disarmament negotiations with Putin, so that part of his speech would only make my third cheer less rousing.
What lost him my third cheer was his endorsement of nuclear energy as part of the fight against climate change. I suppose he needs to offer prospects of making money to the military-industrial complex which would lose out from arms reduction.
Nuclear power cheers authoritarians everywhere, including Brown. But speaking in a City as close as he will ever get to Chernobyl, Obama got no cheer at that point in his speech. Nor does he from me.
One of the nastiest men in Europe, Anders Rasmussen, has been appointed as NATO Secretary General. To achieve this Angela Merkel, Rasmussen’s most vociferous supporter, blackmailed Turkey into agreement by saying that otherwise Turkey’s prospect of entry into the EU would be affected. (The subtext is actually that Merkel has in fact no intention of ever permitting Turkish entry into the EU, as the prospect of all Turks having the right of settlement in Germany is anathema to her party.)
Insofar as Rasmussen’s appointment has been mentioned at all in the UK media, the only background given has been his support for the publication of the “Danish Cartoons” of the Prophet Mohammed. That is a surefire way to cheap popularity, as most in Europe – myself included – will maintain the right to freedom of speech. You only have to look at the scary fundamentalist Christians in the US to understand that it is essential that we maintain the right to poke fun at religion and the religous.
But the truth is Rasmussen has a very limited concept of freedom of speech. An enthusiastic follower of George Bush, like his friend Tony Blair he told outright lies to the Danish people about the existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. He also lied about the content of secret intelligence reports the Danes had on Iraqi WMD.
Unlike Tony Blair, Rasmussen faced a secret intelligence service of some integrity. A very brave and honourable man, Major Frank Grevil, stepped forward to tell the Danish people that Rasmussen had lied about the content of intelligence reports.
Rasmussen did not show his famed support for freedom of speech in the case of Major Frank Grevil, who was jailed for telling the Danish people the truth and has only just been released. Rasmussen survived the scandal by winning the support of his parliamentary majority for the argument that he did not have to resign as he had not lied in parliament, only in a broadcast to his people.
There was dismay throughout Scandinavia at the prospect of Rasmussen’s appointment. The leading and generally conservative, pro-NATO Norwegian daily, Aftenposten, on 26 March published an editorial calling Rasmussen a “liar” and a “simplistic militarist”, and asking why Obama would support the appointment of one of Bush’s closest allies in the attack on Iraq – which is rather a good question.
In fact Rasmussen’s appointment is the apothesosis of the new vision of NATO as an alliance to enforce Western control over energy sources and supply routes in the Islamic world. And I challenge you to find any of the information I have just given you in the UK or US mainstream media.
Major Frank Grevil was this year, on his release from prison, presented with the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence, voted by a jury of former senior US intelligence officials and former winners, of whom I am very proud to be one.