Socialist Worker

The White House Reich

Issue No. 1778

US Secretary of State Colin Powell has tried to get the US Senate to accept a known terrorist for a top foreign policy position. Otto Reich topped the list of 18 nominees submitted by Powell last month for the job of Under-Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere.

Reich joined the Reagan administration in the 1980s as deputy director of the Agency for International Development for Latin America. In 1983 he became head of the Office of Public Diplomacy. This was an arm of the secret operation headed by Lt Col Oliver North. It directed a network of ex-military and CIA officials and gangsters, to supply and train the murderous Contras in Nicaragua.

Reich was directly responsible for floating false news reports about the Nicaraguan government. These included the claim in 1984 that the USSR was supplying sophisticated MiG fighters to Nicaragua. Even the US State Department said the allegation was patently false.

In 1987 a Reagan-appointed top official concluded that Reich's department had broken the law by using funds for purposes not authorised by Congress. But he was not charged, and was moved to be US ambassador to Venezuela. There he worked hard to free Orlando Bosch, a terrorist who had organised the bombing of an Air Cubana flight that claimed 73 lives.


Cruel cuts

A woman who was so disabled that she was on oxygen 20 hours a day has had her benefit stopped. The case gives a glimpse of the crackdown on Disability Living Allowance. The woman cannot leave the house in her wheelchair without taking her oxygen cylinder with her.

Her benefit was reviewed by a doctor employed by Schlumberger Sema Medical Services. Since 1998 it has had the contract from the government to review medical entitlement for sickness and disability benefits. The company doctor reported that the woman was safely mobile inside her home and therefore did not require help.

The woman's GP produced contrary evidence. The benefit was stopped for almost a year before she won it back on appeal.


Henry Kissinger, the former US Secretary of State and mass murderer, has been named as an adviser to a Chinese oil and gas company.

The chairman of the China National Offshore Oil Company said Kissinger was chosen for his 'global vision and world-acclaimed track record'.


Nelson's blind eye

The British state is frustrating any public inquiry into the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane in Northern Ireland. Finucane was a leading civil rights lawyer who represented Republicans. He was murdered in February 1989 by the Loyalist Ulster Freedom Fighters.

The British government has refused a public inquiry since then into claims of collusion by the security forces in his murder. The trial of a Special Branch agent accused of Finucane's murder collapsed last week because of the mental condition of a key witness. This should have been the trigger for launching a public inquiry. That is what the Finucane family want.

But the government has now appointed a judge to look at the evidence, which will delay any inquiry for another four or five years.

The centre of any inquiry needs to be Brian Nelson. He was a British military agent infiltrated into the Loyalist paramilitaries by the Force Research Unit, one of the most shadowy branches of the British army.

The United Nations special rapporteur on Northern Ireland has already uncovered evidence that Nelson was actively involved in the murder of Pat Finucane. The UN report also has evidence that the RUC had detailed information about the murder plot but did nothing to stop it, and that members of the RUC suggested that the Loyalist paramilitaries kill him.


Old told they'll die

Elderly residents of Hackney in east London lobbied the council last week over cuts in social services. These include visits from home helps being cut from an hour to 30 minutes. The elderly protesters were shocked when Hackney's social services director, Mary Richardson, turned to them and said, 'Unfortunately we all die anyway.'

Before she took up her present job Mary Richardson was director of housing and social services in the London borough of Haringey. This was during the time of the tragic death of Victoria Climbié. Richardson had been there during huge cuts in care.

An inquiry is currently being held into Victoria's death. It has heard evidence of council failings.


Costly triumphs

There were victories for British construction firms last week. With Labour government backing they managed to derail regulations from the European Parliament that would have forced companies bidding for PFI contracts to draw up fully costed contracts.

That would have limited the scope for companies to make bids which then spiral in cost when work is under way, as has happened with most PFI deals. In the same week the National Access and Scaffolding Confederation pushed back the date for implementing new European-wide standards on the safety of scaffolding.

They also got backing from government ministers and from the Health and Safety Executive, which is living up to its reputation as a close friend of big business.


Tensions really must be growing in the right wing government of Silvio Berlusconi in Italy.

Two months ago Berlusconi declared that Bush's war was about civilisation against the 'barbarism' of Islam. The Italian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Torquato Cardeilli, has just converted to Islam.


Things they say

'THERE IS a general feeling of nausea around this. We get snubbed by US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld and then Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith gets the red carpet treatment.'
SENIOR LABOUR OFFICIAL on the attitude of the US government

'THERE IS a suspicion that British and other troops are being kept out of Afghanistan because they would 'get in the way' of US efforts to kill Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaida network.'
SENIOR LABOUR OFFICIAL

'We have even gone backwards in some areas of the health service.'
CHARLES CLARKE, New Labour chairman

'I would rather stack tins for Tesco for the rest of my life than take a reference from you.'
SECRETARY after being sacked by Rory Godson, business editor of the Sunday Times, who then offered to write a reference for his former employee

'OK, War is hell. People die. We know we're at war. The fact that some people are dying-is that really news? And is it news to be treated in a semi-straightfaced way? I think not.'
BRIT HUME, presenter of Fox TV's main news programme, on the reporting of civilian casualties in Afghanistan

'Be accurate, be fair, be American.'
FOX NEWS slogan. Fox is owned by billionaire Rupert Murdoch

'It's frightening to think that one of our own scientists could have done something like this, but it's definitely possible.'
FEDERAL SCIENCE ADVISER on the anthrax attacks in the US

'That is the most likely hypothesis.'
SOURCE close to the investigation into the anthrax attacks


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Article information

Inside the System
Sat 8 Dec 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1778
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