Friday, February 20, 2004

UK and US Spies on the UN:
Follow-up on my 2/9/2004  Post
Does Foreign Opinion Matter?

President Ricardo Lagos of Chile and President George W. Bush meet during the Special Summit of the Americas in Monterrey, Mexico, Jan. 12, 2004. White House photo by Eric Draper.http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/01/images/20040112-8_8dau5841-515h.html
[left brain stuff:] An article from the British newspaper, The Observer, provides new information regarding the UK/US joint spying operation at the UN prior to the invasion of Iraq.  After the first article appeared, the response in the international press was rather muted.  It was reported that this kind of spying is widely known to occur.  Furthermore, small countries regard it as almost a status symbol for them to have attracted the attention of the spies.  But it turns out that as more information is obtained, not all of the reactions are placid:

British spy op wrecked peace move
Martin Bright, Peter Beaumont and Jo Tuckman in Mexico (From: The Observer)
Sunday February 15, 2004

A joint British and American spying operation at the United Nations scuppered a last-ditch initiative to avert the invasion of Iraq, The Observer can reveal.
Senior UN diplomats from Mexico and Chile provided new evidence last week that their missions were spied on, in direct contravention of international law.
The former Mexican ambassador to the UN, Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, told The Observer that US officials intervened last March, just days before the war against Saddam was launched, to halt secret negotiations for a compromise resolution to give weapons inspectors more time to complete their work.

President George W. Bush and President Vicente Fox of Mexico participate in a press conference Jan. 12, 2004. "The bonds of friendship and shared values between our two nations are strong," said President Bush. "We have worked together to overcome many mutual challenges, and that work is yielding results." White House photo by Paul Morse.Aguilar Zinser claimed that the intervention could only have come as a result of surveillance of a closed diplomatic meeting where the compromise was being hammered out. He said it was clear the Americans knew about the confidential discussions in advance. 'When they [the US] found out, they said, "You should know that we don't like the idea and we don't like you to promote it."'

The revelations follow claims by Chile's former ambassador to the UN, Juan Valdes, that he found hard evidence of bugging at his mission in New York last March. The new claims emerged as The Observer has discovered that Government officials seriously considered dropping the prosecution against Katharine Gun, the translator at the GCHQ surveillance centre who first disclosed details of the espionage operation last March. [...]

Mexico asks Britain, United States for answer to spying accusations
MARK STEVENSON, Associated Press (From: SFGate.com)

Thursday, February 12, 2004

(02-12) 20:02 PST MEXICO CITY (AP) --

Mexico has sent a letter to Britain and the United States asking them to explain recent accusations that they spied on countries before the Iraq war, and Mexico's former U.N. ambassador -- who said he had been spied on -- called on Mexico to file a formal complaint with the U.N. Secretary General.

In a statement released late Wednesday night, Mexico's Foreign Relations Department said it had expressed "concern about the alleged espionage case, which, if real, would affect the confidence that should exist between nations."

The letter also asked both countries for an answer to the accusations. [...]

Accusations of espionage at the UN swirl against U.S., Britain
By Hugh Dellios
[Chicago] Tribune  foreign correspondent
Published February 13, 2004

[...] Mexico's new UN ambassador, Enrique Berruga, told a radio station Thursday that any confirmed spying "would be a serious break with a series of rules of the game in the world of multilateral diplomacy."

The Mexican statement was issued a day after a Chilean government spokesman confirmed that technicians found wiretaps on most of the telephones in Chile's UN mission in early 2003. The spokesman, Patricio Santamaria, refused to identify who Chile suspected of the spying, but said it had lodged protests "to the respective institutions." [...]

[right brain stuff:] The first photograph at the top of this article shows Bush meeting with the President of Chile, Ricardo Lagos, on 1/24/2004.  They appear to be on good terms.  The second photo shows Bush with the President of Mexico, Vicente Fox.  Again, no animosity is evident.  One of the difficulties facing the American People, when it comes to understanding reports of diplomatic matters, is that it is difficult to know what is really meant by statements such as  'any confirmed spying "would be a serious break with a series of rules of the game in the world of multilateral diplomacy."' This sounds like a serious protest, yet the photo seems to belie the notion that there is serious antagonism between the US and Mexico.  It is possible that the politicians in Mexico and Chile are talking tough in order to mollify their own People; while in back-room negotiations, they could be saying it is no big deal.  Meanwhile, we sit here in the USA wondering if we have offended our neighbors. 

Perhaps it is a bit neurotic for me to worry about what other people in other countries think about the USA.  Is there are practical reason that any of us should be concerned?  The results of recent polls show that foreign impressions of the USA in general, and George W. Bush in particular, are poor:

Bush Falls From Favor Abroad, Too
by Jim Lobe October 29, 2003

Nearly 90 percent of more than 500 elite figures in six Latin American countries polled by the University of Miami School of Business and Zogby International gave Bush a negative rating. Fifty percent of respondents gave his performance the lowest possible rating: "poor."

Bush's highest negatives were found in the region's traditional powerhouses: Brazil (98 percent), Argentina (93 percent) and Mexico (92 percent), according to the survey.

A second poll carried out by Eurobarometer for the European Commission of all 15 European Union (EU) countries found that more than two-thirds of citizens saw the U.S.-led war in Iraq as "not justified."

The poll showed that Europeans starkly question U.S. global leadership. Throughout Europe, majorities expressed disapproval of current U.S. foreign policy, with disapproval ratings among Italians and Germans soaring up 20 points from the Worldviews 2002 survey, a similar poll conducted last year by the German Marshall Fund and the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. Less than half of European survey respondents (45%) – a drop from 64% in the Worldviews 2002 poll – indicated a desire to see a strong U.S. presence in the world. Majorities in France (70%), Germany (50%) and Italy (50%) believe global U.S. leadership is “undesirable.”

Germany showed the most dramatic change in public opinion toward the United States. When asked whether the European Union (EU) or United States was more important to their vital interests, 81% of Germans (as compared to 55% in 2002), opted for the EU while 9% (as compared to 20% in 2002) chose the U.S.

Yes, poll numbers are really belong over in the dominant hemisphere, but this last part of the post is not really analytical; it's associational.  Personally, I feel bad knowing that our dear leader has contributed to a negative global impression of our country.  Although I can't prove it, it seems that such pervasive negativity has got to be harmful to us in the long run.  After all, we really need other countries to cooperate with us.  Remember Bush's pronouncement a couple of weeks ago, that he wants there to be a global restriction on the production of weapons-grade fissionable materials?  Exactly how is this to be implemented, without global cooperation.  The UN might be able to do it.  After all, they are willing to work on a global ban for land mines.  It is clear that we do not have the military power or the intelligence assets needed to enforce a global restriction on highly purified uranium and plutonium.  Can you imagine the US going to the UN now, after the unilateral posturing, the shift to a preemptive strategy, and the spying scandals, and saying we need their help?
(article 047)