Note on Chilcott

Britain’s intervention in Iraq was not decided by Tony Blair, still less George W Bush. It was decided by 417 MPs after 2 days of debate in which all the accusations about dodgy dossiers, being outside international law, fears about lack of post-invasion planning and wider consequences for the Muslim world were argued back and forth.
This was a culmination of endless debates on Iraq ever since the UK authorized overflights and bombing of Iraqi military installations in order to protect Kurds in the north of Iraq and some anti-Saddam groups in the south.
No other issue was given so much attention by the Commons and the 417 MPs who voted, including many in the present government, did so in full awareness of the questions and accusations about the case for war.
But the Chilcott inquiry cannot put 417 MPs in the dock. Instead diplomats, generals, intelligence officials have to have this cloud permanently over their heads because elected politicians took the final decision.
Voters had the chance to remove MPs who voted for the war in 2005, 2010 and 2015. Chilcott’s team seems to dodged the fact that in a democracy a Prime Minister proposes but MPs decide. The report is going to be like twenty Ph D theses rolled into one and will bring no closure and little comfort to those who lost loved ones in Iraq.
At the least a page should be reserved to list the 417 MPs as they ultimately took the decision and bear the responsibility.

Kosovo Phone Number Not Enough

Denis MacShane

The modest steps brokered by the EU between Serbia and Kosovo are to be welcomed but the fact remains that more than 15 years since the fighting stopped in Kosovo and 20 years since the Katyn style massacres in Srebrenica took place, the Western Balkans is unable to move forward.
Calling Kosovo no longer means using a Monaco prefix but it is hardly the massive step towards Belgrade recognising Kosovo as a full international state. Indeed, for those not expert in the workings of international telephony it must be a puzzle how a foreign power can dictate what phone numbers a neighbouring state can use.
It is also a modest step forward that the great heap of rubble placed by Serb bull-dozers across the bridge at Mitrovica that divides the town will now be dismantled. But a ‘landmark’ breakthrough it isn’t.
The plain fact is that Belgrade still cannot come to terms with the fact that the glory days of a unified state under largely Serb control have gone and will never come back.
It is as if twenty years after 1945, France still refused diplomatic recognition to Germany or endless courts were still sitting to go over the crimes committed by Germans and the French resistance in the brutality of the war.
Instead leaders like Robert Schumann and General de Gaulle turned the page and within a very short period created a new Franco-German comity that allowed economic and social growth to take off.
For inexplicable reasons Serbia, a decade and half after losing its suzerainty over Kosovo, is incapable of producing a political leadership capable of a Balkans resolution similar to the settlement after other such conflicts.
Ireland was wrested from British control after a short bloody war in 1920-21 with its attendant murders, revenge atrocities. Many in Britain thought that Ireland was an integral part of the United Kingdom but accepted the Irish would have their own identity.
Kosovans lived unhappily under control of the former Yugoslavia but when Slobodan Milosevic made his famous speech near Pristina in 1989 raising the banner of ultra Serb nationalism, he opened the gates of hell of the 10 year-long Balkan conflict. Slovenia was the first country to say Adieu to Belgrade rule and Kosovo was the last.
115 nations now have diplomatic relations with Kosovo but Belgrade insists that the country is just a break-away province that one day will see the light and gratefully accept re-integration into Serbia.
It isn’t going to happen but the longer Belgrade refuses a final settlement the longer Kosovo also has its politics dominated by the liberation fighter politicians who emerged from the short, sharp war at the end of the last century.
The lack of full international status – membership of the UN, Council of Europe, and international financial institutions – makes it very hard for Kosovo to access external investment, the key to economic success.
The EU reported that in July 47,000 Kosovans were the single largest national group joining the migrant trafficking exodus from poverty. The Serbs may say “Told you so!” just as the British looked down their noses at the Irish who emigrated in their millions even after their country become independent.
But it is the Western Balkans as a whole from Greece to the Alps that suffers as membership of the EU remains a distant dream as along as Belgrade cannot deal with Pristina as an equal nation-state.
Frederica Mogherini, the chief EU diplomat, is to be congratulated on continuing the arduous step-by-step work of her predecessor, Cathy Ashton, in getting the Serbs and Kosovans around the same table.
But an international phone prefix while welcome is not where Belgrade needs to be if it really wants to move from the 20th to 21st century.

Denis MacShane was the UK’s Minister of the Balkans 2001-2005

A Letter to My German Friends
From the Vietnam War to the eurozone crisis: What today’s Germany must learn from LBJ.
By Denis MacShane*

As a former Europe Minister in the UK, I count myself among those Englisgh who are true friends of Germany. Indeed, there is much to admire about the achievements of what must be considered the most successful social democratic country (certainly among Europe’s large countries) – and notwithstanding the fact that Germany has a Christian Democrat as Chancellor.
At the same time, I am pained by the fact that the Germans currently give off too much of an impression of being like Frank Sinatra: “I did it my way” (read “It’s my way or the highway.”)
Germans would be much better advised if they followed the example of another American – less of a global icon, but no less than an American President.
Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, knew a lot about being vilified worldwide. After all, he personally had to confront most of the charges leveled against the United States for its pursuit of the American War on Vietnam.
In particular, Johnson was not just criticized, but patronized endlessly, by his French counterpart, Charles de Gaulle. He relished in attacking the United States’ involvement in Vietnam.
Despite all this haranguing, which caused great irritation in private, LBJ gave strict orders to his entire administration not to counter-attack. France was still a vital U.S. ally and friend argued President Johnson — and disagreements with de Gaulle could not be permitted to reach a rupture.
Publicly, Johnson only said, “I would like to see de Gaulle more in agreement on matters with us than he is but it is a matter for him to determine.”
Unfortunately, there is no German LBJ right now. And there has not been one since the days of Helmut Kohl, who knew how to reach out.
In making this suggestion – not just for a “thicker skin,” but more strategic-minded magnanimity – I am well aware of the fact that some charges leveled at Germany, by people who definitely are in a position to know better are wildly misleading.
For example, Germany’s Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, has never said that every nation must be an exporting nation – even though such a statement is often attributed to him (and other German policymakers).
As things stand, there is a clear sense outside Germany that a long-lasting CDU-led government really thinks it can decide who should govern other EU nations and will tolerate any alternative.
The underlying assumption is that 85 million Germans feel entitled to kicking out 10 million Greeks. Forget the Ugly American, it is now the Ugly German.
The criticism is unfair. After all, Germany will accept as many as 400,000 asylum seekers this year, while right-wing populists in Britain and France are getting worked up about just 1,500 people at Calais.
And it is not Germany, but the the errors of the first six months of the Tsipras government that caused Greece’s economy shrink by as much as 4% this year.
But tone, finger-wagging and self-righteousness from Germany is grating across the rest of Europe, atlas all the countries located outside of what must by now be considered the Greater German Economic Zone.
The point is not whether this or that particular charge raised against Germany is on target – or justified. What matters is that it is being leveled.
U.S. Democrats, at the time of their pursuit of the American war against Vietnam, had some reason to feel unjustifiably targeted. After all, it took some chutzpah on the part of France’s De Gaulle to advance all those charges directed at Washington.
It was an act of astounding arrogance on the part of the president in Paris! Vietnam had landed like a hot potato in the lap of the Americans who – if anything – had stumbled into this French post-colonial minefield way too naïvely.
Still, LBJ held the line. He resisted the temptation to give back in kind. Lyndon Johnson could serve as an example that Wolfgang Schäuble should take to heart.
An LBJ would not have patronized or sneered at Yanis Varoufakis, his former Greek counterpart. That Schäuble did so just shows that the German finance minister, despite his long experience in politics, still has vital lessons to learn. True leaders just don’t retort in kind.
For all the obsessing about Greece, larger issues need to be properly considered by the Germans as well. That may still be somewhat unfamiliar territory in Berlin, given that their leadership role is still a newish thing to them.
The German diktates to Greece has provoked a backlash in Britain which will influence at the forthcoming referendum. British politicians and writers who say the EU destroys democracy point to Berlin’s behavior towards Greece.
For the first time since 1950, it is quite fashionable again in British political discourse to be anti-German.
This is not all poor Wolfgang Schäuble’s fault, far from it. All I can say as a friend of Germany (and of the Greek people), as well as someone who does not want the UK to quit Europe, is that I am very worried.
I find no language emanating from Berlin that is reassuring.
And yet, reassuring others at moments of crisis, and showing at least a modicum of magnanimity toward those in serious trouble is precisely what a leading nation must do.

* Denis MacShane, Contributing Editor at The Globalist, was the United Kingdom’s Minister for Europe from 2002 to 2005 — and is the author of “Brexit: How Britain Will Leave Europe.”

Who is Jeremy Corbyn?


Explaining Jeremy Corbyn to Friends Outside Britain


By Denis MacShane


If I get one more call from political friends outside the UK asking ‘C’est qui ce Jeremy Corbyn?’ or ‘Was ist los mit dem Labour Partei?’ I shall have to start charging for my replies.

The answer is simple. Jeremy Corbyn is all the ghosts of Labour’s past periods of working through the eternal question of the democratic left – power or faith? The tragedy of the European left is that it does opposition well and office badly. Why not then stay in the comfort zone of opposition and denunciation of all the many ills in the world?

That has been the story of Jeremy Corbyn’s adult life. He a socialist Candide, always seeing beyond the official wisdom to ask the question why things cannot be different.

He is not a political organiser like a Tsipras, or a Gysi, or Mélanchon. He is a man for all causes that the left hold dear. He is against capitalism and thinks the state can run the economy. He is against militarism and war, against austerity and balanced budgets. He started life protesting the Vietnam War, then Reaganism, then globalisation and free trade, then George W Bush and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. So he does not like America.

No appeal to Jeremy to support an individual badly treated by an odious government, or groups like the Kurds or the Polisario front, or those expelled from Diego Garcia to turn it into a US military base in the 1960s (Ah, those Americans again) goes unanswered.

He opposed Sovietism and will denounce Chinese capitalism and communism in equal measure. He is moralist and a preacher, not a politician who seeks to form a group of supporters or lead a faction. In votes in the House of Commons he has voted against the official Labour line more than 500 times.

But he does so without scorn or contempt in his voice. He quietly and effectively makes his point and moves on to the next cause, the next small meeting, the next demonstration or protest outside an embassy. Unlike the other tribunes of the left he does not denounce his Labour Party colleagues or use the time-honoured tradition of personal denunciation.

In thirty years of knowing Jeremy Corbyn and being firmly on the reformist, modernising wing of Labour social democracy we have never exchanged a cross word. Unlike many on the left (or the right) who resort to personal denunciation or sneers or putdowns, Jeremy Corbyn just gets on with putting into words his socialist dreams.

The last person in Labour who could have imagined Jeremy Corbyn being seen as a possible – now probable – leader of the Party is Jeremy Corbyn.

This reflects how hollow and empty Labour had become after 20 years of domination by first Tony Blair, then Gordon Brown and finally one of their creations, Ed Miliband.

The left always punishes those who lead it to power and office. Look at the treatment of George Papandreou in Greece, the way Lionel Jospin has become an unperson in France, or the disappearance of Zapatero in Spain. The right thanks its former prime ministers. The left throws them into the recycling bin.

To win power 20 years ago Labour became a highly disciplined electoral machine. It shut down all internal party debate. Policy was decided by the elite insiders at the top. The annual conference became void of interest. No new talent emerged based on debating skills. The new generation of politicians shaped by Blair and Brown were all straight from Oxford and had no experience of fighting political battles, shaping opinion, and fighting inside the party to modernise it. They were simply aides to the Blair-Brown machine, put into parliament and then made ministers without any real experience of debate, argument, or party leadership.

Ed Miliband symbolised this post-political generation and when he failed to deliver a return to power in May 2015 the party simply imploded. As with Syriza in Greece or Podemos in Spain there is desire for some simple verity called ‘socialism’ that all can believe in and which if properly explained to voters will bring the left to power to transform the nation.

Corbyn represents that longing for a better world. The Labour Party in a generous demotic offer to make the selection of its leader more democratic has allowed anyone who pays £3 (€4, $4.50) to vote for the new leader. 600,000 have joined. Once they have cast their votes they cease to be party members and it will fall to 220 MPs, and all the existing party officials in the country to make sense of a Corbyn-led Labour Party.

There will be endless quarrels and disagreements. These are already surfacing over the question of Israel and Europe. There is not an iota of anti-semitism in Corbyn’s make-up but he does appear on platform with the most vicious of eliminationist and anti-Jewish speakers and organisations. For Jeremy the cause of the Palestinian people over-rides any duty to examine the ideology of those who denounce and wish to destroy Israel and the right of Jews to have a small patch of land they can call their own.

On Europe, Jeremey opposes TTIP, of course, and while not calling for Brexit says he support a Europe that is pro-worker and anti-austerity. So in the forthcoming UK In-Out referendum he may well oppose any deal on the EU which David Cameron puts to a vote if it is one-sidedly neoliberal and not fair to workers and social justice.

The European question may help Labour as if there is a No or Out vote then David Cameron will have to resign. The Conservative Party will be in disarray and divided, and there would be an opening for a clever opposition to demand new elections to deal with the constitutional and economic crisis of a Brexit vote.

But Labour also has to work out what to do about Scotland which like Quebec or Catalonia wants a different existence no longer ruled by London. Labour has always depended on its Scottish MPs but they have all been replaced by nationalist MPs. Labour has to work out what to do about the disappearance of the manufacturing working class and their unions who provided a reservoir of votes and common sense political support.

Labour is a party of the 20th century which does not know how to exist in the 21st century. Electing Corbyn is a symptom of that disarray.  He will not enjoy the job and will not last long. But as elsewhere in Europe, the old parties of the left have difficulty finding a way to power and purpose in the new economy and new society.



Denis MacShane joined the Labour Party in 1970 and was an MP for 18 years and served as PPS and Minister and Council of Europe delegate 1997-2005.



Greece Should Recongise Kosovo

This article was published by Ekatherimini 18 August 2015

All eyes in Europe have been on the men in charge of Greece’s finances but this has obscured the extent to which the country is now emerging as a serious foreign policy player under the energetic leadership of Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias.

The German-speaking Kotzias, who has translated Europe’s leading political philosopher, Juergen Habermas, together with his No 2 Sia Anagnostopoulou, educated in France, are Europe’s most European foreign ministry team.

Greece’s foreign policy is condemned to be European. Unlike the Baltic and former Central European communist states whose ministers are forever lecturing Greeks on the need to follow the example of their austerity policies, Greece has no powerful, rich, friendly European Union neighbors like Germany or the Nordic states who have helped develop the post-Soviet states into successful growing market economies.

Greece is isolated from the rest of Europe by the non-EU region of the Western Balkans from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to Slovenia. Bulgaria is Greece’s only EU neighbor but the choke point region of the Western Balkans cuts Greece off from direct business and people-to-people contact with the EU.

Nor do these EU states further north face the irredentist claims on Greece’s territorial integrity or relentless provocation of a regional power. Western defense experts rightly pay a lot of attention to Russian warplanes flying close to EU borders. The Royal Air Force and other EU airplanes have deployed to the Baltic states to show solidarity against Putin’s relentless probing of Northern Europe’s air defenses.

Yet the Russian planes rarely cross international borders, unlike the more than 2,000 incursions by Turkish warplanes into Greek air space in the past 12 months. The almost total focus on Greek economic and internal politics means that the permanent challenge Greece faces from Turkey’s very powerful military gets little attention.

Kotzias was one of the intellectual architects of the Greek-Turkey rapprochement 15 years ago which allowed Turkey to profile itself as a serious future EU partner, indeed member. The turn to nationalism, religious populism and internal authoritarianism of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken the shine off Turkey’s European opening but Greece is wise to maintain a broad pro-Turkey policy.

Kotzias has been remarkably energetic, visiting all but one of the eight Western Balkan states, including the first visit to FYROM by a Greek foreign minister in 11 years. The identity theft of the name Macedonia and the comic notion that Alexander the Great was a Slav-Albanian hero causes puzzlement in Northern European capitals and Brussels, but Kotzias is right to open a dialogue.

As he correctly says, “Greece, despite its weakness in the economic sector, remains the country with the greatest potential in the Balkans. Greece is returning to the Western Balkans.”

Kotzias can play a pivotal role if, like Alexander, he is prepared to cut some Gordian knots. The one that would have the most impact internationally would be if Greece could join France, Italy, Britain and other main EU nations and recognize Kosovo. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been very tough with Belgrade over its obsession with pretending that Kosovo will one day return to the Serb fatherland. One can only imagine the expression on her or German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble’s face if they opened their Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitungs and read an article by Kotzias saying Greece’s refusal to recognize Kosovo would end.

It would be the best foreign policy present Merkel could have as she celebrates her 10th anniversary as chancellor. Good foreign policy is about movement, taking conventional thinking and standing it on its head, as Kotzias did with George Papandreou on Turkey.

Twenty years after 1945, Western Europe was back on its feet. Twenty years after Srebrenica and 15 years since the brutal Kosovan war of liberation ended, the Western Balkans remains mired in past hates, and blocked mentalities.

Can Greece be the driving force for bringing the Western Balkans into Europe? The previous governments in Athens were locked in old thinking. Greece shares with the EU a need to move the Western Balkans out of its old hates and desire for revenge for the disasters of the 1990s which still prevail today. Can Kotzias get the Greek Foreign Ministry and its highly rated diplomats to start adding value to Greece at a crucial time in the nation’s history? A modest start which would win plaudits from Washington to Tokyo as well as Brussels and Berlin would be for Greece to normalize relations with Kosovo and urge a new deal for the Balkans aimed at creating a European future for the region.

* Denis MacShane is a former minister for Europe in the UK government and is a specialist in the Balkans.

Eureporter 5 August 2015

Compare West Balkans 1995-2015 with West Europe 1945-1965 and despair
Denis MacShane | August 5, 2015 | 0 Comments
Imagine 1965 and there were no diplomatic relations between key West European states; public opinion was dominated by claims over who was responsible for wartime atrocities; the US insisted on setting up war crimes courts on an extra-territorial basis to deal with allegations of brutality by liberation movements; and criminal economic activity – drugs, people trafficking, prostitution, money laundering, cigarette smuggling was more important than reconstruction while mass unemployment and poverty were the social norm?
In 2015, twenty years after Srebrenica and 16 years since the fighting finally stopped in Kosovo, that is a rough but not unfair description of the Western Balkans, which from Greece to the Alps is Europe’s failure zone.
Unlike after 1945, no-one seems to know how to make a new start. The eurozone’s handling of Greece remains as intractable as ever. To relaunch post-war Germany, its debts were written off as happened to Poland in 1991 but this is verboten for Greece.
Equally within a few years of the war’s end in 1945, France and Germany were on the path of reconciliation. Embassies were opened in Bonn and Paris. The first European Treaty transferring sovereign national control over steel and energy – the key industries of the day – was signed in 1950, leading to the Treaties of Rome and Paris when General de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer buried the past in 1963.
To be sure there were court cases for the worst of Nazi war crimes but no-one tried to place on trial the war-time resisters who committed the most brutal crimes not against the occupier so much as against rival factions.
Contrast this with the Western Balkans. Serbia refuses to accept the existence of Kosovo and Russia backs Serb revanchism as part of Putin’s need to find any opportunity to challenge the US and EU.
There are voices in Kosovo who refuse any negotiations with Belgrade and call for the creation of Greater Albania. That is a nightmare for the Slav majority in Skopje who in turn have indulged in identity theft by claiming that the Hellenic hero, Alexander the Great, was somehow a forefather of the Slavs who arrived in the region a thousand years after Alexander fought his campaigns.
Greek nationalists made the Macedonia name issue a rallying cry in the 1990s and are now trapped in a diplomatic cul-de-sac as Athens refuses to recognise Macedonia just as Greece refuses to recognize Kosovo. Greece needs to build an economic lifeline to the EU but this won’t happen without normal state-to-state relations with the countries in the Western Balkans to the north of Greece.
Tensions are growing with Turkey with more than 2,000 Turkish incursions into Greek airspace in the past 12 months. That might spur Athens to make more diplomatic friends and join major EU countries, the US and 100 other states in recognizing Kosovo.
The Syriza Foreign Minister, Nicolas Kotzias, was recently warmly received in the Kosovo capital, Pristina and it remains to be seen if the Syriza government can cut the Gordian knot of non-recognition bequeathed to it by the diplo-nationalism of New Democracy and Pasok. A move on Kosovo recognition by the Tsipras government would transform its image in Brussels.
Greeks advance all sorts of reasons why they cannot move on Kosovo. But Greek MPs faced down the church’s opposition to removing religious identity on passports and ID cards. Compared to that recognising Kosovo is a bagatelle.
Belgrade makes life as difficult as possible for Montenegro and relations with Croatia while correct are not friendly. Now there is a demand for a special extra-territorial court to try Kosovans who took part in the short sharp and brutal war of 1998-99. Monstrous things happened as they did in Northern Ireland. There are lurid allegations of organ harvesting aimed at discrediting current Kosovan leaders. No one can find a shred of evidence that in the middle of hiding from Serb patrols or negotiating at Rambouillet the young Kosovo fighters were also wielding scalpels in sterile operating theatres to extract livers and kidneys for sale.
The EU has tried to bang heads together but nothing will change until politicians from Athens to the Alps are willing to learn the lessons of post-1945 Europe and think about the future instead of replaying the hates of the past.

This letter was published in Guardian 3 July 2015

The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, makes a constructive case for a new dialogue between Iran and other nations. (Guardian Comment 31 July) But his argument would be all the stronger were it not for the pervasive Jew-hate emanating from Iran and calls by its leaders for the destruction of the one nation-state in the world where Jews face no persecution.
Here, for example, is the Ayatollah Khamenei last year: “This barbaric, wolflike & infanticidal regime of Israel which spares no crime has no cure but to be annihilated.”
Or Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guard who said earlier this year “The Revolutionary Guards will fight to the end of the Zionist regime … We will not rest easy until this epitome of vice is totally deleted from the region’s geopolitics.”
There are many more examples of such vile, racist, eliminationist language from senior Iranian leaders or their allies in Hezbollah.
We may all welcome the Iran deal and hope it works but until Iranian leaders repudiate their anti-Jewish ideology and their persistent eliminationist talk about Jews in Israel it is hard to see where much common ground between democracies and Iran is to be found.