G8 Meets: Row Over Water Access Boils Over
More than a billion people around the world have no clean water,
leading to the death of a child every 15 seconds
By Gaby Hinsliff and Mark Townsend
June 1, 2003, The Observer/UK
From the picture windows of the newest of the nine restaurants at the
exclusive Royal Parc Evian hotel, the view of the shimmering expanse
of Lake Geneva is by all accounts unrivalled.
But, if they tire of it, the leaders of the world's richest
industrialized nations gathering here today can always enjoy a dip in
one of its four swimming pools - or perhaps languish in the steam room
of its world-famous spa, sipping waters that are flavored with
essential oils of juniper and elderberry.
In Evian-les-Bains, home of one of the world's most famous mineral
springs, water is the one thing that is never in short supply.
It is a particularly cruel irony, then, that one of the main topics on
the agenda of the G8 group of industrialized nations arriving here
this morning is the fact that a staggering 1.1 billion of the world's
people do not have access to clean water. For the international aid
agencies hoping to use the meeting to highlight the cause, it is a
case of water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink.
Even the genteel ladies of the Mothers' Union have been battling for
the cause, with a campaign to send empty plastic Evian bottles to the
French President, Jacques Chirac, labeled with demands to reduce the
burden on developing countries.
For Britain, water is not officially high on an agenda that will range
from climate change - Tony Blair, who flies into Evian today, will
call for the world to move beyond the commitments at the Kyoto summit
and invest in new technologies which do not damage the environment -
to trade talks and terrorism.
To the anger of charities, Valerie Amos, the new International
Development Secretary making her first major appearance on the public
stage since she replaced Clare Short, is not expected to announce any
new funding for water aid.
'Where has the British Government's conscience gone? For every 15
seconds they say "no" another child dies from lack of safe water,'
said Stephen Turner of Water Aid, which is to launch a report at the
summit calling for spending on clean water supplies to be doubled.
But for the French government, home to the world's two most powerful
private water companies, which between them control almost two thirds
of the world's privatized supplies and are keen for more, it is an
issue of acute interest.
Michel Camdessus, the former head of the IMF, is due to discuss the
findings of a high-level inquiry into the financing of water supplies
at the summit. It is a controversial subject, with many protesters
offended at what appears to them to be a cynical deal by developed
countries with thriving private water industries to gain access to the
markets of the Third World: others, such as Water Aid, argue that
those desperate for a drink simply need it piped in by whatever method
proves most effective, be it private or public sector.
Such debates may seem a million miles from the lives of those like
Sema Kedir, the mother of three found hanging from a tree near her
home in central Ethiopia. The only clue to her fate lay in the
shattered remains of a clay pot near by.
She had collapsed on the final leg of the 12-mile hike from the
nearest water well and spilled the precious liquid that would have
kept her children alive for another day or two. Already in debt to a
neighbor, she could not afford to raise money for a new pot: there
seemed no way out.
It was cases like hers that helped persuade the international
community to agree a target in Johannesburg last year to halve the
number of people without clean water. But so far there is little sign
of concrete progress towards the target.
The stakes could not be higher. Access to clean water saves the
average household two working hours a day, ending the punishing ritual
of long trips to wells such as that made by Kedir; reduces the
mortality rate from diarrhea by 65 per cent; it is even proven to
drive up school attendance.
During the three days of the summit more than 170,000 people will die
from diseases triggered by lack of safe drinking water, according to
the charity Tearfund.
Yet even the toilet water in the G8 official hotel is cleaner than the
well Kedir stumbled seven hours in the dark to reach. One flush
consumes as much water as the average person in Africa uses for a
whole day's drinking, cooking and cleaning.
But water is not the only issue on the agenda this weekend. The summit
is US President George Bush's first real chance to heal the rift with
'old Europe' over the Iraq war: cancellation of the billions of
international debt run up by Saddam Hussein will be high on the agenda
The battle against polio, the success of trade talks this autumn in
Mexico - whose President Vicente Fox is one of the handful of non-GM
nations based on the other side of the lake, ready to be ferried in
for a few hours' audience with the G8 itself - and safeguards on the
exploitation of mineral resources in developing countries are also
Perhaps of most acute interest to the G8 will be a discussion of the
precarious state of the world economy, and its implications for the
powerhouses of the West. But they can expect little sympathy from the
anti-globalization protesters, already skirmishing yesterday with the
police in south-west France. With a romantic weekend package in one of
Evian's spas still costing less than a sanitation system for a school
of 350 children in Africa, the G8 may have its work cut out to
convince the skeptics.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003
CounterPunch Wire, May 29, 2003
Weapons of Mass Destruction: Who Said What When
?Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now
has weapons of mass
destruction.? ?Dick Cheney, August 26, 2002
?Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that
were used for the
production of biological weapons.? ?George W. Bush,
September 12, 2002
?If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam
Hussein is once
again misleading the world.? ?Ari Fleischer, December 2,
?We know for a fact that there are weapons there.? ?Ari
?Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had
the materials to
produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve
W. Bush, January 28, 2003
?We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his
weapons of mass
destruction, is determined to make more.? ?Colin Powell,
February 5, 2003
?We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently
field commanders to use chemical weapons?the very weapons
the dictator tells us
he does not have.? ?George Bush, February 8, 2003
?So has the strategic decision been made to disarm Iraq of
its weapons of
mass destruction by the leadership in Baghdad? I think our
judgment has to be
clearly not.? ?Colin Powell, March 8, 2003
?Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves
no doubt that the
Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the
most lethal weapons
ever devised.? ?George Bush, March 17, 2003
?Well, there is no question that we have evidence and
information that Iraq
has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical
particularly . . . all
this will be made clear in the course of the operation, for
it takes.? ?Ari Fleischer, March 21, 2003
?There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein
possesses weapons of
mass destruction. As this operation continues, those weapons
will be identified,
found, along with the people who have produced them and who
?Gen. Tommy Franks, March 22, 2003
?I have no doubt we're going to find big stores of weapons
destruction.? ?Kenneth Adelman, Defense Policy Board , March
?One of our top objectives is to find and destroy the WMD.
There are a number
of sites.? ?Pentagon Spokeswoman Victoria Clark, March 22,
?We know where they are. They are in the area around Tikrit
?Donald Rumsfeld, March 30, 2003
?Obviously the administration intends to publicize all the
weapons of mass
destruction U.S. forces find?and there will be
plenty.? ?Neocon scholar Robert
Kagan, April 9, 2003
?I think you have always heard, and you continue to hear
from officials, a
measure of high confidence that, indeed, the weapons of mass
destruction will be
found.? ?Ari Fleischer, April 10, 2003
?We are learning more as we interrogate or have discussions
scientists and people within the Iraqi structure, that
perhaps he destroyed some,
perhaps he dispersed some. And so we will find
them.? ?George Bush, April 24, 20
?There are people who in large measure have information that
we need . . . so
that we can track down the weapons of mass destruction in
?Donald Rumsfeld, April 25, 2003
?We?ll find them. It?ll be a matter of time to do
so.? ?George Bush, May 3,
?I am confident that we will find evidence that makes it
clear he had weapons
of mass destruction.? ?Colin Powell, May 4, 2003
?I never believed that we?d just tumble over weapons of mass
that country.? ?Donald Rumsfeld, May 4, 2003
?I?m not surprised if we begin to uncover the weapons
program of Saddam
Hussein?because he had a weapons program.? ?George W. Bush,
May 6, 2003
U.S. officials never expected that ?we were going to open
garages and find?
weapons of mass destruction. ?Condoleeza Rice, May 12, 2003
?I just don?t know whether it was all destroyed years ago?I
no question that there were chemical weapons years
ago?whether they were
destroyed right before the war, [or] whether they?re still
hidden.? ?Maj. Gen.
David Petraeus, Commander 101st Airborne, May 13, 2003
?Before the war, there?s no doubt in my mind that Saddam
Hussein had weapons
of mass destruction, biological and chemical. I expected
them to be found. I
still expect them to be found.? ?Gen. Michael Hagee,
Commandant of the Marine
Corps, May 21, 2003
?Given time, given the number of prisoners now that we?re
confident that we?re going to find weapons of mass
Richard Myers, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, May 26, 2003
?They may have had time to destroy them, and I don?t know
?Donald Rumsfeld, May 27, 2003
?For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons
destruction [as justification for invading Iraq] because it
was the one reason everyone
could agree on.? ?Paul Wolfowitz, May 28, 2003
[Feel free to pass along the enclosed information.
If for any reason you'd like your name removed from this
list, please let me
know. Peace, hope, action! louisa]
Enron Used U.S. Government to Bully Developing Nations
By Emad Mekay
Inter Press Service
Friday 30 May 2003
WASHINGTON - Defunct energy giant Enron used the U.S. government to coerce the World
Bank and poor nations to grant concessions and resolve its investment problems, according to
documents and correspondence released by the Treasury Department.
Enron, a bankrupt company that allegedly paid no taxes in the 15 years before it went broke in
2001--despite earning billions of dollars in declared profits--regularly and aggressively called on
staff from Treasury, the State Department, the office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the
World Bank to meet with foreign officials to favorably resolve its problems and disputes with their
The company collapsed at the end of 2001 with billions of dollars in debt and facing accusations
of accounting frauds.
The incidents, according to Treasury documents obtained by consumer groups under the U.S.
Freedom of Information Act, concerned its subsidiaries' activities in countries including Argentina,
India, Nigeria, the Dominican Republic and Turkey.
Nations like India, Argentina and Mozambique have long publicly complained that Enron was
particularly heavy-handed in using the local U.S. embassy or Washington to apply pressure if
disputes were not resolved to its satisfaction.
The new documents, though heavily censored, are among the first concrete evidence of how the
highly controversial company managed to outdo other U.S. firms in aggressively pulling strings in
What "sets Enron apart was that it was always willing to take things a little further than
everybody else," said Tyson Slocum, a research director with Public Citizen, a U.S.-based
"Enron, for its size, flexed an enormous amount of political muscle that gave it tremendous
access that a lot of other companies did not enjoy as consistently. It just excelled at pushing its
influence to a level more advanced and a little higher than many of its competitors," he told IPS.
In India, for example, according to the documents, senior government officials intervened with
their Indian counterparts to settle a dispute over the Dabhol power plant in Enron's favor.
Officials from Treasury, the State Department and even the National Security Council were
involved in resolving problems over the $3 billion project on behalf of the U.S. firm.
The Indians were concerned that the project was not viable in the first place, and that Enron had
been accused of profiteering by charging power prices that were at least three times higher than
elsewhere in the country.
But in negotiations between India, Enron, and other agencies, "the objective is to steer the
discussion away from whether the (Dabhol) project is in default or not," wrote Geetha Rao of the
Treasury Department's India Desk, in correspondence seen by IPS.
In another document, U.S. officials briefing then Secretary of Treasury Paul O'Neil suggested
that messages he deliver on a trip to India include, "without a quick resolution of the Enron
dispute, the financial relationship between the U.S. and India would suffer as a result."
"Unless expeditiously resolved, (the Enron dispute) could affect India's investment climate and
hamper development of our bilateral economic and political relations," said another "talking point"
provided to O'Neil.
It continues: "The U.S. government hopes that a creative resolution can be found to Dabhol so
that we can focus without distraction on our growing economic and political ties."
Enron even reportedly pushed administration officials to threaten foreign governments with
sanctions if their disputes could not be settled advantageously. In 2001, the Financial Times
newspaper said that company executives threatened to have the United States impose sanctions
The Dabhol plant, which is still 65 percent owned by Enron, was shut down as the company
went into bankruptcy and Indian lenders started court action to recover loans.
The end results of lobbying efforts on behalf of Enron are unclear, but the documents clearly
show how the firm arm-twisted U.S. officials to intervene on its behalf.
"To get a secretary of the Treasury to raise the issue of a specific company's contractual
dispute in high-level official diplomatic meetings is not common," said Slocum, referring to
O'Neil's trip to India.
Washington also intervened on Enron's behalf elsewhere.
Other documents show that in 2001 the company lobbied the government to "exercise the
influence of the United States in the World Bank" to persuade the international lender, which
often attaches economic policy conditions to its credit, to intervene in economic policy in Turkey
so that Enron's investment there would be protected.
Both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund had at the time wanted to impose a
deadline on offering guarantees for certain energy projects in Turkey, some of which involved
A World Bank official told IPS on Thursday that the company's pressure tactics did not work,
and that the Bank went ahead and restricted guarantees to the energy sector.
Similarly, in 2001 Enron sought help from "officials who are handling U.S. foreign policy
relations with Argentina," including the U.S. Trade Representative, State Department officials and
the Treasury, to resolve a conflict with Argentina over a $500 million investment dispute with
Enron's water services subsidiary, Azurix.
The U.S. firm had complained that local authorities would not allow Azurix to charge the high
rates provided in the contract for its portable water and wastewater services. Argentina finally
agreed to buy back the project.
"These documents help explain how Enron used its money and connections to distort
government policies in a way that gave it a free rein to cheat consumers," said Slocum.
Activists and watchdog groups have long decried the apparently open channels between
corporations and successive U.S. administrations, often established through hefty election
According to the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics, which analyzes federal
elections documents, from 1989 to 2002 Enron and its employees gave nearly $6 million in
individual, political and soft money contributions to federal candidates and parties.
Three-quarters of the candidates were from the Republican Party of President George W. Bush.
Enron was also a major donor to the election campaign of Bush and Vice President Dick
Cheney, while at least 15 high-ranking administration officials owned stock in the energy
company in 2001.
Activists say this cozy relationship between the U.S. government and corporate executives
leaves consumers and the poor at a disadvantage, particularly in defenseless developing nations.
"That's the kind of corporate behavior that an organization like ours is trying to change," said
Nadia Martinez of the Institute of Policy Studies in Washington.
"It is when the U.S. government uses its influence to arm-twist to do things that are favorable to
the U.S. and its corporations, when it may or may not be in line with the wishes of the people or
the interests of the people in that country," she added.
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