Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Hey strangers

Okay, time for some catch-up.

First, relatively good news from Israel. I say relatively, because overall, the news is pretty awful. It looks like a centre-left coalition has been elected in Israel. Even better, Likud has been reduced to a rump. This is excellent news for the prospect of peace in the Middle East. Yes, the Palestinians elected Hamas. Yes, I wish they hadn't. However, the cycle of violence has to end somewhere, and the pursuit of peace has to begin somewhere. Anyway, Hamas was was elected on a platform of cleaning up Fatah corruption, not pursuit of terrorist objectives.

Second, I went to see former UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq Hans van Sponeck speak tonight. He talked passionately about the need for the United Nations, while maintaining that it needs to be reformed. He gave no specific proposals, but said that it is important to include civil society in the UN milieu. He also talked about the oil-for-food program of which he was a part, and the devestating effect of UN sanctions on Iraq.

An Afghan man who had from Islam to Christianity was let go by Afghan authorities because they declared he was not competent to stand trial. No doubt, this decision was influence by pressure from the West. Pressure, by the way, which I agree with in this case. He would have faced the death penalty. Apparently, some Muslim fundamentalists have protested saying that he should be put to death. Clerics have apparently called for his murder. As I understand it, this man is trying to leave Afghanistan. Good move. Good case for refugee status as well. Italy is considering giving him asylum.

Fuck them. Fuck all of them. I don't give a shit what Afghan law says about who should be put to death, just like I don't give a shit about what US law says about the same. Human rights are universal, and one of those rights is freedom of religion.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Matters of war and peace

There's a third Anniversary anti-war march tomorrow. I will take pictures, and post them. If I don't, call me a liar.

There are a lot of things that need to be posted about, things related to peace and human rights.

The Bush Administration has released a new National Security Strategy. It maintains the right to pre-emption.

The UN General Assembly voted 174-4 to create a new Human Rights Council. Overall, it sounds like an improvement over the Human Rights Commission. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty both support it, and HRW makes suggestions for maximizing its effectiveness.

The Bush Administration continues to make noise about Iran. It sounds like Seymour Hersh was right. Iran might well be next.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

For light does the darkness most fear

This is for me as much as anyone.

If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we're all OK
And not to worry 'cause worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these
I won't be made useless
I won't be idle with despair
I will gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear
My hands are small, I know
But they're not yours, they are my own
But they're not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken
Poverty stole your golden shoes
It didn't steal your laughter
And heartache came to visit me
But I knew it wasn't ever after
We'll fight, not out of spite
For someone must stand up for what's right
'Cause where there's a man who has no voice
There ours shall go singing
My hands are small I know
But they're not yours, they are my own
But they're not yours, they are my own
I am never broken
In the end only kindness matters
In the end only kindness matters

From "Hands", by Jewel

This Modern World: The Nitpicking Squad

Monday, March 13, 2006

Open letter to Stephen Harper, Peter McKay, and Michael Wilson

I sent the following letter to the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, and newly minted Canadian Ambassador to the US.

Dear Messrs Harper, Mckay, and Wilson

I strongly urge the Canadian government to take urgent action with respect to the plight of Allen Abney of Kingsgate, BC.

In 1968, Mr. Abney deserted the US Army to avoid participation in the Vietnam War, and came to Canada.

On Thursday, March 9, Mr. Abney, travelling with his wife, was detained at the BC-Idaho border. He was subsequently arrested by the US customs officers.

He is now being held at his old base in San Diego, where he faces the prospect of court martial.

As of today, his wife of 35 years has not been allowed to contact him. This is the longest they have ever been apart, and it is very hard on both of them.

To make matters worse, Allen's brother Gerry died on Saturday, and his family is concerned that he will not be able to attend the funeral.

There is no good reason for the US authorities to carry on with this charade. There is no justification for them to hold Mr. Abnie for deserting 38 years ago, and thereby terrify his family. He is not a threat to the US, and by deserting, he avoided participation in a an illegal military action in which war crimes were committed by the US military.

I strongly and respectfully urge Prime Minister Harper, Foreign Minister McKay, and Ambassador Wilson to take action to ensure that Mr. Abney is allowed to return to his home in time for his brother's funeral, and that the matter will be dropped by United States authorities.

Stephen Karr

Friday, March 03, 2006

Bush "honours" Gandhi

While visiting India today, George W Bush laid a wreath at Mahatma Gandhi's memorial.

He actually had the nerve to refer to Gandhi when talking about a responsibility to "bring light and freedom to the darkest corners of our earth," obviously completely oblivious to the latter's adherence to nonviolence, and with no sense of irony that a warmonger is exploiting the memory of a pacifist. Light and freedom are good things, but they can't be imposed from without. They can be encouraged, but not imposed.

Here are a couple of responses from the Gandhi family:

Arun Gandhi, grandson:

India is seeking business from the U.S.; the U.S. wants markets for its products so this Indo-U.S. relationship is nothing but an attempt to exploit each other. From the western point of view it is economic colonization. India has sold its soul to materialism and will bend over backwards to get some dollars from the U.S. ... The only way Bush can honor Gandhi is by taking a chapter from his life and showing greater compassion for the poor people of the world and not by laying a wreath at his memorial. Bush is a warmonger, he believes in peace through the barrel of a gun and has set the world on a course of violent devastation. Gandhi had hoped for greater compassion, respect, understanding between the peoples and nations of the world.

Ela Gandhi, granddaughter:

Gandhiji's entire philosophy was based on two fundamental principles, among others: one the belief that people can change -- that people, groups and communities can transform, and two that the force of truth and love or Satyagraha driven by the spirit, or soul force, can make a huge difference in the world, in bringing about transformation. So when Bush who is planning to lay a wreath on the Gandhi Memorial in New Delhi, during the year when we celebrate the centenary of Satyagraha, performs this act, I hope and pray that this act may help towards changing his beliefs and attitudes. I can only hope and pray that maybe some truth and some possible transformation in his own philosophy is driving him to this sacred place.

I pray that this contact with the spirit of Gandhiji may inspire him into changing his position on war and violence. I pray that this gesture may help him to see that he must desist from committing the same error he did with Iraq, with Iran or any other country or peoples. I hope he will be inspired by Gandhiji's implicit belief in the fact that wars cannot solve the problems of the world, they only aggravate them. We need peace, we need some sanity in the world. Gandhiji said, 'An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.' That truth should help caution Bush against war and the use of war and violence for any purpose. I truly and deeply hope that the spirit of Gandhiji will help to transform his views and he will stop using violence and war. If Bush really wants to honor Gandhiji he will lay a wreath at the memorial and in so doing commit himself to renounce his use of violence and war.