Thursday, May 31, 2007

Iran: Which way will the US go?

It is certainly at least worth noting that the US and Iran have met, if only with respect to Iran. It's a start, but it's not nearly enough.

It is also worth noting that while there are talks, the Telegraph reports that

President George W Bush has given the CIA approval to launch covert "black" operations to achieve regime change in Iran, intelligence sources have revealed.

Furthermore, this from Reuters:

A large flotilla of U.S. ships entered the Gulf on Wednesday in a dramatic show of military muscle, adding to pressure on Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions, which the West says are an attempt to develop atomic weapons.

Afghan officials say privately a U.S. attack on neighboring Iran would further destabilize Afghanistan where U.S. and NATO troops are fighting a resurgent Taliban.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Cindy Sheehan leaves the movement (or maybe it left her).

Thanks to Catnip, I found out about this; that is, Cindy Sheehan is leaving the US anti-war movement. Catnip provides excellent commentary on what Cindy had to say, so I'll just post an excerpt from her diary. I'll just say that I always felt that she was a figure that others in the movement could rally around, and that the manner in which partisan Democrats have viciously attacked her is disgusting, and says more about their narrow-mindedness and partisan political opportunism and shortsightedness than it says about her.

Best wishes and stay strong Cindy.

I have come to some heartbreaking conclusions this Memorial Day Morning. These are not spur of the moment reflections, but things I have been meditating on for about a year now. The conclusions that I have slowly and very reluctantly come to are very heartbreaking to me.

The first conclusion is that I was the darling of the so-called left as long as I limited my protests to George Bush and the Republican Party. Of course, I was slandered and libeled by the right as a "tool" of the Democratic Party. This label was to marginalize me and my message. How could a woman have an original thought, or be working outside of our "two-party" system?

However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the "left" started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used. I guess no one paid attention to me when I said that the issue of peace and people dying for no reason is not a matter of "right or left", but "right and wrong."

I am deemed a radical because I believe that partisan politics should be left to the wayside when hundreds of thousands of people are dying for a war based on lies that is supported by Democrats and Republican alike. It amazes me that people who are sharp on the issues and can zero in like a laser beam on lies, misrepresentations, and political expediency when it comes to one party refuse to recognize it in their own party. Blind party loyalty is dangerous whatever side it occurs on. People of the world look on us Americans as jokes because we allow our political leaders so much murderous latitude and if we don’t find alternatives to this corrupt "two" party system our Representative Republic will die and be replaced with what we are rapidly descending into with nary a check or balance: a fascist corporate wasteland. I am demonized because I don’t see party affiliation or nationality when I look at a person, I see that person’s heart. If someone looks, dresses, acts, talks and votes like a Republican, then why do they deserve support just because he/she calls him/herself a Democrat?

I have also reached the conclusion that if I am doing what I am doing because I am an "attention whore" then I really need to be committed. I have invested everything I have into trying to bring peace with justice to a country that wants neither. If an individual wants both, then normally he/she is not willing to do more than walk in a protest march or sit behind his/her computer criticizing others. I have spent every available cent I got from the money a "grateful" country gave me when they killed my son and every penny that I have received in speaking or book fees since then. I have sacrificed a 29 year marriage and have traveled for extended periods of time away from Casey’s brother and sisters and my health has suffered and my hospital bills from last summer (when I almost died) are in collection because I have used all my energy trying to stop this country from slaughtering innocent human beings. I have been called every despicable name that small minds can think of and have had my life threatened many times.

The most devastating conclusion that I reached this morning, however, was that Casey did indeed die for nothing. His precious lifeblood drained out in a country far away from his family who loves him, killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think. I have tried every since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful. Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives. It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance. I failed my boy and that hurts the most.

I have also tried to work within a peace movement that often puts personal egos above peace and human life. This group won’t work with that group; he won’t attend an event if she is going to be there; and why does Cindy Sheehan get all the attention anyway? It is hard to work for peace when the very movement that is named after it has so many divisions.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Amnesty USA on Democracy Now: 2007 Annual Report

Amnesty USA director Larry Cox, being interviewed by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now, said some things that I think are quite pertinent, in placing the importance of the US in the global human rights context:

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think are the most important issues you want to highlight right now?

LARRY COX: Well, I think you’ve already highlighted them. I think the most serious challenge we have to human rights in practice and to the idea of human rights is unfortunately the open defiance by the United States, not because it’s the worst country in terms of human rights violations, but because its example is so powerful. It is a superpower, and when it openly defies human rights in the way that it has, openly violates the most fundamental human rights and justifies those violations, it spreads around the globe. It has a terrible impact.

AMY GOODMAN: You start with the Military Commissions Act.

LARRY COX: Well, the Military Commissions Act sort of brings together many of these practices: holding people without access to a court, without charging them, without trying them; setting up military commissions that can use evidence that has been obtained through coercion, that no normal court would accept; denying habeas to people, one of the oldest protections and a very important protection against abuse and against torture around the world. These are all practices that historically the United States in recent decades has criticized severely, when other countries have carried it out. Now, we’re doing it.

So where is our moral authority? Where is our credibility, when we got to Egypt, for example, and say, “You should not have military commissions,” when we go to Egypt and say, “You should not be carrying out torture,” when we have, in fact, sent people to Egypt knowing that they would be tortured?

He also touches on the issue of fear, keeping people in a state of fear in order to justify restrictions of civil liberties:

JUAN GONZALEZ: You say in the report that far too many leaders are trampling freedom and trumpeting an ever-widening range of fears, fears of being swamped by migrants, fears of being blown up by terrorists, and fears of rogue states with weapons of mass destruction. What about this issue of fear and its impact on populations not raising questions about any of this?

LARRY COX: Well, this is the central reality of the world we’re now in, where fear, instead of being met -- and there are, of course, legitimate fears that people have -- but instead of meeting those fears with effective ways of dealing with the causes of that fear, fear is being manipulated. Fear is being used, fear is being exaggerated, in order to justify what is, in fact, unjustifiable. You see it around the globe. You see it in China, where, you know, every time someone is arrested now, it’s terrorism. You see it in Russia, where, again, the threat of the conflict in Chechnya is now being used to widely justify restrictions on civil society. This use of fear is one of the most frightening aspects of the world we’re now living in.
As well, he deals with a US State Department official who dismisses the Amnesty report as having been drivent by ideology.

AMY GOODMAN: Larry Cox, the Bush administration has been fiercely critical of Amnesty's findings. On Wednesday, State Department spokesperson, Tom Casey, was asked about the report.

REPORTER: Have you read the Amnesty International report, which suggests that in the war on terror the United States has been eroding human rights around the world?

TOM CASEY: Well, George, I think people will take a good look at the report. Certainly, I don’t think anyone’s had an opportunity to review it in depth. Pretty clear that Amnesty International thought that we’d make a convenient ideological punching bag, and that’s something that isn’t, unfortunately, new.

I think we personally wish that Amnesty International would have been a little more willing to do things like try and help out the Iraqis, as they dealt with the trials of some of the worst war criminals who have been around for the last fifty years. And I think if you look at the report, unfortunately, it reads quite a bit more like a political document than a sort of honest review of human rights throughout the world.

AMY GOODMAN: That was the Bush administration. Your response, Larry Cox?

LARRY COX: Well, there’s nothing unusual about these kinds of attacks. We’ve been getting these kinds of attacks from governments all around the world every time we criticize their human rights violations. We don’t engage in ideology. We engage in facts. Now, we have, unfortunately, a very sad collection of facts about the United States. The United States has openly admitted having secret detention sites, even said it boastfully, and that it will continue to have secret detention sites, where people are kidnapped and taken. No one knows where they are. These are not things that Amnesty International has invented. These are the words of the President of the United States.

We know that if we criticize strongly what a government is doing when a government is doing something wrong, that we’re going to get these kind of attacks. There’s nothing really new about them. It’s just a very sad comment that instead of responding to these concerns, which are not Amnesty’s concerns alone, but virtually every UN body -- every other independent human rights organization around the world has raised the same charges. So you have to attack the entire body of human rights experts around the globe if you’re the United States, because we're all saying the same thing.

Finally, he discusses the effect of a lack of US leadership on the ability of the United Nations to take action on troublespots around the world:

JUAN GONZALEZ: And in terms of the ability of the United Nations to have any kind of impact on the human rights situation around the world?

LARRY COX: Well, the United Nations depends upon leadership. And one of the reasons that we are so adamant about what the United States is doing is the way it has weakened the ability of multilateral organizations like the United Nations to play an effective role. That’s most striking in the case of Darfur, where the world has stood by and watched, as, you know, massive human rights violations take place, and issued statements, but has not been able to put troops on the ground that can protect people. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is another one, where, you know, there has been no really effective move to correct a situation which continues to deteriorate. And US leadership has been so undermined by US practice that it’s hard to imagine how the US can now play a constructive role.

Read the full Amnesty annual report here.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Bye Bye Wolf at the Door (with apologies to Radiohead)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Chavez pulls out of IMF and World Bank

I do remember hearing something about this before, but this is interesting. Chavez is pulling Vensezuala out of the IMF and the World Bank.

"I want to formalize our exit from the World Bank and the IMF," Chavez said, adding that "We will no longer have to go to Washington, neither to the IMF nor the World Bank, not to anyone."

Chavez, who has often blamed lending policies of these organizations for perpetuating poverty, proposed earlier to establish a Bank of the South, which would be run by Latin American nations and it can help countries facing financial difficulties.

Also, Chavez has pledged to support it with Venezuela's oil revenues.

After Chavez took office in 1999, Venezuela has paid off all its debts to the IMF, and the country recently repaid its debts to the World Bank five years ahead of schedule.

The IMF closed its offices in Venezuela late last year.

For those hoping this backfires on Chavez, don't get your hopes too high. Chavez is a smart operator with a strong following. And, I came across this from Bloomberg:

Venezuela's dollar bonds rose the most in more than a week as concern eased that the South American country may trigger a default by pulling out of the International Monetary Fund.

Power sharing in Northern Ireland

I never thought I would see the day. I'm glad I have, though. Ian Paisley actually agreeing to work with Sinn Fein, that is!

Watched by dignitaries from Britain, Ireland, the United States and elsewhere, the Rev. Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionists, the dominant party among Northern Ireland’s Protestants, and Martin McGuinness, of the republican and mainly Catholic Sinn Fein party, were sworn in as leader and deputy leader, respectively, of the Northern Ireland executive government.

“Today, we will witness not hype but history,” Mr. McGuinness proclaimed.

Mr. Paisley, once the most strident voice of Protestant opposition to peace efforts, told reporters, “while this is a sad day for all the innocent victims of all the Troubles, yet it is a special day because we are making a new beginning.”

“I believe we are starting on a road to bring us back to peace and prosperity,” he added.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

ICC issues warrants related to Darfur atrocities

Human Rights Watch issued a press release today indicating that the International Criminal Court has decided to issue arrest warrants regarding the atrocities in Darfur.

"Monitoring isn't the solution," said Alex Neve, Amnesty International spokesman. "It's a positive step forward compared to the former deal, but that's not the end point when torture is as rampant and systematic as it is in Afghanistan. No amount of monitoring will prevent something that is a secret, insidious practice that can inflict devastating harm and damage on prisoners in a few minutes."

Neve said NATO should jointly operate a detention facility with Afghan officials.

HRW also noted a call by the ICC for the Sudanese government to finally cooperate with it and hand over the defendants,

In its decision to issue warrants, the Pre-Trial Chamber noted the Sudanese foreign ministry’s public statement that Khartoum will not cooperate with the ICC. It also noted indications that Ahmed Haroun is concealing evidence, and the fact that Ali Kosheib is in Sudanese custody and thus unable to voluntarily appear before the court without a warrant.

The United Nations Security Council resolution 1593, which in March 2005 referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC’s prosecutor, requires Sudan to cooperate fully with ICC investigations.

“The Security Council has obligated Sudan to cooperate with the ICC, and Sudanese officials should stop flouting their responsibility to comply,” said Dicker. “The council needs to monitor Sudan’s conduct and insist that it hands over the suspects as required.”

The cooperation required from Sudanese authorities includes not only executing arrest warrants, but also responding positively to requests from the ICC prosecutor. The Arab League and the African Union should also take steps to ensure the Sudanese government complies with these obligations.