Saturday, August 25, 2007

Dyer: Bush et al's take on Iran.

Always good to see a new column from the outstanding military historian Gwynne Dyer. This time, he pontificates on a possible US attack on Iran and the possible implications.

Almost everybody in the Bush administration believes that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons in order to dominate the region and to attack Israel. (Others are less certain.) The war party, led by Dick Cheney, also believes that the clerical regime in Iran would collapse at the first hard push, since ordinary Iranians thirst for U.S.–style democracy–and that the attack must be made while President Bush is still in office, since no successor will have the guts to do it. Even after all this time, the administration's old machismo survives: "The boys go to Baghdad; the real men go to Tehran."

So what will happen if Cheney & co. get their way? The Iranian regime will not collapse: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is now unpopular due to his mishandling of the economy, but patriotic Iranians would rally around even him if they were attacked by foreigners. What will collapse, instead, is the world's oil supply and the global economy.

Read the entire article here.

Sudan expels diplomats

Sudan has expelled EU and Canadian diplomats for allegedly interfering in Sudanese affairs:

Sudan has expelled Canada's top diplomat, acting charge d'affaires Nuala Lawlor, the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed Thursday.

"We asked the Sudanese authority for more information on why she was expelled," said departmental spokesman Rodney Moore. He declined to say whether Canada had heard back from Sudanese officials.

"I can add that she was really acting in the finest traditions of Canadian diplomacy, standing up for freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Sudan," said Moore.

Sudan's SUNA news agency reported that Lawlor and a European Commission diplomat were expelled for meddling in Sudan's internal affairs.

"Sudan has summoned the envoy of the European Commission and the Canadian charge d'affaires and informed them they were considered persona non grata because they interfered in Sudanese affairs," foreign ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadek told SUNA.

However, the exact reasons for their expulsion were not made clear in the report.

And here's a Toronto Star editorial arguing that "Sudanese affairs urgently need interfering with."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Stephen Lewis: Mbeki presiding over apocolypse

Former UN Envoy for AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis has strongly lambasted Thabo Mbeki's decision to fire the lauded deputy health minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge:

A former U.N. envoy accused South Africa's leader of presiding over an ``AIDS apocalypse,'' saying Wednesday that President Thabo Mbeki's dismissal of the country's widely praised deputy health minister last week crushed a glimmer of hope in the fight against the epidemic.

Stephen Lewis, who recently retired as U.N. special envoy on HIV/AIDS in Africa, called for international pressure on the government to implement an ambitious anti-AIDS campaign.

``It is said that 900 men, women and children die every day in South Africa of AIDS-related illnesses. It's Armageddon every 24 hours,'' Lewis wrote in an opinion piece for South African newspapers. ``Other than South Africa, every government in the high-prevalence countries is moving heaven and earth to keep its people alive.

Lewis comments on the legacy that this will leave for Mbeki, as well as the greater one that will be left for the South African people:

``No matter the astuteness of his economic policy, social interventions, financial acumen, or peacekeeping initiatives across the continent, he will always be known as the president who presided over the AIDS apocalypse,'' Lewis said.

``It's a terrible legacy with which to haunt the pages of history.''

Read the entire article here.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Peter Gabriel singing Biko at the launch of The Elders

For your enjoyment, this is Peter Gabriel singing Biko a capella at the recent Elders meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Poll suggests Americans differ with their government on global role

Online travels take me today to an interesting opinion poll from World Public on Americans perception of what its government's role in the world should be.

Here from their site is a summary of their findings.

General International Engagement

A very strong majority supports US engagement in the world and rejects the idea that the US should take a more isolationist stance. However strong and growing majorities show dissatisfaction with key aspects of the current US role in the world and see it as destabilizing. A majority supports US military bases on the soil of traditional US allies, though support for US military presence in the Middle East has become quite soft.

Rejection of Hegemonic Role

A large majority is opposed to the way it perceives the US playing the role of hegemon or dominant world leader. Americans express surprisingly modest concern for preserving the US role as the sole superpower.

Multilateral Cooperation and International Institutions

A very strong majority favors a US role in the world that puts a greater emphasis on US participation in multilateral efforts to deal with international problems and on a cooperative approach wherein the US is quite attentive to the views of other countries, not just US interests. Very strong majorities favor the US working through international institutions (especially the United Nations) and support making international institutions more powerful. Strong majorities favor international law and strengthening international judicial institutions. Americans support US participation in collective security structures and are reluctant to use military force except as part of multilateral efforts. A large majority favors the US using multilateral approaches for dealing with terrorism, addressing international environmental issues, and giving aid for economic development.

Altruism, the Global Interest, and the National Interest

A large majority of Americans feel that US foreign policy should at times serve altruistic purposes independent of US national interests. Americans also feel that US foreign policy should be oriented to the global interest not just the national interest and are highly responsive to arguments that serving the global interest ultimately serves the national interest. Americans show substantial concern for global conditions in a wide range of areas.

Concerns US is Doing Disproportionate Amount Internationally

Support for US international engagement is dampened and obscured by widespread feelings that the US is doing more than its fair share in efforts to address international problems relative to other countries, and spending too much on international programs relative to domestic programs. However, in many cases this attitude seems to rest on substantial overestimations of the levels of US contributions relative to other countries and international spending as a portion of the federal budget. Asked to set their own preferred levels for foreign aid, most Americans usually set them higher than the actual levels.

Americans' Assessments of World Public Opinion on the United States

Large majorities believe that the US is viewed negatively by people in other countries and see this as derived primarily from the current US foreign policy not American values. Most see goodwill towards the United States as important for US national security. Most Americans believe that people around the world are growing more afraid that the US will use force against them and that this diminishes US national security and increases the likelihood that countries will pursue WMDs.

Promoting Democracy and Human Rights

Americans have complex attitudes about the idea of promoting democracy. A majority thinks that promoting democracy should be a goal of US foreign policy. However there is a reluctance to make democracy promotion a central theme in US foreign policy and an opposition to using military force or the threat of military force to that end. At the same time Americans do feel a moral obligation to promote democracy and there is substantial support for cooperative methods for promoting democracy and for working through the United Nations. A modest majority favors promoting democracy in friendly authoritarian countries even if it may lead to unfriendly governments; large majorities do favor putting diplomatic and public pressure on governments to respect human rights.
I am pleased to seeing the the US public get it. The US needs to be much more cooperative, much less isolationist, less concerned with US interests abroad, and must recognize the impact that its foreign policy has on public opinion, and promote real democracy and human rights, but through multilateralism and without an over-reliance on military power.

To read the full report, click the link for each section.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Remembering Hiroshima

This year, I will republish my Hiroshima poem. But first, here's what General Eisenhower on the bombing of Hiroshima:

"In 1945 ... , Secretary of War Stimson visited my headquarters in Germany, [and] informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act.... During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that
dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and second because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of 'face.' The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude, almost angrily refuting the reasons I gave for my quick conclusions.

And Norman Cousins on General McArthur's views:

Norman Cousins was a consultant to General MacArthur during the American occupation of Japan. Cousins writes of his conversations with MacArthur, "MacArthur's views about the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were starkly different from what the general public supposed." He continues, "When I asked General MacArthur about the decision to drop the bomb, I was surprised to learn he had not even been consulted. What, I asked, would his advice have been? He replied that he saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor.

Also read this excellent article in

Here's my poem:

Nuclear reaction

Searing heat
Blinding light

Hearts and lives torn apart
As the force of the fire
Is stronger
Than the love of a mother
For her trapped child
Black charred bodies laying strewn amidst the rubble.
Two hundred thousand voices screaming in unison
Sometimes silence is the only response
Sometimes silence is the only response
From the ashes
Arises hope
And a wish
For a peaceful tomorrow

Sunday, August 05, 2007

CD Review: Hospital Music by Matthew Good

This is my review of Matthew Good's new release, Hospital Music. I have listened to it several times, first when it was streaming on his site, and later since I purchased a copy of the CD this past Tuesday.

In my opinion, if you're a Matt Good fan you will love this one. It's much better than his last release, White Light Rock and Roll Review, and time will tell if it grows on me as much as Avalanche did.

The songwriting is superb. Inspired by traumatic events in the previous year of his life, it is stark, desperate, and dark. The melodies, as with all Good's work, if not catchy at first, grows on me over time.

This work is just about all Matthew Good. As well as producing it, he does just about all the instrumentation on it except for drums and a couple of guitar and bass parts.

There have been a number of excellent reviews written on the work, so I will just say that I recommend it to people not just to fans of Matthew Good, but to anyone who's looking for music that is honest, refreshing, and achingly personal.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

UN Resolution 1769

Here is the text of the UN resolution in Darfur. A good start, but not nearly enough to address the human-instigated disaster unfolding there.

I'm looking for a response on the net from Romeo Dallaire.

However, for now, this will do for a skeptical perspective.