I will be taking a week or so off. Please check back for more posts sometime around the first of the New Year.
HELP!!! I am being held along with over 400 of my fellow citizens in a forced labor camp in the Kingdom of North Pole. We are forced to work making toys 364 days a year. We are paid only a few dollars each day. The factory doors are locked from the outside so that we are confined to the workplace 24 hours a day. Although we have beds here and are given food each day, we are treated like prison inmates or slaves. Please, help us.
North Pole Elf-Determination Council
Did you know that your Amazon.com purchases can benefit Amnesty International? Enter the Amazon.com web site via AI USA's home page here (look for the blue "Shop at Amazon and Support Amnesty" link) and a percentage of your purchases will be donated to Amnesty.
(How's that for a mixed message?)
The New York Times has an interesting report on mental health issues facing soldiers returning from Iraq:
An Army study shows that about one in six soldiers in Iraq report symptoms of major depression, serious anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, a proportion that some experts believe could eventually climb to one in three, the rate ultimately found in Vietnam veterans.
It will be many years before we are able to calculate the real cost of the war in Iraq.
Is global warming a human rights issue? Those who live on islands vulnerable to rising sea levels think so. So do the Inuit (or Eskimos) who see in the melting of Arctic ice the disappearance of their way of life. Representatives of the Inuit plan to take the issue to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, according to the New York Times:
The Inuit plan is part of a broader shift in the debate over human-caused climate change evident among participants in the 10th round of international talks taking place in Buenos Aires aimed at averting dangerous human interference with the climate system.
Inuit leaders said they planned to announce the effort at the climate meeting today.
Representatives of poor countries and communities--from the Arctic fringes to the atolls of the tropics to the flanks of the Himalayas--say they are imperiled by rising temperatures and seas through no fault of their own. They are casting the issue as no longer simply an environmental problem but as an assault on their basic human rights.
Earlier this year, eight states (including California and New York) filed suit against five major utility companies in an effort to force them to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
The right to a livable environment is part of a group of third-generation rights that are increasingly being recognized in international law. If the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights agrees that Inuit rights are being violated by greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, lawsuits may follow. Eventually, courts may compel the United States to act on a matter that neither the Bush Administration nor Congress has been willing to address. It is worth recalling that the civil rights movement in the United States was jump-started by a similar strategy in the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.
James Carroll, a columnist for the Boston Globe, has been one of my favorite writers since I read An American Requiem at Dan Caldwell's suggestion a few years ago. His most recent book, Crusade: Chronicles of an Unjust War, although a collection of newspaper columns, is one of the best things I've read on the Iraq War.
Carroll's column in the Globe today, entitled "God's Clock," is a very eloquent meditation on--and a timely reminder of--the relationship between religion and the transcendent.
Human Rights Watch has uncovered evidence concerning three more deaths of detainees in American custody in Afghanistan, bringing to six the number of detainees allegedly killed by American forces there. The New York Times reports the story here.
Sadly, this makes the comments that Ambassador Pierre Prosper made at Pepperdine last month (casting doubt on the veracity of news coverage of detainee deaths) look more and more like outright obfuscations--to be polite. (Streaming audio of the session at Pepperdine is available here [part 1] and here [part 2]. My comments at the session in response to Ambassador Prosper, in which I note the reporting by the Los Angeles Times of the death of Jamal Naseer in American custody in Afghanistan, begin about 50 minutes into the first part.)
The United States' position on global warming is getting the cold shoulder from the rest of the world as parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (to which the Kyoto Protocol is an amendment) meet in Buenos Aires. The Los Angeles Times has details:
BUENOS AIRES — The United States is the big odd man out as diplomats, scientists and environmentalists from more than 190 countries gather here at the 10th meeting of the United Nations' Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The focus of the convention is the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which mandates reduction of greenhouse gases that cause global warming and will take effect next year.
Discussions of new limits are expected to begin here when official delegations arrive Wednesday, near the end of the 12-day conference.
Among major industrial countries, only the U.S. and Australia have failed to ratify the accord, which commits signatory nations to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other gases to 5.2% below 1990 levels by 2012.
Observers here say the U.S. is increasingly being shut out as the rest of the world adopts global mechanisms by which each country will meet its targeted reductions, including one that allows companies to trade reductions in carbon emissions in a kind of global pollution market.
The U.S., which accounts for about a third of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, pulled out of the agreement in 2001.
U.S. officials last week acknowledged a global rise in temperatures caused by human activity but said the increase had not yet reached the "dangerous" levels that equired drastic action.
They reiterated that the Bush administration would not push for U.S. ratification of the accord.
Read the rest here.
It was on this date in 1997 that over 150 states convening in Kyoto, Japan adopted an agreement to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The Kyoto Protocol will enter into force on February 16, 2005, ninety days after Russia's ratification put the agreement over the threshold mandated by the treaty. (The agreement specified that entry into force would occur upon the ratifications of a combination of states accounting for over 55 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in 1990. Russia's ratification brought that figure up to 61.6 percent.) The thirty industrialized states that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol are committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 5 percent by 2012.
The United States has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol.
Today marks the fifty-sixth anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states in Article 1, "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. " This radical assertion of the fundamental equality of all human beings compels us to look beyond the many characteristics that separate us from one another--sex, race, nationality, age, religion, wealth, education, and more--and to focus on what unites us. It calls us to avoid dehumanizing others--even our enemies--and to work to affirm "the inherent dignity . . . of all members of the human family." It asks us, in short, to do what all respectable religions have always asked their adherents to do.
Mark the day.
The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was approved by the United Nations General Assembly on this date in 1948. It entered into force on January 12, 1951.
Article 2 states:
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
The United States signed the Genocide Convention on December 11, 1948. Ratification came almost forty years later, on November 25, 1988.
On January 11, 1967, Senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin began a personal crusade to secure U.S. ratification of the Genocide Convention. He gave a speech that day on the floor of the United States Senate urging ratification. It was the first of 3,211 original and unique speeches--one each day that the Senate was in session--that he would give over the course of the next nineteen years regarding the need to ratify the Genocide Convention.
The British refuse to count Iraqi war dead, too.
Yesterday Tony Blair rejected a call from more than 40 diplomats, peers, scientists and religious leaders who pressed for an independent inquiry for a civilian death toll.
"Figures from the Iraqi ministry of health, which are a survey from the hospitals there, are in our view the most accurate survey there is," he told parliament.
The Guardian discusses the issue of counting here.
On this date in 1941, one day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress for a declaration of war [.wav file]. Congress promptly responded with a resolution that was nearly unanimous in both Houses. The report on the front page of the New York Times on December 9, 1941 tells the story:
Washington, Dec. 8.--The United States today formally declared war on Japan. Congress, with only one dissenting vote, approved the resolution in the record time of 33 minutes after President Roosevelt denounced Japanese aggression in ringing tones. He personally delivered his message to a joint session of the Senate and House. At 4:10 P. M. he affixed his signature to the resolution.
There was no debate like that between April 2, 1917, when President Wilson requested war against Germany, and April 6, when a declaration of war was approved by Congress.
President Roosevelt spoke only 6 minutes and 30 seconds today compared with Woodrow Wilson's 29 minutes and 34 seconds.
The vote today against Japan was 82 to 0 in the Senate and 388 to 1 in the House. The lone vote against the resolution was in the House that of Miss Jeanette Rankin, Republican, of Montana. Her "No" was greeted with boos and hisses. In 1917 she voted against the resolution for war against Germany.
Jeannette Rankin (1880-1973), a pacifist and a leader in the women's suffrage movement, was instrumental in securing the right to vote for women in Montana in 1914, six years before the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment gave all women in the United States the franchise. In 1916, Rankin was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Montana becoming the first woman ever elected to Congress. Rankin was defeated in her bid for election to the U.S. Senate in 1918 at least in part because of her vote against American entry into World War I.
For the next two decades, Rankin was active in the international peace movement, particularly through the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. She ran for Congress again in 1940 on an isolationist platform and was elected to the House. Her vote on December 8, 1941--the lone dissent against war with Japan--was extremely unpopular. She chose not to run for reelection in 1942.
Rankin's commitment to pacifism never wavered. In the 1940s, she became interested in Gandhi's campaign of non-violent resistance. She went to India in 1946, the first of seven trips she would make there during her lifetime. In 1968, at the age of 87, Rankin led 5,000 women--the Jeannette Rankin Brigade--in a march on the Capitol to protest the Vietnam War.
John F. Kennedy said of Rankin, "Few members of Congress have ever stood more alone while being true to a higher honor and loyalty."
If this speech had been given by anyone else, I might have dismissed it as a diatribe by someone with profoundly anti-religious views. The speaker, however, is Bill Moyers--one of America's most respected journalists and, more to the point in this instance, an ordained Baptist minister with a divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He takes Christianity (and Christians) seriously and rejects simplistic caricatures. For all of these reasons--and others--his comments on receiving the Global Environment Citizen Award from the Harvard Medical School deserve careful attention.
Read the speech here.
This is one of the photos that the Pentagon has asked the media not to show. It depicts the return of American war dead from Iraq to Dover Air Force Base on board an Air Force C-130. The Memory Hole obtained the photo (and 287 others like it) through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Via Kevin Kumala, who keeps me informed about political developments in East Asia, comes word that Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Burma's pro-democracy movement, has recently had her house arrest extended for an indeterminate period by Burma's military junta.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who is universally acknowledged to be the leader and the personification of Burma's pro-democracy movement, was inspired by the non-violent methods of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1990, her National League for Democracy won a convincing victory in national elections, but the military government, refusing to accept the election results, extended the term of a house arrest that had been imposed the year before.
On the front page of the Los Angeles Times today is a story about the International Atomic Energy Agency's efforts to determine the scope of A. Q. Khan' s nuclear network. The investigation, according to the article, "has stalled in a clash of national interests that threatens a full accounting of [Khan's] secret partners and clients."
Khan, the father of Pakistan' s nuclear bomb, was arrested in December of last year for transferring nuclear technology to Libya. He was promptly pardoned by Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf. Since then, the Pakistani government has refused to allow IAEA inspectors to interview Khan in spite of the fact that he was responsible for "the world's worst case of nuclear proliferation," in the words of the LA Times article.
Are United States forces in Iraq attempting to suppress reporting of civilian casualties in Iraq? Naomi Klein thinks so.
Last week, Klein stated (in The Nation and in The Guardian) that "in Iraq, US forces and their Iraqi surrogates are no longer bothering to conceal attacks on civilian targets and are openly eliminating anyone--doctors, clerics, journalists--who dares to count the bodies." The comment drew the ire of Acting U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom David T. Johnson. In response to Ambassador Johnson's challenge, Klein presents her case in today's Guardian. Her conclusion recalls General Tommy Franks comment that "we don't do body counts" and states,
The question is: what happens to the people who insist on counting the bodies--the doctors who must pronounce their patients dead, the journalists who document these losses, the clerics who denounce them? In Iraq, evidence is mounting that these voices are being systematically silenced through a variety of means, from mass arrests, to raids on hospitals, media bans, and overt and unexplained physical attacks.
Judge for yourself whether her evidence supports this claim.
In 1976, Sichan Siv escaped across the border of Cambodia into Thailand, having spent a year in forced labor camps. While in Thailand, he became a Buddhist monk. A short time later, he was resettled as a refugee in Wallingford, Connecticut. He worked for a time as a cab driver in Manhattan before taking on a variety of positions in international development and government relations.
During the administration of George H. W. Bush, Siv served as Deputy Assistant to the President for Public Liaison and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs. From 1993 to 2001, he worked in banking and finance before becoming the senior adviser to the International Republican Institute. In October 2001, he was appointed to his current position: U.S. Representative to the U.N. Economic and Social Council.
Ambassador Siv's story--from refugee to ambassador--is the classic tale of the American dream. (Even more remarkable, however, is the transformation from Buddhist monk to prominent Republican.)
Nine years ago, NATO forces entered Bosnia in order to end a brutal conflict and campaign of ethnic cleansing. Their specific responsibility was to implement the Dayton Accords. That mission, IFOR (for Implementation Force), and its successor, SFOR (for Stabilization Force), successfully brought to an end Europe's most destructive war since World War II.
The peacekeeping operation, NATO's first, has been turned over to the 7,000 troops in the European Union Force (EUFOR). Meanwhile, NATO has established a headquarters in Sarajevo to help the Bosnian government reform its military and to support Bosnian efforts to move toward entry into the EU and NATO.
In Washington at the State Department, Secretary Powell noted that "over 500,000 servicemen and women from 43 nations, including 90,000 Americans, served in Bosnia and Herzegovina without losing a single soldier to hostile action."
General Augusto Pinochet has, for the second time, been stripped of his immunity from investigation and prosecution by a Chilean court. In this instance, he faces an investigation into his role in the murder of General Carlos Prats who, exiled from Chile, was killed along with his wife in 1974 when their car exploded. Pinochet, who faces other charges including tax fraud, may never appear in court due to his declining health.
(Thanks to Ben Young for the tip on this story.)
An ordained Episcopal minister who served three terms in the U.S. Senate from Missouri, Danforth was known--both in the Senate and at the United Nations--as a man of unassailable integrity. His long association with the Senate, his tendency to speak bluntly at the U.N. (a tendency often muted by the State Department), and his character invite comparisons to the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who served as U.N. Ambassador from 1975 to 1976.
Moynihan, in his 1980 book A Dangerous Place, an account of his U.N. service, wrote, "The Department of State desired that the United Nations prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook. This task was given to me, and I carried it forward with not inconsiderable success." Danforth's experience in his tenure was somewhat different. He was given the task of making the United Nations more effective, at least in response to the genocide in Sudan, but met with little success. But not for lack of effort.
The pictures and descriptions of the concentration camp at Omarska that were revealed to the world in 1992 played a major role in the decision of the United Nations Security Council a year later to create the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Television images broadcast in August 1992 of gaunt, half-naked men crowded behind barbed wire were eerily reminiscent of scenes encountered during the liberation of the Nazi death camps a generation earlier.
On November 2, 2001, five defendants were convicted by the ICTY of war crimes and crimes against humanity for acts performed at Omarska. The findings of fact in the judgment of the court are often revolting, as in the following description:
Witness Y described having to collect dead bodies from inside the white house and the red house and load them onto a truck. In the white house, the witness discovered "very big stains in that room. Almost all of the floor was covered in very dark stains, bloodstains. And on the radiator, I noticed some hair, parts of the head , brains, pieces of skull .… [A body in the room] was stiff. The joints around the elbows and in the area of the ankles were cut, and the throat was cut almost to the middle". A pile of bodies lay outside the red house, and "the dead bodies were still warm; the skulls were fractured; their jaws were fractured; there were bodies with throats slit".
Omarska was the site of iron ore mines. Now, the United Kingdom's richest man, Lakshmi Mittal, has purchased the old mines in order to return them to production. Survivors of the Omarska camp and relatives of those who perished there are urging Mittal to insure that the memory of what happened in Omarska is preserved in an appropriate way.
On Sunday, Nicole Garcia e-mailed me to ask whether it would be possible for a country other than the United States, employing the universality principle of jurisdiction, to prosecute Americans for the crimes at Abu Ghraib. (Under the concept of universal jurisdiction, any state may prosecute a crime that is deemed to violate the “law of nations.” Such crimes–-including crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, torture, slavery, and piracy–-are held to be so heinous that they constitute crimes against the international community as a whole. Consequently, those who commit these crimes are hostis humanis generis–-enemies of humankind–-and may be prosecuted, on behalf of the international community, by any state.) When Nicole and I talked a day or two later, I said that while the universality principle would provide legal grounds for another state to assert jurisdiction over Americans responsible for torture at Abu Ghraib (or at Guantánamo, for that matter), it was not likely to happen given the fact of American power. After all, sometimes what is legal is not politically expedient.
Apparently my faith in the power of law is not as strong as that of Michael Ratner and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR).
Here’s how the CCR describes the action it took yesterday: “In a historic effort to hold high-ranking U.S. officials accountable for brutal acts of torture including the widely publicized abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib, on Tuesday November 30, 2004, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and four Iraqi citizens filed a criminal complaint with the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office at the Karlsruhe Court, Karlsruhe, Germany.”
Michael Ratner, the CCR’s president, said:
From Donald Rumsfeld on down, the political and military leaders in charge of Iraq policy must be investigated and held accountable. It is shameful that the United States of America, a nation that purports to set moral and legal standards for world, refuses to seriously investigate the role of those at the top of the chain of command in these horrible crimes. Indeed, the existence of “torture memos” drafted by administration officials and the authorization of techniques that violated humanitarian law by Secretary Rumsfeld, Lt. General Sanchez and others make clear that responsibility for Abu Ghraib and other violations of law reaches all the way to the top.
The four Iraqi citizens listed, along with the CCR, as plaintiffs in the case are all former prisoners of the United States in Iraq. Two were detained and allegedly tortured at Abu Ghraib. The ten defendants include Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former Director of the CIA George Tenet, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Dr. Stephen Cambone, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, and six other high-ranking officers.
One of the ironies of this situation is that the German legal system, which the United States had to reform so thoroughly after World War II, now presents itself as the one legal system in the world that is most hospitable to an investigation of American human rights abuses.
For further reading:
The CCR’s account of its legal action is here. Reuters reports the story here. For those who can read German (or who know how to use AltaVista Babel Fish Translation), the Frankfurter Rundschau article on yesterday’s filing is here.
A stirring documentary entitled "The Day My God Died" aired on KCET last night. The film examines the issue of human trafficking by telling the stories of several girls sold into sex slavery in the world's largest red light district in Bombay, India. Also profiled in the film are the efforts of several organizations (including the International Justice Mission, whose founder, Gary Haugen, is featured prominently) that are working to rescue victims of human trafficking.
One of the issues addressed by the documentary is the spread of HIV/AIDS to and by the girls forced into prostitution. In addition to the horrendous human rights abuse represented by human trafficking, many of the victims--even those who are among the lucky few rescued from the brothels--have, as a consequence of their experience, what amounts to a death sentence. Sex trafficking is both a terrible human rights abuse and a significant factor in the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Unfortunately, no re-broadcast appears to be scheduled, but perhaps a showing can be scheduled by an IJM chapter near you. (Please let me know if you see the documentary scheduled on another public television station.)
The Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World begins today in Kenya. The summit is the first review conference for the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Antipersonnel Mines and on their Destruction, which was signed in Ottawa in 1997 and entered into force in 1999. Article 12 provides for a review conference to be held five years after the Convention's entry into force to assess progress toward the achievement of the Convention's objectives.
The summit will be attended by representatives of the governments that are parties to the Ottawa Convention, intergovernmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations.
The official web site for the Nairobi Summit is here.
For information on the Nairobi Summit from the perspective of NGOs involved with the issue, see the following:
The United States is not a party to the Ottawa Convention.
On May 6, 2001, the Bush Administration took the unprecedented step of renouncing the December 31, 2000 decision of the United States Government to sign the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The Administration also began a global campaign to convince states to sign bilateral "Article 98 agreements" designed to insure that no Americans would ever be handed over to the ICC for trial. (Art. 98, Sec. 2: "The Court may not proceed with a request for surrender which would require the requested State to act inconsistently with its obligations under international agreements pursuant to which the consent of a sending State is required to surrender a person of that State to the Court, unless the Court can first obtain the cooperation of the sending State for the giving of consent for the surrender.") At the United Nations, the United States secured resolutions in the Security Council in 2002 (SC Res 1422) and 2003 (SC Res 1487) to guarantee that no member of a U.N. peacekeeping mission from a state that is not a party to the Rome Statute (in other words, no American) would be liable to prosecution in the ICC. (Resolution 1487, which was itself an extension of Resolution 1422, expired on June 30, 2004. In the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal and widespread opposition to the idea of extending the blanket immunity for a third year, the United States withdrew its proposal for a new Security Council resolution granting Americans immunity from prosecution.)
Now the United States Congress is getting into the act. The $338 billion appropriations bill set for a vote on December 8 contains a provision that would prevent countries that fail to sign Article 98 agreements with the United States from receiving foreign aid. The passage of such a measure has the potential to cut off not only development assistance to impoverished countries but to eliminate funding designed to fight drug trafficking and promote democracy as well.
See this article in last Friday's Washington Post for details.
LAVUMISA, Swaziland - Victim by victim, AIDS is steadily boring through the heart of this small town.
It killed the mayor's daughter. It has killed a fifth of the 60 employees of the town's biggest businessman. It has claimed an estimated one in eight teachers, several health workers and 2 of 10 counselors who teach prostitutes about protected sex. One of the 13 municipal workers has died of AIDS. Another is about to. A third is H.I.V.-positive.
By one hut-to-hut survey in 2003, one in four households on the town's poorer side lost someone to AIDS in the preceding year. One in three had a visibly ill member.
That is just the dead and the dying. There is also the world they leave behind. AIDS has turned one in 10 Lavumisans into an orphan. It has spawned street children, prostitutes and dropouts. It has thrust grandparents and sisters and aunts into the unwanted roles of substitutes for dead fathers and mothers. It has bred destitution, hunger and desperation among the living.
It has the appearance of a biblical cataclysm, a thousand-year flood of misery and death. In fact, it is all too ordinary. Tiny Lavumisa, population 2,000, is the template for a demographic plunge taking place in every corner of southern Africa.
Read the entire story here.
The day after Thanksgiving marks the start of the Christmas shopping season. Not too many years ago, some stores began opening their doors at 8:00 a.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving. How quaint that now seems. According to ads I saw yesterday, there were some stores opening at 5:30 a.m. this morning. That's just plain wrong!
Inspired by The Motorcycle Diaries (which I finally saw on Wednesday) along with some Thanksgiving Day reflections on the extraordinary blessings that most of us in the United States experience, I've decided to make a few recommendations for this season of giving.
First, consider asking your family or friends for a goat--or a sewing machine or a mango tree. These gifts (and many others) can be given in your name to a family in the developing world through World Vision. (Click on the Gift Catalog.)
Second, consider giving (or asking for) a membership in--or simply a gift to--a non-profit organization that promotes the values you espouse--perhaps Amnesty International, International Justice Mission, Human Rights Watch, Habitat for Humanity, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, or another organization that works for justice.
Third, consider giving (and asking for) fewer things. Instead, give (and receive) museum memberships or theater tickets or piano (or voice or guitar or trombone) lessons or restaurant gift certificates. What we experience is much more important than what we own.
Fourth, if you send greeting cards, consider purchasing cards from a non-profit organization so that a portion of the purchase price will help to fund the work of the organization. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) benefits from the sale of cards at Pier One Imports stores and on-line. The Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation, Amnesty International, and other organizations sell holiday cards on-line.
Finally, you might be interested in "The Great Green Gift-Giving Guide" on the NRDC web site. There are a lot of ideas for gift-giving as if the Earth mattered.
Do you have other suggestions for giving--and receiving? Please leave a comment if you do.
Dallas, Nov. 22--President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was shot and killed by an assassin today. He died of a wound in the brain caused by a rifle bullet that was fired at him as he was riding through downtown Dallas in a motorcade.
Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who was riding in the third car behind Mr. Kennedy's, was sworn in as the 36th President of the United States 99 minutes after Mr. Kennedy's death.
This is how the lead story in the New York Times on November 23, 1963 began.
My earliest political memories revolve around the Kennedy assassination, an event that occurred 41 years ago today. That morning my mother went shopping in Fort Worth. She returned home (we lived at the time in Itasca, a small town about 45 miles south of Fort Worth) earlier than planned because all of the stores in Fort Worth and Dallas closed as soon as word of the shooting spread.
I can’t say that I remember much about the day of the assassination itself, nor do I remember seeing at that time the photos of the administration of the oath of office to Lyndon Baines Johnson aboard Air Force One, although I’ve seen the photos of both events often in the years since then. What I do remember is the television coverage of JFK’s funeral. If you watched the Washington, D.C. portion of President Reagan’s state funeral this past summer, you will know almost exactly what I saw on television, although back then it was in black and white.
The assassination of John F. Kennedy was, for me, a disturbing introduction to politics. For many Americans just a decade or so older than I am, it was (along with the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement) the defining political event of a generation.
In a federal trial concluded Friday in Santa Ana, California, an 86-year-old man was convicted of six felonies including intent to travel abroad for the purpose of engaging in illicit sex. According to the New York Times, John W. Seljan, 86, said that he had been traveling to Southeast Asia, a region notorious as a sex tourism destination, at least three times a year for the past two decades.
Seljan was prosecuted under the Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today (PROTECT) Act of 2003 (Public Law 108-21). Section 105 of the statute states:
Travel With Intent To Engage in Illicit Sexual Conduct.--A person who travels in interstate commerce or travels into the United States, or a United States citizen or an alien admitted for permanent residence in the United States who travels in foreign commerce, for the purpose of engaging in any illicit sexual conduct with another person shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both.
The italicized portion of this section of the PROTECT Act permits the extraterritorial exercise of U.S. jurisdiction under the nationality principle.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, posts a fact sheet that lists individuals arrested for child-sex tourism. Of the nine men listed, two are not U.S. citizens. Five of the nine have been charged but not yet convicted. Of the four convictions, only Seljan's case went to trial.
With sex tourism thriving in countries where the government is either unable or unwilling to address problems such as sex slavery and child prostitution, the developed countries whose citizens make such practices profitable are increasingly exercising extraterritorial jurisdiction in an effort to curtail the global sex trade. (It is estimated that a quarter of the world's child-sex tourists are Americans.) World Vision, with funding from the United States Government, has launched an ad campaign that includes billboards (in English) in countries such as Cambodia aimed at alerting sex tourists to the possibility of prosecution for crimes committed abroad. One such ad says, "Abuse a child in this country, go to jail in yours."
Although not limited in its scope to the child-sex trade, the dimensions of the problem can be seen in the Department of State's annual Trafficking in Persons Report.
The November 2004 issue of Foreign Policy includes an article--"Web of Influence"--on the impact of blogs on international politics. The authors, Daniel W. Drezner, assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago, and Henry Farrell, assistant professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, write:
Every day, millions of online diarists, or "bloggers," share their opinions with a global audience. Drawing upon the content of the international media and the World Wide Web, they weave together an elaborate network with agenda-setting power on issues ranging from human rights in China to the U.S. occupation of Iraq. What began as a hobby is evolving into a new medium that is changing the landscape for journalists and policymakers alike.
Kevin Sites, the freelance reporter who, while working as an embedded reporter for NBC News, filmed the execution-style killing of a wounded Iraqi, has a blog. His photos and description of a day in the battle for Falluja are worth a look.
In the wake of the killing of the wounded Iraqi, Amnesty International USA issued this statement:
The deliberate shooting of unarmed and wounded fighters who pose no immediate threat is a war crime under international law and there is therefore an obligation on the US authorities to investigate all such reports and to hold perpetrators of such crimes accountable before the law. Such investigations should be open and transparent and the findings should be made public. Any potential witnesses should be protected.
Also worth reading is Dexter Filkins' story in the New York Times about the battle for Falluja. Filkins notes that the eight days that it took to take Falluja constituted "the most sustained period of street-to-street fighting that Americans have encountered since the Vietnam War." He also states, in what is--for newspaper reporters--a rare self-referencing comment, "For a correspondent who has covered a half dozen armed conflicts, including the war in Iraq since its opening in March 2003, the fighting seen while traveling with a frontline unit in Falluja was a qualitatively different experience, a leap into a different kind of battle."
Filkins reports that, so far, 51 Americans have been killed and 425 have been wounded in the battle for Falluja. There are, of course, no reports available concerning the number of insurgents or civilians killed in Falluja.
Finally, Tom Friedman's column on Iraq offers some helpful perspective and a bit of optimism.
A Texan (surprise, surprise) has introduced the concept of Internet hunting. No, really. Here's the story from Reuters.
This may give new meaning to the phrase "hunt and peck typing." Instead of "surfing the web," we may soon "safari the web." The "fatal error" message may soon mean "fatal error." Bambi's survival may depend on the speed of a hunter's Internet connection. (Okay, I'll stop.)
What does this have to do with international relations? (Occasionally I have to remind myself that this blog is supposed to focus on IR.) I have an answer for that.
Throughout history, advances in hunting--and fishing--technology have quickly found application on the battlefield, and vice versa. The bow and arrow, used first for hunting, quickly developed into an instrument of war. Dynamite, invented by Alfred Nobel for use in war and industry, evolved into a favorite tool of fishermen. You see where this is going.
If Internet hunting works, the military will take note. The United States could one day police the world from a bank of computers buried deep within the Pentagon. Guns could be mounted on rooftops in the major cities of the world's most dangerous countries and aimed and fired as necessary from a computer half a world away. Eventually, the job of policing the world could be outsourced to a bunch of IT guys in Bangalore, India. The possibilities are endless.
Consider this postscript from P.J. O'Rourke, from a 1991 dispatch reprinted in his book Give War a Chance:
One more thing about this generation of soldiers--they grew up in video arcades. It's no coincidence that watching the Gulf War's high-tech weapons on our TV screens is so much like watching computer games. This war is the daddy of all Mario Brothers, the Gog and Magog of hacker networks, the devil's own personal core dump. And our soldiers have an absolutely intuitive, Donkey Kong-honed, gut-level understanding of the technology behind it. Thank God they do. It's why we're winning. So here's what you folks back home can do to help with the war effort. If you happen to have any kids and they're outdoors exercising in the healthy fresh air and sunshine, give them hell: "YOU GET IN HERE RIGHT NOW AND PLAY NINTENDO!" The future of our nation may depend on it.
The United Nations reports that opium production is booming in Afghanistan. The country accounts for 87 percent of global opium production, up from 76 percent last year. Here's a bit of what the New York Times says about the situation:
Heroin production is booming in Afghanistan, undermining democracy and putting money in the coffers of terrorists, according to a U.N. report Thursday that called on U.S. and NATO-led forces get more involved in fighting drug traffickers.
"Fighting narcotics is equivalent to fighting terrorism," said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. "It would be an historical error to abandon Afghanistan to opium, right after we reclaimed it from the Taliban and al-Qaida."
The drug trade accounts for a staggering 60 percent of Afghanistan's gross domestic product.
The full report (Afghanistan Opium Survey, 2004) is available here.
Meagan Butler, in a comment on an earlier post, quoted this memorable line from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail" (April 16, 1963): "Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. . . . Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." I want to add another line from the same document: "We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people."
Read King's entire letter here.
The conference at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama this past weekend was exceptional. There are a number of themes that I hope to write about over the course of the next several days. A good starting point, however, might be yesterday's experiences, which, for me, perfectly framed the academic discussions of Christianity and human rights during the many sessions on Friday and Saturday.
On Sunday morning, I attended the services at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. The city of Birmingham was founded in 1871; the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was established two years later. It is Birmingham's oldest church, but it is more famous for the role it played in the Civil Rights Movement.
During the 1950s and 1960s--and especially in 1963, the year that Martin Luther King, Jr. was jailed and Bull Connor turned firehoses on children in peaceful protest marches--Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was the focal point of the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham. On September 15, 1963, the church was bombed. Four young girls were killed and twenty other people were injured. (Four Ku Klux Klan members were implicated in the bombing. One was convicted and sentenced in 1977, another died, never having been tried, in 1994, and two others were convicted and sentenced in 2001 and 2002.)
It occurred to me as I sat in church that for the people in that congregation who were old enough to have lived through the events of 1963--people like Deacon Marvin Hicks, who greeted me so warmly out on the street as I arrived and then again inside after the service was over--the question of how Christianity should inform one's response to injustice and even violence was not an academic question. They didn't have the time or the money or perhaps even the desire to organize a conference on Christianity and human rights. They worked out the answers as they watched their homes and churches being bombed. And, judging from what I saw at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute across the street, they got it right. They responded to serious violations of human rights in a way that promoted both justice and reconciliation.
Most of us lack a sense of urgency about determining how our faith should affect our response to serious human rights abuses because those human rights abuses are not happening to us. That, however, is a self-interested response totally at odds with Christ's teachings about loving our neighbors with, as the story of the Good Samaritan reminds us, a broad understanding of who our neighbor is.
In the course of working on a paper on dehumanization and human rights abuses, I picked up a book that I had read several years ago--We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch. Although depressing (as all books on the Rwandan genocide must be), the book is well worth reading.
While skimming the book to find Gourevitch's descriptions of the dehumanizing propaganda that was employed to incite killing (the book has no index), I came across this passage (pp. 170-71):
I was reminded of a conversation I had with an American military intelligence officer who was having a supper of Jack Daniel's and Coca-Cola at a Kigali bar.
"I hear you're interested in genocide," the American said. "Do you know what genocide is?"
I asked him to tell me.
"A cheese sandwich," he said. "Write it down. Genocide is a cheese sandwich."
I asked him how he figured that.
"What does anyone care about a cheese sandwich?" he said. "Genocide, genocide, genocide. Cheese sandwich, cheese sandwich, cheese sandwich. Who gives a shit? Crimes against humanity. Where's humanity? Who's humanity? You? Me? Did you see a crime committed against you? Hey, just a million Rwandans. Did you ever hear about the Genocide Convention?"
I said I had.
"That convention," the American at the bar said, "makes a nice wrapping for a cheese sandwich."
What if the military intelligence officer was right? What if our concern about genocide, when it comes right down to it, is no greater than our concern about a cheese sandwich?
With U.S., British, and Iraqi forces now inside Falluja, it's worth considering what the U.S. Army says about military operations on urbanized terrain (MOUT). This is from Army Field Manual FM 90-10, Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain (MOUT):
The decision to attack or defend an urban complex can result in massive damage and destruction. Constraints on firepower to insure minimum collateral damage within its built-up areas can be expected. Combat operations may be hampered by the presence of civilians in the battle area. Concern for their safety can seriously restrict the combat options open to the commander. The necessity to provide life support and other essential services to civilians can siphon off a substantial amount of military resources and manpower. A hostile population may also impose a serious security problem. Success may well be measured by how we accomplish our mission while minimizing destruction of buildings and alienation of the population. On the urban battlefield, advantages and disadvantages in the areas of mobility, cover, and observation tend to even out for attacker and defender. Initially, however, the defender has a significant tactical advantage over the attacker because of his knowledge of the terrain.
In addition to the current battle, other urban operations of note include the Battle of Mogadishu during Operations Restore Hope in Somalia (1993) and the Battle of Hue during the Vietnam War (1968). In both instances, the United States inflicted tremendous losses on the enemy but suffered serious political setbacks.
The Battle of Hue was part of the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War. Communist forces took the city and carried out a massacre of those they considered "cruel tyrants and reactionary elements." South Vietnamese forces and U.S. Marines counter-attacked to retake the city. In the end, 150 Marines, 400 South Vietnamese troops, and an estimated 5,000 Communists were killed. The body count and the success at securing the city suggested a victory for the United States, but television coverage of the battle was widely regarded as speeding the American public's rejection of the war.
In Mogadishu, at least 500 Somalis were killed in a fierce urban battle prompted by a mission to capture two of Somali warlord Mohamed Farah Aidid's aides. But eighteen Americans were killed in what was supposed to be a humanitarian assistance mission and television captured the image of one of the Americans being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. In spite of the tactical success acheived by the mission and relatively small number of American casualties, most Americans--and most Somalis--regarded the battle as a defeat for the world's strongest military.
American military leaders are well aware of the history of MOUT. The heavy use of air power prior to the onset of ground operations in Falluja suggests that a decision was made to give greater weight to protecting American, British, and Iraqi forces than Iraqi civilians. Given the importance of winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqis, such a strategy is risky. Of course, the alternatives carry different risks.
We will know soon whether the Battle of Falluja was a military success. It will take longer to determine if it was a political success.
Remember the British newspaper project designed to put people from around the world in touch with Clark County, Ohio voters? It may well have benefited George Bush more than John Kerry.
Bush carried Clark County, 34,444 to 32,824. But, judging from these letters and e-mails printed in The Guardian, at least the cause of trans-Atlantic understanding was well served . . . if, that is, the British don't mind being called "weenie-spined limeys," "mealy-mouthed morons," "yellow-toothed pansies," and "filthy animals." (There were other epithets not fit to print in a family-friendly blog like this one.)
Apparently some of the American letter writers forgot that the British are in the "coalition of the willing."
Now that the election is over, will Americans try to forget about Iraq? The assault on Falluja may make it difficult for the next few days, but it appears that we are already doing our best as a society to ignore Iraq's unpleasant realities.
Last Monday, Scott Ritter, who was a senior U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998, published this essay in The Guardian in which he discussed the study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health estimating that 100,000 Iraqi civilians may have already died in the Iraq War. (The International Herald Tribune reported the story here.) Ritter concludes that "we all are moral cowards when it comes to Iraq. Our collective inability to summon the requisite shame and rage when confronted by an estimate of 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians in the prosecution of an illegal and unjust war not only condemns us, but adds credibility to those who oppose us."
[Update: Here's a link to the Johns Hopkins University study mentioned above.]
Western intelligence agencies have been worried for years about the threat posed to civil aviation by shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles like the Stinger missiles the United States supplied to the mujahedeen for use in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union during the 1980s. Now the New York Times reports that the threat may be significantly greater than was previously thought.
American intelligence agencies have tripled their formal estimate of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile systems believed to be at large worldwide, since determining that at least 4,000 of the weapons in Iraq's prewar arsenals cannot be accounted for, government officials said Friday.
A new government estimate says a total of 6,000 of the weapons may be outside the control of any government, up from a previous estimate of 2,000, American officials said.
It is not known how many of the missiles are in the hands of terrorist organizations. However, the price on the black market is said to be $5,000. That means (1) the black-market supply of missiles is plentiful and (2) the price is within reach of almost any organization that might be interested in purchasing them.
Garry Wills had an interesting column in yesterday's New York Times that articulates a view of the partisan divide in the United States that I've been mulling over. What follows is my take on the issue. Be sure to read Wills' take on it.
In the past, liberals and conservatives have often been divided over the question of what ought to be done about domestic and foreign policy problems. We understood the problems--poverty, the spread of Communism, drug abuse, etc.--in the same way, but differed on whether tax cuts or welfare programs, containment or rollback, tougher sentencing or more treatment programs were the proper remedies. Now we seem, increasingly, to be unable even to agree on what the problems are. Facts--not interpretations of facts, not policy prescriptions--are in dispute. Did Iraq have WMD in March 2003? The Kay Report and the Duelfer Report said "no." A majority of those who voted for George W. Bush said "yes." Has the United States tortured some detainees at Guantanamo and "disappeared" others? The New York Times and Human Rights Watch, based on the testimony of witnesses, say "yes." U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues Pierre Prosper says we shouldn't believe the media.
A decade or so ago, conservatives worried that postmodernism (or post-positivism, to be more specific--although few are very specific when discussing this topic) was causing us to lose our moorings as a society. It was, in other words, turning us into relativists for whom truth has no fixed meaning. Conservatives pointed the finger at liberals, particularly those in academia who dared to discuss the ideas of Jacques Derrida, Francois Lyotard, Richard Rorty, or Stanley Fish. Ironically, it now appears that conservatives are the ones to whom the rejection of Enlightenment principles has proved most appealing. As a consequence, here is the conservative post-positivist's view of truth: Revealed truth (which depends on the relationship of the knower to the one--often, but not always, the One--who reveals it) is beyond question. Objective truth (which is the same for all knowers) is subject to question. It is a reversal of the Enlightenment view of truth.
To be as clear as I can be, I have no quarrel with faith (or with people of faith). I do, however, think that reason is a good thing, too. Christians, in fact, have always regarded faith and reason (or faith and learning, in the parlance preferred at Pepperdine) as perfectly compatible. It would, I think, be good to return to that understanding.
Blue staters clearly misunderestimated George W. Bush once again. Not since George H. W. Bush defeated Michael Dukakis in 1988 has a Republican candidate for president received more votes than the Democratic candidate. Apparently GOP GOTV efforts were very successful. The conventional wisdom says high voter turnout helps the Democrats, but in this election the Bush campaign neutralized the traditional Democratic advantage from high turnout.
Meanwhile, here are a few random observations:
While I was spending the weekend at a conference in Washington, D.C., October ended without the much anticipated "October surprise." I am a bit surprised not to have been surprised.
Osama bin Laden's message does not, in my opinion, count. First, it wasn't generated by Karl Rove (as a real "October surprise" would have been). Second, it was a message that seems to have had remarkably little impact on Americans. (Even Republican commentators have expressed uncertainty about whether the message benefits Bush or Kerry.) Third, it is clear that bin Laden's target audience was the Muslim world, not Americans. Yes, he addressed himself to Americans, but the message was designed to rally Muslims to his cause.
Many aspects of the trip to Washington deserve additional comment (and will get additional comment in the days to come), but for now I have just a few quick observations.
Finally, it's worth noting that the Washington Redskins lost their home game on Sunday. That guarantees a Kerry victory tomorrow. (However, it probably doesn't guarantee that we'll know by the end of the day tomorrow that Kerry won.)
Over 850 scholars in the field of international relations have signed an "Open Letter to the American People" that "call[s] urgently for a change of course in American foreign and national security policy." The statement continues:
We judge that the current American policy centered around the war in Iraq is the most misguided one since the Vietnam period, one which harms the cause of the struggle against extreme Islamist terrorists. One result has been a great distortion in the terms of public debate on foreign and national security policy--an emphasis on speculation instead of facts, on mythology instead of calculation, and on misplaced moralizing over considerations of national interest.
In a statement that is appended to the open letter, Robert Keohane of Duke University lists seven lessons that the United States should learn based on its recent experiences.
1. Base policy on analysis, not fixed beliefs.
2. Always have a Plan B. The State Department prepared a much more realistic assessment of the problems that would face the United States in the aftermath. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld not only rejected the plan; he sought to prevent anyone associated with it from being involved in postwar planning for Iraq.
3. Remember that military power is not sufficient to achieve most political objectives. It does not assure that we will win the peace. To achieve political objectives, it is essential to be able to persuade people that our values and interests are consistent with theirs.
4. The first principle of foreign policy is to match goals with resources. The key goal of American foreign policy--to fight terrorism--has been undermined by the attack on Iraq.
5. Occupations almost always generate mobilized opposition.
6. War is dangerous for democracy. This administration has claimed virtually unlimited authority to arrest and prosecute, without normal guarantees of due process, anyone it accuses of involvement with terrorism, inside or outside the United States. "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty," and is especially needed in wartime.
7. Dismissing international law is detrimental to our capacity to lead.
Read the letter, check to see if your favorite IR professors have signed, and leave a comment.
Pierre Prosper, the United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, spoke at Pepperdine today. His comments addressed Sudan, the special tribunal in Iraq, and (briefly and superficially) the Guantanamo detainees. I had the opportunity to respond to Ambassador Prosper's talk and took the opportunity to discuss torture in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Gardez, and Mosul, issues that have been covered in posts on this blog. I also took the opportunity to suggest that Ambassador Prosper ought to resign. Here are the concluding paragraphs of my remarks:
I understand that some people in the United States don’t care about the rule of law in the international system. That is not, I assume, Ambassador Prosper’s position.
I understand that the Department of Defense, not the Department of State, is in charge of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. So perhaps Ambassador Prosper was never consulted about what constitutes torture or told about what is being done under the heading of "harsh interrogations." But Europeans–including those in the "coalition of the willing"–know what’s going on in Guantanamo and in Gardez, Afghanistan. Surely some of them have spoken to the Ambassador for War Crimes Issues about American crimes.
I believe Ambassador Prosper to be a decent man concerned about human rights and international justice. I am, however, having increasing difficulty squaring that belief with the fact that he has not resigned his office.
I have to ask, in conclusion, just what would have to happen, Mr. Ambassador, for you to conclude that you could no longer serve this Administration as Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues?
Much to my surprise, Ambassador Prosper did not announce his resignation on the spot. I'm sure, though, that it will happen soon.
This story, from tomorrow's New York Times, provides some very encouraging news from Africa. Across the continent, millions of children are enrolling in schools for the first time as country after country makes primary education free. The change in policy is a product of democratization (office-seekers have found that free education is popular with voters) and a change in policy by the World Bank, which had formerly encouraged governments to charge school fees.
There are, of course, many problems with the massive influx of new students, including over-crowded classes and severe shortages of supplies. Some elementary schools in Kenya have a student-teacher ratio of over 100:1. Nonetheless, many families in Africa perceive education as the way out of crushing poverty and are taking advantage of this opportunity their governments are struggling to provide.
Read the story and consider whether or not some organization you belong to--your church, your service club, your sorority or fraternity, or whatever--could help to support a school (or at least a student) in Africa. Leave a comment if you want help figuring out how to do it.