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.)