Thursday, July 28, 2005

IRA Calls It Quits

After the 1916 Rising, the Republic of Ireland finally won its freedom from England in 1918. The political party Sinn Fein had as much to do with its freedom as the revolution did, voting in the English Parliament to cede from England. There was one notable exception in 1921: a 5500-mile stretch at the northern tip of Ireland, already more industrialized than its southern neighbor. At the time, the populace of Northern Ireland was largely made up of British loyalists (Protestants) with very few Irish Republicans (Catholics) living there.

The religious associations between the two groups became a litmus test for political affiliation. If one was Catholic, then one was treated as a rebel. Incidents of British brutality and negligence in certain Catholic neighborhoods were commonly reported. Thus, the Irish Republican Army was formed to protect those Catholic citizens from their Protestant neighbors.

In 1969, the Catholic minority staged a series of civil rights marches intent on securing fair allocation of public housing and fair employment practices. After many Protestant anti-protests ignited violence, the British Army was sent in as a neutral force to protect the Catholic protesters from the Protestant mobs and paramilitary. The violence, despite British forces, spiraled out of control, and marked the suspension of Northern Ireland's Parliament.

This consummated in 1972's Bloody Sunday where 12 unarmed men and boys were killed and 14 others wounded when British forces laid siege to a peaceful Civil Rights rally in Derry, Northern Ireland. It was this fateful event that marked the spike in the IRA's recruitment and its increased role in the Northern Ireland resistance movement.

Blood Sunday

The violence that ignited both Northern Ireland and England finally paused in 1998, when the "Good Friday" peace accord was signed by the IRA, Protestant paramilitary leaders and the Irish and English governments. Thus, only the political party Sinn Fein remained in pursuit of a unified Ireland, constantly denying its one-time association with the violent IRA.

Now, today marks the IRA announcement that it will end its violent campaign entirely:
The leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann has formally ordered an end to the armed campaign.

This will take effect from 4pm this afternoon.

All IRA units have been ordered to dump arms.

All Volunteers have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means.

Volunteers must not engage in any other activities whatsoever.
This painfully slow process towards peace in Northern Ireland seems to have been embraced fully by even its most radical elements. Whether it was simply the wearisome strife and destruction since 1972 that ate away at the incessant violence or the new violence in London and the terrorist threat at large that woke the IRA up, there is for a time peace.

And that for now, may be all that matters.

Pentagon Reconsiders War On Terror

After writing numerous posts criticizing the military approach to a largely diplomatic and criminal issue the War on Terror presents (Filling The Swamp, Bombs Aren't Nutritious?, Heaven's Not Overflowing, Article Heard Round The World, Bush's Shooting Gallery), I was shocked to hear these words on CSPAN from the US News and World Report:
Officially titled the "National Military Strategic Plan for the War on Terrorism," the document is the culmination of 18 months of work and is a significant evolution from the approach adopted after the 9/11 attacks, which was to focus on capturing or killing the top al Qaeda leaders. For the first time since then, Pentagon officials say, they have a strategy that examines the nature of the antiterror war in depth, lays out a detailed road map for prosecuting it, and establishes a score card to determine where and whether progress is being made.
So, it took almost 4 years after 9/11 before such a detailed plan emerges? It has taken an unnecessary war in Iraq and increased public skepticism before the US government reconsiders its options. I can only hope the reign of "bumper sticker" foreign policy is over.

Terrorists still thrive despite Al-Queda leadership.

The following key points of the soon-to-be declassified document are as follows:
  • Terrorists are no longer considered only Al-Queda operatives or associates. Terrorists are now considered "Islamist extremists" within a "global web of enemy networks." This provides a much needed admission that the terrorist problem has been growing rampantly despite Al-Queda's reduced leadership.

  • The Pentagon cannot win the War on Terror by military alone. The new plan details diplomatic and social means of reducing terrorist recruiting, and places a strong emphasis on destroying terrorist networks rather than waging war on other countries.

  • A new set of metrics will be used for bi-yearly review of current progress. These metrics involve field commanders reporting success in locating and dismantling terrorist safe havens, financial assets, communications networks, and planning cells for each of the target groups.

  • The Pentagon's Special Operations Command is designated as the global "synchronizer" for all military commands and is responsible for the overall "War on Terror" campaign. This will hopefully reduce the chaos that currently plagues the US effort and move all military and diplomatic forces into a common direction.
Communists-TerroristsDespite all of my inner cynicism, I knew it was only a matter of time before someone realized we are creating enemies faster than we can kill them. To treat the terrorist threat like a verbatim routine as was instituted against communism in the Cold War, would be suicide. But to deny the nuclear dimension of the terrorist threat is equally suicide. I don't believe any sane individual wants the rapture in the midst of a nuclear holocaust. We must strike at the root of terrorism: the fanaticism and desperation that fuels it or fall victim to legitimizing them through lengthy military engagements.

Perhaps if the US and other nations can keep their war-hawks at bay, we really may drain the swamp...

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Bombing Mosques...Seriously?!

Not that I believe John Edwards was extremely erudite on the Roberts Supreme Court nomination, but I was curious nevertheless what the former lawyer would have to say. Well, the honest truth was I got bored with Mr. Edwards opinion, so I started reading comments. Then, I came across this right-wing conspiracy nonsense:
Which MOSQUE is YOURS ???????
by Faith on 2005-07-22 23:39:29

Several mosques in America have been used as recruiting stations . The leaders of the 9/11 hijacking ring attended at least 7 mosques in the United States while in America. That is one example. It's something that happened in the past, but even as I write this the same kind of meetings are taking place all over America; even the world. The members of dangerous hostile groups are using these mosques as sanctuaries of terror and subversive plots against our government.

Some mosques are being used to procure weapons and some have been arrested last year for trying to buy a missile used for terror attacks. Yes, the unpleasant truth is that too many mosques are being used as sanctuaries for terrorist activities. SOME MAY BE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD!

(actual listing of mosques omitted)

Be afraid--be very afraid- ! And quit worrying about the Islamics who will be insulted ETC. Because,or if, we decided we don't want any more mosques built in our country !!!! Lets be some of those who rise above the crowds of bleeding hearts screaming for more tolerance in America. Why should we "tolerate" Sanctuaries of terror and those who use them to conspire against us ? All you have to do is use common sense to realize you are being exploited and you have a right to resist that !

As soon as I can I will give more details about these mosques in maybe YOUR town ! The details are very convincing; believe it.
I find it unfathomable that this kind of fear could pervade any thinking individual. It is the equivalent of synagogues for SS in Nazi Germany and Christian Churches for the Turks in the Armenian Genocide. To simply focus on associations rather than the individual terrorists or the terrorist organizations that enable them is ludicrous.

I say this, but I know some right-wing blogger is probably going to make a fool of themselves and actually comment positively on this absolute drivel.

I surely hope I'm wrong. I would like to think America as a whole has a little bit more tolerance and comprehension than that.

Rival to Kyoto

Following my previous post in June (Global Worming), there are rumors that the US and Australia are working on a rival protocol to the Kyoto Treaty, based on industry not the big picture. Supposedly some Asian countries are involved including China, India and South Korea. The competing pact involves using cleaner technologies rather than by wholesale emission reduction.

As the BBC reports, there are some very logical reasons why wholesale reduction is off the table for these countries:
According to the organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the four biggest producers of coal in the world are China, the United States, India and Australia; so it is unlikely that these nations would come up with an agreement to reduce the production and use of coal.

The final plan of action from this month's meeting of G8 leaders made clear that fossil fuel power stations are going to be a dominant source of electricity for decades to come, and reducing their emissions would be a priority.
To deny that both cleaner technologies and large emission reductions are needed to slow down if not stop climate change is absolutely ridiculous. The Kyoto Treaty does not do near enough, but surely this new US pact with a stubborn focus on technology and not emission quantity, also side- steps the larger issue. Emissions must be reduced, and industry must be held to task.

Utah Pollution

Technology is a means to that end, but cannot be an end unto itself. Or else there is no reduction and more useless legislation. The environment in which we live is as important if not more so to the world's economy. If in this alone, the world can agree only then can progress be made.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

If There Was Truth on TV

I read this Doonesbury comic a few days ago and I thought it summed up so much better my vain hope that this president will "turn the corner" than any blog entry I could conceive.

doonesbury comic

Quality in Iraq Police, Not Quantity

On the cusp of recent news involving the increasing Iraqi Police dropout rate and more Iraqi police dead from insurgent attacks, the US Departments of State and Defense released an independent report yesterday on the current training progress. Their report points out the poor screening process used by coalition forces in accepting potential trainees and the lack of input from the Iraqis of what needs these new police officers must be trained to meet. In a nutshell, the report goes farther than criticizing the policies and procedures; it recommends an immediate overhaul of the current processes.

iraqi police forces

On the US Administration's insistence upon the numbers game, the report emphasizes the fallacy of this policy:
Coalition officials perceived a primary objective should be the fastest possible creation of a sizeable police force. To determine a force-strength target, planners reviewed per capita police-to-population ratios in neighboring Islamic countries. On this basis, 135,000 "“trained and equipped"” was considered to be the required number of Iraqi police (IP). The IIG agreed to this figure, and the IG Team accepts the logic of this methodology.

Nonetheless, aiming for numbers poses other issues. With the mix of IPs already on the force plus new recruits, it is hard to determine how many IPs are "trained and equipped." There are differing views on which units should be counted or how to validate the numbers against the goal of 135,000. Attrition and the failure to hire trainees (and/or trainees'’ decisions not to join the IPS) are additional factors that cloud the numbers'’ calculations. Coalition training subsequently has been driven by a focus on the numbers metric.

With a high IP casualty toll (over 1,600 policemen have lost their lives over the past year), widely publicized incidents in which the IP failed in the face of attacks, and skepticism among foreign observers, there is a perception that training programs have produced "cannon fodder" - —numbers of nominal policemen incapable of defending themselves, let alone the Iraqi public.
Well, I applaud this report's gall in trying to gauge the success of the Iraqi effort. I only hope the Bush Administration will listen and act accordingly. Their track record of ignoring reality notwithstanding.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Back with More Bombings

Well, thank you to all of the well-wishers and fans of your village voice for waiting out my brief absence. I am glad to report that all is well with my injured grandfather and is recovering by leaps and bounds.

Others did not fare so well in my absence. In the US, President Bush dropped his Supreme Court nomination bomb in the form of mild-conservative, darkhorse John Roberts. The only complaints from reputable sources on the left involve his murky judicial framework and political involvement within the current administration. Not surprisingly, the White House under the guise of a "quick and fair nomination" process, is stonewalling the nomination hearings by its refusal to release all memos and other documentation while Roberts was working for two Republican presidents.

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy had this to say about invoking client-lawyer privilege over the Robert's non-disclosure:
It's a total red herring to say, "Oh, we can't show this." Those working in the solicitor general's office are not working for the president. They're working for you and me and all the American people.
In other bombing news, the oppressive Egyptian government has arrested 35 people after Saturday's Sharm al-Sheikh bombing, which killed at least 88 people. Whether they're guilty or innocent remains to be seen, but with the recent restrictions on Egyptian civil liberties, it is more of a philosophical question than a legal one.

After the failed London bombing last week, most Britons believe that the Iraq War has contributed to its recent bombing and bombing attempts. A recent survey finds more than 60%think the conflict is a contributing factor, while 23% believe the war is the main cause for the bombing attacks. In a resounding affirmation of this, two more Baghdad bombings shook Iraq this morning at Sadir Hotel and the Interior Ministry police command in one of Saddam's former palaces. This comes after yesterday's suicide bombing at a police station in eastern Baghdad, which killed least 22 people.

Is any doubt the similarity between Iraq and other news last week? The link is violence and obfuscation, whether involving Al-Queda or its US counterpart, clearly demonstrating the logical end of both radical ideologies.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Clever or Coulter?

First of all...let me say thank you to "The Prisoner" for asking me to fill in a few guest posts while he is indisposed. I'm not sure I'm worthy of the honor but I'll do my best to hold all of you over until he returns.
This post below is one that I posted earlier today on my site (www.pettyrage.com)...so for any of you crossover readers...bear with me.
I will have an original "your village voice" post coming shortly.
In the meantime, I'll start you off with this:

Thanks for your patience,
Lefty Jones





Clever or Coulter?


Annoying Ann strikes again.
She's truly one of those people that almost NEVER says anything intelligent OR funny and trust me, I've tried to be nice.
Worse yet, she and many other on the right believe her to be some kind of sex-symbol which IS funny but which also tells you just how out of step and loony many on the right are.
Hot?
Cracker please....(hissing sound)

So, today Ann shoots off her mouth and gets in to the headlines by decrying Justice Roberts as the nominee.
Does this mean that rational minded folk should be pleased because Annoying Ann is not?
Nope...not at all.
First of all, she's a party lackey and it behooves Republicans to put the spin out there that this guy might be too moderate.
Second of all, Ann cares about Ann. And only Ann.
Bashing Roberts gives her street cred with the Neo-con crowd that buys her wittily titled books like, " How to talk to a Liberal, if you must...."

Hehehe....she's a chucklefest, that Ann is.
Anyway...do with her words what you will. To me, they are just words that serve Ann. Which is why....and this will anger Ann....i don't hate her as she assumes all people on the left do.
You see, to hate her would require an effort that she isn't worth and it would mean that she actually holds some power or ability to implement her insane ideas.
She does not.
She simply shepherds a flock and gets well paid to do it.
In the meantime, I'll worry more about people who actually can do anything about what they say rather than just a third rate mouthpiece.


picture borrowed/stolen from MoPaul.com

Friday, July 15, 2005

Brief Blog Hiatus

Sorry to all of those village dedicated fans out there, but I'll be away from the virtual world on personal business until 7/26. So, hopefully that'll give you time to catch up on some of the older posts and read some of the village voice's newest contributors.

Let's hope Hurrican Emily avoids the Houston area!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Torture? What Torture?

The abuses at Abu Ghraib shocked the world. The alleged torture of detainees created a wave of popular discontent in America and other countries. The Whitehouse immediately responded with the following press release in May 2004:

President Bush views the Abu Ghraib prison abuses as abhorrent.

What took place at Abu Ghraib does not represent America, which is a compassionate country that believes in freedom. America sent troops into Iraq to promote freedom.

There are investigations under way to determine how widespread abuse may be occurring.

President Bush has instructed Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to find the truth and then tell the Iraqi people and world the truth. Then, to address the problems in a forthright, up-front manner.

These actions of a few people do not reflect the nature of the men and women who serve our country.
Truly, this will reassure American citizens and the world over that the Bush Administration will not tolerate this kind of behavior. These kinds of deplorable techniques are just isolated cases of abuse, certainly not a systemic trend within the Pentagon itself.

Well... not exactly.
I don't know what the hell torture constitutes!

It seems the same kind of behavior that landed seven enlisted soldiers in jail is wrong in Iraq but okay in Cuba. According to a report recently released by military investigators, the same abuses in Abu Ghraib were a clone of techniques used in Gitmo:
The techniques, approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for use in interrogating Mohamed Qahtani -- the alleged "20th hijacker" in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- were used at Guantanamo Bay in late 2002 as part of a special interrogation plan aimed at breaking down the silent detainee.

The report's findings are the strongest indication yet that the abusive practices seen in photographs at Abu Ghraib were not the invention of a small group of thrill-seeking military police officers. The report shows that they were used on Qahtani several months before the United States invaded Iraq.

The investigation also supports the idea that soldiers believed that placing hoods on detainees, forcing them to appear nude in front of women and sexually humiliating them were approved interrogation techniques for use on detainees.
Major General Geoffrey Miller, who commanded the Guantanamo detention facility and later responsible for major US operations in Abu Ghraib, was accused of improper supervision of Qahtani during his interrogation at Gitmo. The report recommended punishment for Miller, but General Bantz Craddock, head of U.S. Southern Command, refused:
My reason for disapproving that recommendation is that the interrogation of [Qahtani] did not result in any violation of a U.S. law or policy. And the degree of supervision provided by Major General Miller does not warrant admonishment under the circumstances.
The report goes on to describe the abuses as "creative" and "aggressive", but stopped short of calling them "torture." Nor does the report delineate what would constitute torture within the scenarios documented.

So, this is US Liberty and Justice? The administration and Pentagon deny any wrongdoing and arbitrarily punish soldiers who are simply doing what they are told. The public is told the situation is not "torture" (without identifying what is torture) and the military throws blame on its lowest ranks.

I am not sure which is more wrong: the abuse, the coverup of the abuse, punishment of the innocent, or the redefinition of torture. Any sane individual can see how these heinous acts have rotted out any logic they may once have had. Abuse is abuse. These means have no possible justifiable end for any country, certainly not MY country.

This abuse must stop.

Bush Country

This sums up the far right-wingnut "all hail the government" arguments out there. You know who you are. No offense to thinking conservatives, of course.

ModernWorld

USA Patriot Act Dilution

After much debate over the USA Patriot Act's sunset provisions, the US House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees have proposed measures to dilute executive power and merely extend existing sunset provisions. This, of course, puts to a quick end the Bush Administration's Patriot Act Part II suggestions:
In particular, the House Judiciary Committee put a 10-year expiration date on the provision granting federal authorities the right to subpoena records from businesses, hospitals and libraries, as well as a provision allowing the government to continue to wiretap phones when suspects switch numbers.

The House Intelligence Committee approved making those provisions permanent, but only after adding measures to require additional judicial oversight of the subpoenas and search requests.

Both House committees declined to include a measure proposed this year by the Senate Intelligence Committee that would grant the investigators the right to use "administrative subpoenas" — effectively, the right to issue their own search warrants without getting a judge's approval first.
The USA Patriot Act renewal process is in its early stages however, so many are hopeful this is a good start in the right direction. I certainly hope this will lead the Senate to support more limitations and perhaps by the time it comes to a Joint Session, the USA Patriot Act may keep it potency and have additional oversight.

I hope congress will continue its examination of the SAFE Act. Co-sponsor the SAFE Act petition and show your support.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Deadly Pakistan Train Collision

According to the AP:
Three trains collided in a deadly chain reaction in southern Pakistan after a train driver misread a signal early Wednesday, killing at least 127 people and injuring hundreds in the country's worst crash in more than a decade, police and railway officials said.

The accident occurred at about 4 a.m. near Ghotki, some 370 miles northeast of Karachi, in remote Sindh province.

The Quetta Express was traveling from the eastern city of Lahore to the southwestern city of Quetta when a technical problem forced it to stop at the station. Technicians were working on the train when it was struck by the Karachi Express.

The impact pushed three carriages onto an adjacent track, and they in turn were hit by the Tezgam Express, heading from Karachi north to Rawalpindi, causing more derailments, said Abdul Aziz, a senior controller at Pakistan Railways.

In all, some 13 cars derailed.
This has been another horrific tragedy due to Pakistan's antiquated rail system. Whether due to mechanical or human fault, I am sure all of the world's condolences are with the survivors of this catastrophic event.

train_collision

I cannot begin to imagine not only the anger and sadness of the survivors and victims' families, but also the anger and despair of that train driver. I don't know if I could live with that kind of guilt. How often have we all "misread signals"?

I only hope this tragedy won't be misread. This is a sign to upgrade Pakistan's rail system into modern one, not to scapegoat a human being whose small error had grave consequences. The fact that 3 trains depended on one driver's judgment alone, with no other fail-safes in place, should be the issue in all of this chaos.

London Bombed by British Terrorists

Steve Gilliard, over at the News Blog, laments the recent revelation that the London Bombing was committed by British civilians, rather than by foreigners:
As I said, someone let these lunatics fill their heads with this nonsense and now people are dead, lots of people. The idea that these guys were born and raised in the UK, has scared the sh*t out of everyone. I thought they were recent immigrants. So I think a lot of us were wrong, and it's time to look very hard as to why these guys would do this and why they think it made sense.
Though I agree with the last point, the revelation of their citizenship can't be that surprising. After all who bombed Oklahoma City, 1996 Olympics and shot up Columbine?

All Americans.

It doesn't take foreign nationals to commit horrendous acts of barbarism. That is the myth. Anyone is capable of atrocious acts, any group is capable of doing horrible things against other fellow human beings. It is in a close-knit society this would be a shock, but in a heterogeneous population such as in Britain and the US, the very melting pot that creates the great flow of ideas can also create isolation and friction between different people. That is what living in a truly tolerant and free society is all about.

The problem is not the people. It is the ideology. Any radical group whether it is a terrorist organization, company or entire nation that believes in extremes and is willing to accomplish its goal by any means necessary could be dangerous.

But don't let the conservative blogs convince you that Europe is alone in its tolerance and hate-fanning. Ask the Pentagon about the "Salvador Option" in Iraq and you'll probably get the same speech about "the ends justify the means."

I am sure the suicide bombers in London believed that insanity, too.

Church Wakes Up To Zimbabwe Horror

After a South African Church delegation recently returned from Zimbabwe, they accused President Robert Mugabe of "trampling on humanity" in regards to his man-made tsunami in Africa (village voice June 1st). It is sad it has taken more than a month for the Church to condemn the Mubabe's plan and fully realize its human effect. An aerial photograph was enough for anyone else to appreciate the damage and dehumanization happening in Zimbabwe.

Eddie Make, deputy secretary general of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), had this to say about the Magabe's relocation effort:
People had literally been removed from their places of abode and dumped in a remote area with no cover other than plastic sheets and pieces of wood they had cut from surrounding trees in order to protect them from the winter cold.

But we are of the opinion that this is not creating order. Rather, it is disrupting the lives of people.
Better late than never. Keep yourself informed daily @ the ZimbabweSituation.com website. If you're religious, you might want to pray that Zimbabwe will face its poverty crisis, rather than destroy its own people.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Let Freedom Ring?

Lincoln sits in shame of US actions since 9/11.Tim O'Callaghan, a good friend of mine in Athens GA, had the dubious pleasure to attend a jingoistic "Christian" church service on July 3rd. He told me that all of the songs at the service were patriotic July 4th fare (only one being a Christian hymn), little children with US flags ran up front and formed a cross, and amidst the singing, displayed on a large screen images of tanks, soldiers and bombs going off. Needless to say, he felt nauseous.

Just the other day, Tim sent me the following email, playing off the Gettysburg Address that was spoken by the minister at the said service, echoing what Lincoln probably would have said had he made the speech himself:


The Gettysburg regress

2 months and 2 years ago our leaders brought forth on this planet a new war conceived in idiocy and dedicated to the proposition that all Arabs were in league with terrorists. Now we are engaged in a great political war, testing whether a war on terrorism or any war so conceived and so pointless, can long endure.

We are met on a battle-field of ideas. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as ludicrous, as a final resting place of lies, for those that have given their lives, that might feel they have some control of terrorism and oil. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this; the madness must end.

But in a large sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground.

The brave men living and dead who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can be never forget what they did here.

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the advancement of truth, to allow no longer, men and women of any nationality to die due to lies and prejudice. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, will actually operate this way, and not just claim to, or we shall surely perish from this earth.
Amen, brother. Now there's a sermon I truly endorse.

Tolerance Did NOT Cause London Bombings

After watching Fox News a bit yesterday, I felt suffocated by the ludicrous notion that British tolerance is what caused the London Bombing. Many anchors went further, claiming that unlike the US, which of course really understands the War on Terror, Great Britain just didn't comprehend what Islamic Terrorism is all about (nevermind the WWII Air Raids, IRA bombings, etc.). As Newshound reports, Fox News was determined to educate them:
It would be easy to ascertain what the daily memo asked its anchors to push, i.e., the British press doesn't grasp the depth, width and breadth of the massive international Islamic terrorist conspiracy directed against all freedom-loving peoples everywhere and, therefore, the British people are in the dark about the hordes of villainous murderers living right in their own neighborhoods.

Clearly, Fox News set itself the task yesterday of enlightening its UK viewers, hoping that a barrage of accusatory rhetoric would coax weak-kneed liberals like the Mayor of London and the BBC into altering their preternaturally calm behavior, catapult them into mimicking the Yanks by erupting into a paroxysm of invective and rights-limiting legislation, all the while offering up hosannas to stalwart and true PM Tony Blair.
There is the fundamental difference. The overall political reaction to 9/11 in the US was fear and anger, which has passed much legislation and executive orders in the same vein. The overall political reaction to 7/7 in Britain has been strength and daily resolve. This, of course, upsets conservatives and though they may disregard and debunk 9/11 conspiracy theories that suggest the government could have stopped it, many conservatives want to lay blame on the British government's tolerance policies for 7/7. To be fair, in retrospect, many would probably argue 9/11 was also because of flabby liberalism and tolerance.

Many staunch conservative media bear this argument out.

They bring up good points about freedom and safety, but ignore the overriding principle of "freedom of speech" (which includes association). Rather than focus on what is being protected (freedom), they focus on the ends (stop bad people). What some of these well-meaning pundits fail to understand is how the means justify those ends. If freedom is sacrificed to stop bad people, then what is it exactly we are protecting?

The argument is invariably the same: "We are only curtailing terrorist freedoms." This proposition assumes that the freedoms of a minority are somehow separate from the freedoms of the majority. But ironically, to be a member of this minority, guilt must be assumed. So the boundary approaches the realm of hearsay, rather than absolute proof. Instead of prosecuting a committed crime, law enforcement is more willing to use entrapment techniques (as in the Hemant Lakhani case) and prove guilt by concept. This blurs the line between intentions and actions.

I only hope with the recent Yorkshire raids today, the US Right will resist the temptation of elaborating on these arguments. It's not as if we haven't heard these claims before during the Cold War:
Communism was supposed to take over the world. Turns out Communism never existed. Socialism, yes, but it creaked and groaned and only "worked" because it had to allow a certain amount of the free market to support it.

Vietnam was supposed to be an example of "the domino theory." The country was supposed to fall to Communism, then the rest of Southeast Asia. Then the world! So the US had to kill one million to two million Vietnamese to save Vietnam. Fifty-eight thousand American soldiers died. Then we left, and now, the Vietnamese are semi-capitalist. They have to be, otherwise they would starve. We might as well not even have had a war.
And it is fairly obvious that those justifications led us down the path to our current terrorism crisis. I for one, rather look to the future for solutions than repeat the same mistakes.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Police or Terrorists With Badges?

On Sunday, the BBC reports 12 Iraqi men were arrested after they had taken a colleague to hospital in Ameriya with gunshot wounds. A local resident, thinking they were insurgents, called the police, who sent commandos to arrest the men. The Special Police Commandos lost 9 people today after leaving the suspects in a closed metal container for over 14 hours in the burning desert sun.

Just your neighborhood state-sponsored terrorists.

This has just been the latest in a string of alleged abuses by mercenary commandos increasingly in the employ of the understaffed Iraqi police. It is clear that the US Pentagon is quietly implementing the "Salvador Option" that was kicked around back in January. By providing money to these mercenary squads, neither the Iraqi government nor its US sponsor need worry about dirtying their hands in stomping out the insurgency.

As Fuller reports, the Iraqi Special Police Commandos have been executing the "Salvador Option" in Iraq at full throttle for quite some time:
The Police Commandos are in large part the brainchild of another US counter-insurgency veteran, Steven Casteel, a former top DEA man who has been acting as the senior advisor in the Ministry of the Interior. Casteel was involved in the hunt for Colombia's notorious cocaine baron Pablo Escobar, during which the DEA collaborated with a paramilitary organization known as Los Pepes, which later transformed itself into the AUC, an umbrella organization covering all of Colombia's paramilitary death squads (cocaine.org; ciponline).

Like Colombia's death squads, Iraq's Police Commandos deliberately cultivate a frightening paramilitary image. During raids they wear balaclavas and black leather gloves and openly intimidate and brutalize suspects, even in the presence of foreign journalists (see the report by Peter Maass). Significantly, many of the Commandos, including their leader, are Sunni Muslims.

In the last few weeks, with the discovery of several mass graves in and around Baghdad, evidence of multiple extra-judicial killings has started to become much more visible, but, in fact, even a cursory review of such archives as the one compiled by Iraq Body Count reveals that mass executions have been taking place commonly in Iraq over at least the last six months. What is particularly striking is that many of those killings have taken place since the Police Commandos became operationally active and often correspond with areas where they have been deployed.

The clearest correlation is in Mosul, where the Police Commandos began operating in late October (Stryker Newsl ). In mid-November it was reported that insurgents were conducting an offensive and had managed to drive most of the (regular) police from the city. There followed what was described as a joint counter-offensive by US forces and Police Commandos. The Police Commandos conducted raids inside the old quarter starting on 16 November in which dozens of suspects were arrested. During one such raid on a mosque and a tea shop, detainees, blindfolded and with their hands tied behind their backs, were seen being taken away by commandos (link ). In the weeks and months that followed over 150 bodies appeared (bbc news), often in batches and frequently having obviously been executed, usually with a bullet to the head.
The US government would do well to remember the results of the state-sponsored terror in the original "Salvador Option" and attempt to mitigate the onset of a civil war rather than push it forward. As the death of Archbishop Romera proves, the answer to terrorism is not more terrorism, but the strength to wage peace.

Outraged? Contact some US senators and let them know what you think.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Angola Mission

This is the "Misson Moment" I gave today at Sunday's service:
With the conclusion of the G8 summit and the Live8 concerts that preceded it, the world has finally moved its attention to the poverty and strife in Africa. The sub-Saharan nation of Angola is a prime illustration of the challenges that face the entire continent.

After 14 years of guerilla warfare, Angola gained its independence from Portugal in 1975. Then, Angola was consumed by a 27-year civil war between the ruling socialist Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) supported by Cuba and the Soviets; and the western National Union for Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) supported by America and NATO. In 2002, a cease-fire was reached between the two groups after the assassination of UNITA’s leader, Jonas Savimbi.

Now, the country of Angola faces the daunting tasks of rebuilding its devastated infrastructure, retrieving weapons from its heavily-armed civilian population, removing mines from its littered countryside and weaning its people off of UN food aid. Angola’s largest challenge, however, is in re-integrating the tens of thousands of refugees who fled the horrors of civil war.

The Huambo Province especially has been inundated with returning families and the Evangelical Congregational Church (IECA) has been there for them. Founded in 1880, IECA has offered many projects in rehabilitation, training, literacy, health, peace and reconciliation. One of the projects in its Peace and Reconciliation program is a series of five seminars and eleven conferences that educate the community about human rights, strategies toward disarming civilians and conflict resolution skills. In addition, IECA would like to have training for human rights activists using the power of theater and music.

Let us help IECA continue its good work and help Angola and other countries like it replace their violence and fear with peace and hope. Let us offer up our peace and hope for a better Angola, a better Africa and a better World. Donate to IECA today.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Darfur Survivors Vie for G8 Attention

Darfur Protestors

On Wednesday, survivors of the Darfur genocide set ablaze make-shift huts, re-enacting the brutal tactics of the Khartoum government. Protesting the lack of action from the UN, NATO, and G8 nations, the protestors quite literally brought to the spotlight their continued plight under the brutal Khartoum government.

Whereas all of our condolences go out to the fifty plus victims of yesterday's bombing in London, let us not forget the continued systematic annihilation of thousands still going on in Darfur. All of us are human beings and thus precious whether living in a large city like London or the poorer rural areas in the Sudan of Africa.

If you want to know how you can help stop the violence in Darfur and the rest of the Sudan, check out SaveDarfur.org.

The Slow Steps to Middle East Peace

One of the 21 Israeli settlements in Gaza planned for evacuation, Neve Dekalim sits across from the Palestinian refugee camp Khan Yunus. Al-Jazeera interviewed Abo Ahmed and his sister-in-law Zkiya Musa, two of the anxious Palestinians cautiously awaiting the Israeli withdrawal:
"The settlements are one of the biggest obstacles for us, and we feel it more than anyone here on the front lines. We suffer on a daily basis," he said.

"All I remember from the past few years is that there were always martyrs, always injuries and always tanks down the street," he recalled.

Zakiya Musa held a nursing three-month-old in her arms. "I just can't wait for them to leave, so we can relax, for our children's sake. They are mortified of the sniper fire they hear every night," she said.
The exact role for the Palestinian Authority (PA) in these evacuations is not known, as the Israeli government has refused to coordinate with them. But a special 5,000 member security force began training earlier this week. Also, the issue of land distribution has yet to be resolved. A special court will deal with private land claims, but the remaining 95% cannot be bought or sold for six months after the engagement.

On the Israeli side, more than 40,000 soldiers and some 4,000 police will be deployed to the Gaza Strip for the August 15th evacuations. This 44,000-strong force dramatically outnumbers the 9,000 Jewish settlers they are to evacuate. Despite the violent Jewish protests that led to over 1,000 arrests and 3 soldiers who refused orders (one of whom was sentenced to 56 days in jail), there is no indication that Ariel Sharon is backing down now:
We must all remember that the calls for refusal and the attempt to disrupt life in Israel threaten the existence of the nation as a Jewish and a democratic state.
After over 30 years of occupation, Israel seems to be taking the more difficult road to peace. If the Palestinians hold up their end of the negotiations, then perhaps this will finally bury one of the most rancorous Middle Eastern feuds in my lifetime.

But it is too soon to say. There will be much resistance on both sides as all of us have seen before, but with committed leaders such as the transformed Sharon and his counterpart Mahmoud Abbas in Palestine, there is at least some tangible hope.

The rocky road to peace is more difficult to plow than the heated escalation to war. Perhaps, other world leaders could take cue from this situation.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

No Safety From Terrorism

My cynicism has taken over. Should I be surprised about the American reaction? In the wake of the recent London bombings, US Homeland Security Department chief Michael Chertoff proclaimed this to reassure the "cowed" masses in America:
We have been in direct communication with officials at the state and local level and with public and private sector transportation officials.

We have asked them for increased vigilance and additional security measures for major transit systems. We do not have any specific intelligence indicating this type of attack is planned in the United States, but we are constantly evaluating both intelligence and our protective measures and will take whatever actions are necessary.
Al Queda blows up London bus.Yeah, right. "Whatever actions are necessary" sounds bit too much like "what actions are necessary?" for my comfort. There is no comfort, however. There are ways to mitigate the chances of a terrorist attack, but like so many things, there is no way to prevent terrorism. As long as someone has a cause and enough twisted resolve to carry them out, that person is unstoppable.

But that is the purpose of terrorism, right? To terrorize a population, to put fear into a large group of people so that every day someone is looking over their shoulder or turning in their neighbor to the local witch-burner. The purpose of putting fear into people is to divide them and reduce their mental capacity to that of a scared child. Fear for self also increases selfishness and greed, reducing nobler ideals into violence and retribution.

The US tries to combat terrorism by using a special American Flag forcefield.The irony is in that feeding that violence and retribution, the stakes jump exponentially higher. Every death encourages another hundred more into combat. What was once an issue between small radical groups, explodes into a global war. Time creates more wounds than it heals, and the ranks grow larger on both sides until ... Enough of that, I'm scaring myself.

Let me end with this: the feud must end. As history has proven, there are only two ways to end one. Destroy the enemy or come to an agreement that both sides can accept. Neither Al Queda and associated Muslim fundamentals nor America and its coalition partners seem willing to build any kind of peace. Both sides claim there is no negotiating with the other. The barbed-wire has been laid out and any side that steps into no-man's land will breathe their last.

So, thus New York, Madrid and London are only the beginning. That is if we ignore Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's resolve in evacuating the Gaza Strip. It can't be easy, though many claim the way of peace is that of a coward or traitor. But there needs to be more world leaders who are willing to take the harder path of peace rather than the slow descent into war.

I will say this for Sharon. In twenty years time, if the maelstrom of terrorism has abated much at all, it will be because of peacemakers like Sharon. The warmongers will be thought of as the same, regardless of which side they were on.

Or so it should be.

Bush Uses London Bombing As Soapbox

In response to the horrible events in London this morning, Bush decided to wax ideological again:
They have such evil in their heart that they will take the lives of innocent folks. The war on terrorism is on!

I was most impressed with the resolve of all the leaders in the room. Their resolve is as strong as my resolve.

We will find them and bring them to justice. And at the same time we will spread an ideology of hope and compassion that will overwhelm their ideology of hate.
It makes me truly nauseous that US President Bush is using the London bombing as his self-supported soapbox to spew out his own political agenda. His narcissism at comparing the resolve of the world as "strong" as his rather than speaking for himself really underscores the political expediency in filling the swamp with terrorists. Bush is squandering this golden opportunity to unite with the world and is again drawing the line in sand.

From a political standpoint, especially at the G8 summit, this is political ingenuity at its best. From a moral and social standpoint, this is emotional manipulation for political gain at its very worst.

Al Queda Attacks London

This morning, at least seven bombs went off in London's underground network and a double-decker bus. So far only 2 official deaths and scores of injured have been reported. According to the BBC, more than 100 causalties were taken to Royal London Hospital and 26 were taken to St. Mary's Hospital.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is leaving the G8 summit and returning back to London today. On an Islamic fundamental website, the terrorist group Al-Queda has already claimed credit for the highly complex attack. Blair had this to say in leaving the G8:
Each of the countries around that table have some experience of the effects of terrorism and all the leaders ... share our complete resolution to defeat this terrorism.

It is particularly barbaric this has happened on a day when people are meeting to try to help the problems of poverty in Africa and the long term problems of climate change and the environment.

Just as it's reasonably clear this is a series of terrorist attacks, it's also reasonably clear, that it is designed and meant to coincide with the G8.
This may become what the Madrid Bombing was to Spain. I only hope it will not become what 9/11 is to America. Or the world will have to withstand two marauding leaders calling for revenge in the name of peace.

UPDATE 13:48 EST: According to the BBC, there were only 4 explosions - 3 in the underground subway and 1 on a double-decker bus. The death toll has risen to 37 with over 700 wounded.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Krygyzstan Keeps Uzbek Refugees

After the May massacre in Andijan, the Krygyzstan nation was flooded with refugees from Uzbekistan, fleeing from that brutal government in the hundreds (almost 500). In a magnanimous show of humanitarian relief, Foreign Minister Rosa Otunbayeva insisted that no refugees would be returned to Uzbekistan unless the situation changed. This, despite the Uzbekistan's government demanding repatriation of all citizens.

That generosity seems to have run out. According to the BBC, Kyrgyz prosecutor Azimbek Beknazarov has already sent back 4 Uzbeks and wants to deport 29 more. Though Otunbayeva has placed a halt on the repatriation, Beknazarov still believes there are at least 19 others that should be returned. He was extremely blunt with his opinion on the Andijan "revolt", saying:
They need to be punished, their place is in prison.
Unfortunately, he is talking about the innocent survivors of Andijan's Bloody Friday and not the bloody tyrant Islam Karimov whose despicable actions drove these refugees into Krygyzstan. One wonders the legitimacy of any prisoners held by such a government.

One also wonders about the silent reaction from the rest of the industrialized world, most notably the US State Department.

If only Uzbekistan was Iraq ...

Monday, July 04, 2005

July 4th

Currently, the socio-political atmosphere surrounding the US celebration of July 4, 1776 has led to transforming it into another Memorial Day. Though the fanfare of fireworks, marches and parades accompany this holiday, this is not its purpose. July 4th is not even the celebration of the birth of the American nation nor the defeat of the British troops in 1783. Yet, Americans treat this holiday with reverence. Why?

Today is the anniversary of the proclamation of the ideals the United States of America was founded upon. These principles not only bind the US government, but represent an understood contract between a citizen and his/her government in all nation states across the world. In all of the pomp and circumstance, the politics and dilution, the bigotry and rhetoric, I hope all Americans will remember what July 4th is all about:
WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness -- That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

There Shall Be Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth (or not)

Both radical religious reactionaries and overzealous liberal activists are claiming the fate of our nation hinges on who President Bush will appoint to replace Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (and, likely soon after, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court William Rehnquist). Should we believe the hype? In a LA Times opinion piece, GWU Law Professor Orin Kerr suggests Bush's appointments likely will not result in the immediate rise nor ruin of progressive nor conservative jurisprudence, but will instead preserve the status quo. Kerr reminds us that a solid liberal bloc of four justices still resides on the court: Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer. Even if a conservative in the mold of Scalia or Thomas, as Bush has promised to appoint, replaces O'Connor, he believes that "Kennedy (for whom I clerked) would remain as a key swing vote." Thus, one need not expect a profound rightward shift in the balance of the court. Offering further relief to moderates and liberals, Kerr notes:
Kennedy often votes with the more liberal justices to form a liberal majority in major cases. He has voted to uphold Roe vs. Wade, and he wrote the opinions that struck down sodomy laws and invalidated the death penalty for juveniles. All these decisions would remain intact.
To read more of Kerr's analysis, including how he thinks Rehnquist's retirement may affect the court (no cause for alarm here either perhaps), click here.

Of course, even though the potential consequences of Bush's Supreme Court nomination(s) may be far less grave than perceived, the confirmation of his nominee(s) will be no less bloody; the sensational comments and overaggressive posturing of groups on both the right and the left will make sure of that. Some conservatives--particularly those akin to Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, and Pat Robertson--insist "true believers" like themselves face a battle of literally biblical proportion. Adding to the fray we have liberals like People For The American Way President Ralph Neas claiming the high court, after Bush makes his appointments, will have the power and the will to roll back civil liberties in America to what they were nearly a century ago. Neas even dares to insinuate that "progressive legislation, like child labor laws," may be overturned! And after this fashion shall the debate continue, with extreme reactions from one side provoking equal but opposite reactions from the other.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Tsunami Sweeps Thru Zimbabwe

Since May 25th, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has been executing his "Operation Murambatsvina" (translated: "Get Rid of the Filth" or "Drive out the Trash"), determined to forcibly remove poor residents and criminals out of cities and "restore sanity" to the African nation. This man-made tsunami has decimated entire cities from north to south (Mount Darwin to Beitbridge) and east to west (Mutare to Bulawayo), leaving death and an estimated 300,000 to a million homeless in its wake. Under the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises Development, the government has arrested over 20,000 vendors, destroyed their vending sites, and auctioned off their wares.

Harare-before and after.
Before the operation - and after...

With over 80% of its population (over 8 million people) earning a living from informal vending and no public healthcare, housing or education system available, this policy is destroying Zimbabwe's economy. So, what could be the possible motivation?

The Sokwanele Civic Action Support Group suggests a reason behind this unrestrained chaos:
One theory is that the current operation is part of a strategy to reallocate what is left of Zimbabwe's dwindling resources to those that the ruling party has to rely on to retain control. Already, vendors' licenses are being reissued in Harare - but only to those who have a valid ZANU PF card. Similarly, in those areas that have been razed to the ground, such as White Cliff Farm, land is already being re-pegged, and the sites are being allocated to members of the army and police. Furthermore, people from MDC supporting cities are being displaced into ZANU PF strongholds in rural areas, where it is quite simple - those who do not support ZANU PF will not be allowed access to food this winter.
This insidious plot does not sound like the actions upon democratic ideals, but rather the divisive stratagem of a tyrant. Zanu-PF chief whip Jerome Macdonald Gumbo even tried to defuse the political ramifications of wealth reallocation in the city of Harare with the following ominous statement:
Harare used to be a very smart town. Now it has become dirty and dangerous. The exercise is painful but it has to be done. It is a necessary evil.
I have no doubt Hitler and Stalin had the same reasoning in mind as well.

As Amnesty 's statement yesterday indicates, the Zimbabwe ruling government is merciless in its destruction and has no "sanity" to restore:
Amnesty International has received information that at least three have died -- including a pregnant woman and a four-year-old child -- during a chaotic mass eviction at least 10,000 people from Porta Farm, an informal settlement on the outskirts of Harare established by the government more than 10 years ago.

Over the last 48 hours, Porta Farm -- a settlement of at least 10,000 people -- has been obliterated. People have watched their lives being completely destroyed and many are now being forcibly removed in trucks by police. At the moment we are not sure where they are being taken,"said Kolawole Olaniyan, Director of Amnesty International's Africa Programme.

Some residents have resisted the attempt to forcibly remove them and have been injured in clashes with the police. Local human rights monitors report that during the attempted forced removals this morning two women -- one pregnant and the other extremely ill -- fell off the trucks into which they were being herded. A four-year-old child was reportedly run over by a truck. There are unconfirmed reports of a second child dying circumstances are not yet clear.

Amnesty International called for an immediate halt to the mass forced evictions.
This man-made tsunami in Zimbabwe must stop. Support Amnesty International and help put an end to the madness.