January 14, 2006

Bullying Iran is not an option: Before Western leaders seek sanctions against Iran, they should put their own houses in order on nuclear weapons and nuclear power (Mary Riddell, January 8, 2006, The Observer)

As Iran moves towards the ultimate in WMD, George W Bush must be thinking he fought the wrong war. […]

Sixty years on, the notion of nuclear nemesis has not sunk in. Last year’s make-or-break US conference to revive the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty achieved nothing. The pact, ratified in 1970 and signed by 187 countries, was designed to ensure that unarmed states never acquired weapons and that armed nations, in return, would wind down their arsenals.

That cornerstone of a peaceful world is crumbling, partly because Bush wants new weapons while demanding that other regimes forswear them, but also because the treaty is fatally flawed. Its aims, to eradicate nuclear weapons while championing the spread of nuclear energy, are irreconcilable. Atoms for Peace, suspect in Eisenhower’s day, is an oxymoron in a globalised age.

Any rogue state can build up a civil programme, opt out of the treaty with six months’ notice and begin making weapons. Iran has always claimed, to universal disbelief, that it is only exercising its right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. Pakistan, a non-signatory, was last week reported to be buying up to eight reactors from China, which has long been suspected of helping with its weapons programme.

On the campuses of Tehran, even moderately minded students are aggrieved. Who are Bush and Blair to preach while laying in new nukes and welcoming India, with its illicit weapons, into their nuclear club? Israel is stacked with unauthorised nukes, a Nato base sits at Herat and the US Fifth Fleet trawls the Persian Gulf. Why should Iran, so besieged, not have a deterrent?

It's all the same war and if you can't tell the difference between America/Britain/Israsel/India on the one hand and Saddam/Ahmadinejad/Assad/Kim on the other then you're not on the right side.


January 13, 2006

Arrests in Papua ambush boon to US ties (Bill Guerin, 1/14/06, Asia Times)

An event in the remote Indonesian province of Papua, thousands of kilometers from Washington, seems certain to result in a much stronger position for Jakarta within the already fast-improving relationship between the two countries.

Twelve men, including a local rebel operational commander wanted by the United States for the murder of two American teachers in a 2002 ambush near the giant US-operated Freeport Grasberg copper and gold mine, have been detained. Americans Ted Burcon and Rickey Lean Spier were killed in the attack. […]

Why now?

One clue to the answer to the most obvious question – why did police act now, so long after the incident? – may lie in statements from both governments.

“Seeking justice for this crime remains a priority for the United States, and we are pleased that the Indonesian government also recognizes the importance of this case,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. “We will continue to follow this case closely.”

Commenting on a proposed visit to Jakarta by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Foreign Affairs Minister Hassan Wirayuda noted a “growing and accepted view in the US to see Indonesia in a much broader context rather than in snapshots of events like human-rights violations … and military reform”.

Rice had reinstated full IMET eligibility for Indonesia, and Wirayuda described her planned visit as one that would “underline the importance of the relationship between Indonesia and the US, and the growing appreciation of Indonesia by the US”.

The United States has shown a long-term commitment to post-tsunami reconstruction in Aceh, support for Indonesia’s reform agenda and for the country’s efforts to reform its justice system and military.

The arrests may well lead to Jakarta’s closest ever relationship with Washington as partisan differences in both governments gradually dissolve.

The desire of nations at the margins of the Islamic world–Morrocco, Eritrea, Libya, Turkey, Indonesia, etc.–for better relations with the West, inclusion in the Axis of Good, and liberal reform indicates the weakness of the argument that Islam is inherently and necessarily theocratic.


January 12, 2006

India tilts to the west as the world’s new poles emerge: Despite public hostility, the country’s elite is convinced that its interests are best served by alliance with the US (Charles Grant, January 12, 2006, The Guardian)

[W]hile China is a pole that seems destined to oppose the US, India is experiencing a tectonic shift in the opposite direction. For most of the half-century that followed independence, India kept its distance from the US. Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, helped to found the non-aligned movement, which was defined by opposition to American foreign policy. Nehru also built an alliance with the Soviet Union that survived his death; India supported the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

Although broadly democratic for most of that half-century, India closed its economy to global capitalism and saw no reason to ally with other democracies. But over the past 15 years, while India has slowly opened its economy to the rest of the world, its foreign policy has shifted from non-alignment towards cooperation with the west. One sign of this shift – which shocked many developing countries – came last October when, at the International Atomic Energy Agency, India voted with the US and EU to condemn Iran’s nuclear programme. China and Russia abstained.

One force driving this realignment is India’s desire to break out of the international isolation that followed its nuclear tests in 1998. The Nuclear Suppliers Group – the club for countries with nuclear power industries – imposed sanctions on India. This hurt: India lacks sufficient nuclear fuel for its power stations. So last July the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, struck a deal with the Bush administration. India promised to separate its civilian and military nuclear facilities, and to put the former under international inspection. In return the US would pass legislation to ease the export of sensitive technologies to India, and urge the group to lift the sanctions.

The implementation of this deal would amount to India being forgiven for building atomic bombs. India would join the big league of nuclear nations, alongside the US, Russia, China, France and Britain. […]

Many Indians are quite relaxed about China’s economic might, because trade between the two countries is booming in both directions. But they worry about being surrounded by unstable countries that are allied to China. The Chinese helped the Pakistanis to build their bomb, and the two countries are still close. China supplies arms to Nepal’s mad and autocratic king. In Burma it dominates the eastern provinces and is the junta’s best friend. China is also a big influence in war-torn Sri Lanka and in increasingly unstable Bangladesh.

Both China and India have far too many internal problems — many of them permanent — to ever rise to the level of opposing poles to the U.S.. But India is wisely throwing in its lot with the Anglosphere and how could it do otherwise given that its current and historic enemies are Islam and China.


January 12, 2006

The Hague says constitution is ‘dead’ (Mark Beunderman, 1/11/06, EUOBSERVER)

The Dutch foreign minister Bernard Bot has said the EU constitution is “dead” for the Netherlands, rejecting EU leaders’ recent pleas for a resuscitation of the charter.

After meeting his Austrian counterpart Ursula Plassnik in The Hague, Mr Bot stated on Wednesday (11 January) “we have discussed the constitution, which for the Netherlands is dead,” according to press reports.

Austria, which currently holds the EU presidency, aims at a revival of the treaty, with its leader Wolfgang Schussel declaring on Monday “the constitution is not dead. It is in the middle of a ratification process.”


January 11, 2006

Politics and the pulpit: Religious leaders are bending ears in Canberra and championing principles left alone by Labor (Barney Zwartz, January 7, 2006, The Age)

‘There are no damned votes in foreign aid,” former US president Richard Nixon famously asserted, and politicians believed him. Thus it was a remarkable triumph when Prime Minister John Howard stood up at a United Nations summit in September and declared that Australian aid would double by 2010.

And it was a triumph won outside the normal processes of politics by campaigning Christians and aid groups. “It’s not as though the electorate said double aid,” says World Vision chief Tim Costello of the Government’s pledge. “It’s the impact of aid agencies and lots of Christians.” […]

Another Labor figure, former deputy prime minister Brian Howe, also a Uniting Church minister, says the Keating government didn’t pay particular attention to the churches.

“Church memberships are declining, so politicians are inclined to discount their statements because they don’t know how many they are speaking for,” he says. “Also, in Australia, we are so pragmatic that people who talk about moral or philosophical ideas tend to be discounted.”

That’s less true today for several reasons, including Christians’ growing awareness of themselves as a constituency, and the large numbers of professing Christians in Parliament, and especially the Government. These include John Howard, Peter Costello, Tony Abbott, Kevin Andrews, Philip Ruddock, Bruce Baird and, until recently, John Anderson.

Of the religious revitalisation, Monash University’s Gary Bouma says: “A number of people in different dimensions are taking whatever they believe more seriously and seeking to drive the social policy implications of what they believe. That’s true of Muslims as much as Catholics and even evangelical Christians, who agree with the other two if they shut up long enough to hear what others are saying.”

Bouma, professor of the sociology of religion and an Anglican priest, says the Christian Right’s influence on public policy has been rising for 20 years.

Lately, Coalition politicians have wooed Pentecostal and evangelical church leaders, with Treasurer Peter Costello paying high-profile visits to Hillsong, the nation’s largest church, and endorsing the Ten Commandments. […]

Some of the credit for the churches’ resurgent influence belongs to former SAS chief Brigadier Jim Wallace, who founded the Australian Christian Lobby. “We are starting to demonstrate that there is a Christian constituency which wants to identify itself but has fallen out of the habit and doesn’t know how to do it,” he says. Some churches are in decline, he concedes, but evangelical and Pentecostal churches are booming, and when they speak politicians start to listen.


January 9, 2006

Tories surge in poll (CAROLINE ALPHONSO AND BRIAN LAGHI, January 9, 2006, Globe and Mail)

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have opened up an eight-percentage-point advantage over the Liberals, the biggest gap of the campaign going into tonight’s crucial debate, a new poll shows.

The survey, conducted for The Globe and Mail and CTV News by the Strategic Counsel, also shows that voters believe the Conservatives hold values that are closest to theirs, a turnaround from the first week of the campaign when Canadians identified more closely with Liberal values.

“This is huge,” said Allan Gregg, chairman of the Strategic Counsel. “This really does show . . . that by virtue of the kind of campaign they’ve run, an issues-based, measured, moderate campaign, they have slowly convinced the population that they are not kind of offside the mainstream of Canada.

“If they can maintain this, they have basically taken the Liberals’ trump card away.”

It would be a minor but welcome victory to have them rejoin the Anglosphere. But you wouldn’t want to bet a body part on the Tories winning a Canadian election. It seems quite likely that they could falter late for the same reason that Merkel did in Germany and the constitution did in France–equalitarian fear of Anglo-American liberalization, domestic and global.

Conservatives betting Canada wants change (Rebecca Cook Dube, 1/08/06, USA TODAY)

Pollsters say Harper’s underdog Conservatives have seized the momentum in the campaign. Canada last had a Conservative-led government under Brian Mulroney in 1993.

“If Mr. Harper does well in the debate, he could seal this right then and there,” says Christian Bourque, vice president of polling firm Leger Marketing in Montreal.

Although all the results are within the margins of error, five recent national polls show Conservatives leading by 2-5 percentage points. The latest poll, released Sunday by SES Research, shows Conservatives would get 34% of the vote and Liberals 32% if elections were held now. The far-left New Democratic Party (NDP), the separatist Bloc Quebecois and the Green Party split the remainder. A large number of Canadians — 17% — are undecided and could determine the outcome of the elections, according to the SES poll done for CPAC, a public affairs cable TV channel similar to C-SPAN.

Ignatieff to deal with Liberal `mess’ (ROB FERGUSON, 1/09/06, Toronto Star)

Michael Ignatieff admits the Liberal government’s “failings” and tells a voter he’ll take a shovel to Ottawa to “try to clean up the mess” if he’s elected as MP for Etobicoke-Lakeshore.

The former Harvard professor is using his rookie status to bluntly criticize the multi-million-dollar Quebec sponsorship scandal as he campaigns to keep the riding, held by Jean Augustine since 1993, in Liberal hands as voters express a desire for change. […]

[I]t’s just not the national campaign weighing on Ignatieff, whose opinions as an internationally renowned author and academic occasionally catch up with him. Like at the home of University of Toronto biostatistics professor Paul Corey, who’d just been visited by Tory candidate John Capobianco.

There’s a big orange New Democrat sign on Corey’s front lawn. But a different colour is on his mind.


“I’ve scared some of my NDP friends by saying I’ll vote Conservative to keep Ignatieff out,” says the resident of the posh Kingsway neighbourhood near Royal York and Bloor at the riding’s north end. Corey, who admits to voting for all three major parties in the past, still counts himself an undecided voter.

Among other things, he is not happy with Ignatieff’s support for the U.S.-sponsored war on Iraq. Ignatieff defends that, saying he approved because of Saddam Hussein’s deadly attacks on the Kurds after the first Persian Gulf War.

“If he’d already been in cabinet, would we have soldiers in Iraq?” Corey asks, hinting at speculation Ignatieff seems destined for more than an MP role if the Liberals are re-elected.

Mr. Ignatieff would be an ideal Conservative foreign minister.


January 9, 2006

Defence link with India to be boosted (John Kerin, January 09, 2006, The Australian)

AUSTRALIA wants to step up its defence relationship with India, conducting naval exercises and boosting counter-terrorism co-operation, to finally bury Cold War-era tensions kept alive by New Delhi’s nuclear testing.


January 8, 2006

Jordan will not hand US citizens over to ICC (Reuters, 1/08/06)

Jordan’s parliament on Sunday approved a law that prevents Amman handing over U.S. citizens accused of war crimes to the international criminal court, lawmakers said.

The United States is firmly opposed to the ICC, set up in 2002 as the world’s first permanent global war crimes court, fearing it will be abused for politically-motivated cases against its troops and citizens. […]

Instead, Jordan would be required to surrender them to the custody of the U.S. government, in apparent contravention to Jordan’s obligations to the ICC.

They know who the good guys are.


January 7, 2006

Spanish Officer Held for Catalan Comment (CIARAN GILES, 1/07/06, Associated Press)

Spain’s Defense Ministry ordered the house arrest Saturday of a senior officer who warned that the armed forces might have to intervene if the northeastern region of Catalonia went too far in its efforts toward greater self-government.

The comments by army Lt. Gen. Jose Mena Aguado to fellow officers in a speech Friday in Seville triggered memories of military uprisings and coups in Spain’s past. […]

Mena’s remarks were a direct reference to negotiations for a new charter for the region of Catalonia which have dominated political debate in Spain. The Catalan regional government, based in Barcelona, is demanding far-reaching political and fiscal powers and also to be recognized as a nation.

The Basque region is also seeking to revamp its charter.

It was an excellent 500 year run, but now these states are going to go their own way again.


January 7, 2006

Alabama Justices Surrender to Judicial Activism (Tom Parker, January 1, 2005, Birmingham News)

[M]y fellow Alabama justices freed [Renaldo] Adams from death row not because of any error of our courts but because they chose to passively accommodate — rather than actively resist — the unconstitutional opinion of five liberal justices on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Those liberal justices declared last spring in the case of Roper v. Simmons that “evolving standards of decency” now make it “unconstitutional” to execute murderers who were minors at the time of their crime. The justices based their ruling not on the original intent or actual language of the United States Constitution but on foreign law, including United Nations treaties.

Ironically, one of the UN treaties invoked by the U.S. Supreme Court as a basis for its Roper decision is a treaty the United States has refused to sign. By insisting that American states submit to this unratified treaty, the liberals on the U.S. Supreme Court not only unconstitutionally invalidated laws in 20 states but, to do so, also usurped the treaty-making authority of both the President and the U.S. Senate.

I am not surprised that the liberal activists on the U.S. Supreme Court go to such lengths to usurp more political power. I am also not surprised they use such ridiculous reasoning to try and force foreign legal fads on America. After all, this is the same Court that has declared state displays of the Ten Commandments to be unconstitutional.

But I am surprised, and dismayed, that my colleagues on the Alabama Supreme Court not only gave in to this unconstitutional activism without a word of protest but also became accomplices to it by citing Roper as the basis for their decision to free Adams from death row.

The proper response to such blatant judicial tyranny would have been for the Alabama Supreme Court to decline to follow Roper in the Adams case. By keeping Adams on death row, our Supreme Court would have defended both the U.S. Constitution and Alabama law (thereby upholding their judicial oaths of office) and, at the same time, provided an occasion for the U.S. Supreme Court, with at least two new members, to reconsider the Roper decision.

Irrespective of your opinion on the underlying issue (the death penalty and its application), it’s obviously anti-democratic to force Americans to abide by legal standards they refuse to adoipt for themselves.