July 21, 2006

War Fair: THE ETHICS OF BATTLE (Michael Walzer, 07.19.06, New Republic)

It is an important principle of just war theory that justice, though it rules out many ways of fighting, cannot rule out fighting itself–since fighting is sometimes morally and politically necessary. A military response to the capture of the three Israeli soldiers wasn’t, literally, necessary; in the past, Israel has negotiated instead of fighting and then exchanged prisoners. But, since Hamas and Hezbollah describe the captures as legitimate military operations–acts of war–they can hardly claim that further acts of war, in response, are illegitimate. The further acts have to be proportional, but Israel’s goal is to prevent future raids, as well as to rescue the soldiers, so proportionality must be measured not only against what Hamas and Hezbollah have already done, but also against what they are (and what they say they are) trying to do.

The most important Israeli goal in both the north and the south is to prevent rocket attacks on its civilian population, and, here, its response clearly meets the requirements of necessity. The first purpose of any state is to defend the lives of its citizens; no state can tolerate random rocket attacks on its cities and towns. Some 700 rockets have been fired from northern Gaza since the Israeli withdrawal a year ago–imagine the U.S. response if a similar number were fired at Buffalo and Detroit from some Canadian no-man’s-land. It doesn’t matter that, so far, the Gazan rockets have done minimal damage; the intention every time one is fired is to hit a home or a school, and, sooner or later, that intention will be realized. Israel has waited a long time for the Palestinian Authority and the Lebanese government to deal with the rocket fire from Gaza and the rocket build-up on the Lebanese border. In the latter case, it has also waited for the United Nations, which has a force in southern Lebanon that is mandated to “restore international peace and security” but has nonetheless watched the positioning of thousands of rockets and has done nothing. A couple of years ago, the Security Council passed a resolution calling for the disarming of Hezbollah; its troops, presumably, have noticed that this didn’t happen. Now Israel has rightly decided that it has no choice except to take out the rockets itself. But, again, how can it do that?

The crucial argument is about the Palestinian use of civilians as shields. Academic philosophers have written at great length about “innocent shields,” since these radically exploited (but sometimes, perhaps, compliant) men and women pose a dilemma that tests the philosophers’ dialectical skills. Israeli soldiers are not required to have dialectical skills, but, on the one hand, they are expected to do everything they can to prevent civilian deaths, and, on the other hand, they are expected to fight against an enemy that hides behind civilians. So (to quote a famous line from Trotsky), they may not be interested in the dialectic, but the dialectic is interested in them.

There is no neat solution to their dilemma. When Palestinian militants launch rocket attacks from civilian areas, they are themselves responsible–and no one else is–for the civilian deaths caused by Israeli counterfire. But (the dialectical argument continues) Israeli soldiers are required to aim as precisely as they can at the militants, to take risks in order to do that, and to call off counterattacks that would kill large numbers of civilians. That last requirement means that, sometimes, the Palestinian use of civilian shields, though it is a cruel and immoral way of fighting, is also an effective way of fighting. It works, because it is both morally right and politically intelligent for the Israelis to minimize–and to be seen trying to minimize–civilian casualties. Still, minimizing does not mean avoiding entirely: Civilians will suffer so long as no one on the Palestinian side (or the Lebanese side) takes action to stop rocket attacks. From that side, though not from the Israeli side, what needs to be done could probably be done without harm to civilians. […]

Until there is an effective Lebanese army and a Palestinian government that believes in co-existence, Israel is entitled to act, within the dialectical limits, on its own behalf.

Too bad we couldn’t get Mr. Walzer for yesterday’s discussion, but we were fortunate enough to get to use one of his essays in the book.


July 20, 2006

America’s New Strategic Partner?: Over the last year, the U.S. and Indian governments struck a deal that recognizes India as a nuclear weapons power. Critics say Washington gave up too much too soon and at a great cost to nonproliferation efforts. Perhaps. But India could in time become a valuable security partner. So despite the deal’s flaws and the uncertainties surrounding its implementation, Washington should move forward with it. (Ashton B. Carter, July/August 2006, Foreign Affairs)

Previous U.S. administrations adopted the stance that India’s nuclear arsenal, which was first tested in 1974, was illegitimate and should be eliminated or at least seriously constrained. They did so for two reasons. First, they feared that legitimating the Indian arsenal might spur an arms race in Asia because Pakistan, India’s archrival, and China might be tempted to keep pace with India’s activities. Second, Washington wanted to stick strictly to the principles underlying the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT): parties to the treaty could engage in peaceful nuclear commerce; states that stood outside the NPT regime, such as India, could not. U.S. policymakers feared that compromising these principles might both give states with nuclear aspirations reason to think they could get around the NPT if they waited long enough and dishearten those other states that loyally supported the treaty against proliferators.

A stance, however, is not a policy. And eliminating India’s arsenal became an increasingly unrealistic stance when Pakistan went nuclear in the 1980s — and then became a fantasy in 1998, when India tested five bombs underground and openly declared itself a nuclear power. After India’s tests, the Clinton administration sought to nudge New Delhi in directions that would limit counteractions by China and Pakistan and above all prevent an Indo-Pakistani nuclear war. All the while Washington firmly maintained that U.S. recognition of India’s nuclear status was a long way off. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, which prompted Washington to take a fresh look at U.S. policies in South Asia, the Bush administration first reached out to Pakistan to secure its help against Islamist terrorists.

But then it also turned toward New Delhi, and in the summer of 2005 finally granted India de facto nuclear recognition. In a stroke, Washington thereby invited India to join the ranks of China, France, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom — the victors of World War II — as a legitimate wielder of the influence that nuclear weapons confer. When, earlier this year, the Bush administration negotiated the specific terms of its nuclear arrangement with New Delhi, Washington abandoned, against the advice of nonproliferation specialists, any efforts to condition the deal on constraints that would keep India from further increasing its nuclear arsenal.

Under the terms of the deal, the United States commits to behave, and urge other states to behave, as if India were a nuclear weapons state under the NPT, even though India has not signed the treaty and will not be required to do so. (Even if the Bush administration had wished to make India a de jure nuclear weapons state under the NPT, such a change probably would not have been possible, as it would have required unanimous approval by all 188 parties to the treaty.) Washington has also undertaken to stop denying civil nuclear technology to India and has determined to require India to apply the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) only to nuclear facilities it designates as being for purely civil purposes. India is now also authorized to import uranium, the lack of which had long stalled the progress of its nuclear program.

Nuclear recognition will bring enormous political benefits to the Indian government. Naturally, the deal is popular with domestic constituencies, which were already well disposed toward the United States. (In 2005, a poll by the Pew Research Center found that 71 percent of Indian respondents had a favorable view of the United States — the highest percentage among the 15 leading nations polled.) Singh supporters in the National Congress Party have downplayed the importance of the few obligations that India has undertaken, such as the commitment to voluntarily subject some of its nuclear facilities to inspections, a routine practice in all the other recognized nuclear states, including the United States. Criticism from the opposition BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) has been narrow and technical — and it probably reflects the BJP’s chagrin that the agreement was secured while the National Congress Party was in power. Although some members of the marginal Left Front parties have criticized the terms of the deal, their complaints have smacked of antiquated NAM politics, and the detractors are unlikely to be able to block the deal’s approval by the Indian Parliament. Barring the imposition of new conditions by the U.S. Congress, the deal is thus likely to sail through the legislature in India.

American critics of the deal contend that India’s past behavior does not warrant this free pass. They argue that Washington should at least ask India to stop making fissile material for bombs, as the NPT’s acknowledged nuclear powers have already done, rather than wait for the proposed fissile Material Cutoff Treaty to come into existence. Others contend that India should be required to place more nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards, to prevent any diversion of fissile materials from its nuclear power program to its nuclear weapons program. Still others want India to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty rather than be allowed merely to abide by a unilateral moratorium on further underground testing, as it has done since 1998.

The Indian government, backed by Indian public opinion, has resisted all attempts to impose such technical constraints on its nuclear arsenal. So far, the U.S. government has effectively supported New Delhi’s position by insisting that the India deal is not an arms control treaty but a broader strategic agreement. The Bush administration has described the nuclear issue as the “basic irritant” in U.S.-Indian relations and has argued that once the issue is out of the way, India will become a responsible stakeholder in the nonproliferation regime, jettison its vestigial NAM posturing, take a more normal place in the diplomatic world — and become a strategic partner of the United States. […]

The real benefits of the India deal for Washington lie in the significant gains, especially in terms of security, that the broader strategic relationship could deliver down the road. For one thing, with New Delhi as an informal ally, Washington should expect to have India’s help in curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, even if India’s assistance would risk compromising its friendly relations with Iran. There have been some promising signs. At meetings of the IAEA Board of Governors over the past year, India joined the United States and its European partners in finding that Iran had violated its NPT obligations and then in referring the matter to the un Security Council — two welcome signs that India supports the international campaign to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Whether India actively cooperates with the United States against Iran or persists in offering rhetorical support for the spread of nuclear-fuel-cycle activities (uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing) will be the clearest test of whether nuclear recognition “brings India into the mainstream” of nonproliferation policy, as the Bush administration predicts will happen.

The United States will also want India’s assistance in dealing with a range of dangerous contingencies involving Pakistan. Pakistan’s stock of nuclear weapons, along with Russia’s, is the focus of urgent concern about nuclear terrorism. Whatever version of the A. Q. Khan story one believes — that the Pakistani government and military were unaware of Khan’s activities or that they permitted them — its moral is worrisome. It suggests that terrorists could buy or steal the materials (namely, plutonium or enriched uranium) necessary to building nuclear bombs from Pakistan thanks to diversion by radical elements in the Pakistani elite or if the Musharraf regime crumbles. And if an incident were to originate in Pakistan, the United States would want to respond in concert with as many regional players as possible, including India.

Such risks are still difficult for Washington and New Delhi to acknowledge publicly, however, as both governments try to maintain a delicately balanced relationship with Islamabad. The United States needs Pervez Musharraf’s support to search for Osama bin Laden and other terrorists on Pakistani territory, prevent the radicalization of Pakistan’s population, and stabilize Afghanistan; it can ill afford to be perceived as tilting too far toward India. The Indian government, for its part, also seems intent on improving its relations with Islamabad. But it is still reeling from the fallout of the bombings on the Indian Parliament last year, which have been attributed to Pakistani terrorists. And India, too, could be a victim of loose nukes in the event of disorder in Pakistan.

Down the road, the United States might also want India to serve as a counterweight to China. No one wishes to see China and the United States fall into a strategic contest, but no one can rule out the possibility of such a competition. The evolution of U.S.-Chinese relations will depend on the attitudes of China’s younger generation and new leaders, on Chinese and U.S. policies, and on unpredictable events such as a possible crisis over Taiwan. For now, the United States and India are largely eager to improve trade with China and are careful not to antagonize it. But it is reasonable for them to want to hedge against any downturn in relations with China by improving their relations with each other. Neither government wishes to talk publicly, let alone take actions now, to advance this shared interest, but they very well might in the future.

The India deal could also bring the United States more direct benefits, militarily and economically. Washington expects the intensification of military-to-military contacts and hopes eventually to gain the cooperation of India in disaster-relief efforts, humanitarian interventions, peacekeeping missions, and postconflict reconstruction efforts, including even operations not mandated by or commanded by the United Nations, operations in which India has historically refused to participate. Judging from the evolution of the United States’ security partnerships with states in Europe and Asia, the anticipation of such joint action could lead over time to joint military planning and exercises, the sharing of intelligence, and even joint military capabilities. U.S. military forces may also seek access to strategic locations through Indian territory and perhaps basing rights there. Ultimately, India could even provide U.S. forces with “over-the-horizon” bases for contingencies in the Middle East.

On the economic front, as India expands its civilian nuclear capacity and modernizes its military, the United States stands to gain preferential treatment for U.S. industries. The India deal theoretically creates economic opportunities in the construction of nuclear reactors and other power infrastructure in India. These should not be exaggerated, however. The United States would have to secure preferences at the expense of Russian and European competitors and would need to persuade India’s scientific community to focus its nuclear power expansion on conventional reactors rather than on the type of exotic and expensive technologies (for example, fast-breeder reactors) it currently favors. India is also expected to increase the scale and sophistication of its military, in part by purchasing weapons systems from abroad. The United States can reasonably anticipate some preferential treatment for U.S. vendors. Early discussions have concerned the sale of f-16 and f-18 tactical aircraft and p-3c maritime surveillance aircraft.

In addition to the excellent piece on the Shi’a (below), this edition of Foreign Affairs has a series of good essays on India. This one is pretty amusing in the way it tries to argue both that the President gave away too much and that we stand to gain a tremendous amount from the new alliance.

"I AM A JEW" (via Pepys):

June 3, 2006

Memorial Day: Reflections on those who made the ultimate sacrifice (CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, May 29, 2006, Slate)

The soil of the United States is almost spoiled for choice when it comes to commemorative sites. They range from Gettysburg itself–still one of the most staggering places of memory in the world–to the Confederate statue of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, one of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan, and extend from the Polar Bear monument in Detroit (honoring those Michiganders who helped invade Russia in 1919: a forgotten war if ever there was one) to Maya Lin’s masterpiece of Vietnam understatement on the National Mall. But Memorial Day transcends the specific, and collectivizes all disparate recollections into one single reflection upon the losses inflicted by war itself. The summa of this style, and one that transcends Pericles, is of course the Gettysburg Address, in which one cannot distinguish which side’s graves are actually being honored. It was always Mr. Lincoln’s way to insist that he was the elected president of every state, not just the “Northern” ones, and this speech still has the power to stir us because it was the most strenuous possible test of that essential proposition.

A memorial to, and for, all is certainly an improvement on the Arc de Triomphe/Brandenburg Gate style, which was regnant until 1918 and which asserted national exclusivity. Kemal Ataturk did a noble thing when he raised a monument to all those who fell at Gallipoli, and informed the British and Australian peoples that their “Tommies and Johnnies” would lie with his “Alis and Mehmets.” But there are also disadvantages to a memorial that is too “inclusive.” Not even President Reagan’s fine speech at the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc has erased his crass equation of the “victims” at Bitburg cemetery with their victims. Bitburg is not Gettysburg: Some wounds cannot and perhaps should not be healed.

That’s just facile nonsense from a fellow who’s been scorched by past accusations of personal anti-Semitism and who, at the time of the Reagan speech at Bitburg, was on the wrong side of history. We included that speech (immeasurably better than even the fine Pointe-du-Hoc) in our book precisely because folks have unjustly forgotten just what he said there, in an address that extended Lincoln’s national New Birth of Freedom universally, Remarks at a Joint German-American Military Ceremony at Bitburg Air Base in the Federal Republic of Germany (Ronald Reagan, May 5, 1985):

Thank you very much. I have just come from the cemetery where German war dead lay at rest. No one could visit there without deep and conflicting emotions. I felt great sadness that history could be filled with such waste, destruction, and evil, but my heart was also lifted by the knowledge that from the ashes has come hope and that from the terrors of the past we have built 40 years of peace, freedom, and reconciliation among our nations.

This visit has stirred many emotions in the American and German people, too. I’ve received many letters since first deciding to come to Bitburg cemetery; some supportive, others deeply concerned and questioning, and others opposed. Some old wounds have been reopened, and this I regret very much because this should be a time of healing.

To the veterans and families of American servicemen who still carry the scars and feel the painful losses of that war, our gesture of reconciliation with the German people today in no way minimizes our love and honor for those who fought and died for our country. They gave their lives to rescue freedom in its darkest hour. The alliance of democratic nations that guards the freedom of millions in Europe and America today stands as living testimony that their noble sacrifice was not in vain.

No, their sacrifice was not in vain. I have to tell you that nothing will ever fill me with greater hope than the sight of two former war heroes who met today at the Bitburg ceremony; each among the bravest of the brave; each an enemy of the other 40 years ago; each a witness to the horrors of war. But today they came together, American and German, General Matthew B. Ridgway and General Johanner Steinhoff, reconciled and united for freedom. They reached over the graves to one another like brothers and grasped their hands in peace.

To the survivors of the Holocaust: Your terrible suffering has made you ever vigilant against evil. Many of your are worried that reconciliation means forgetting. Well, I promise you, we will never forget. I have just come this morning from Bergen-Belsen, where the horror of that terrible crime, the Holocaust, was forever burned upon my memory. No, we will never forget, and we say with the victims of that Holocaust: Never again.

The war against one man’s totalitarian dictatorship was not like other wars. The evil war of nazism turned all values upside down. Nevertheless, we can mourn the German war dead today as human beings crushed by a vicious ideology.

There are over 2,000 buried in Bitburg cemetery. Among them are 48 members of the SS — the crimes of the SS must rank among the most heinous in human history — but others buried there were simply soldiers in the German Army. How many were fanatical followers of a dictator and willfully carried out his cruel orders? And how many were conscripts, forced into service during the death throes of the Nazi war machine? We do not know. Many, however, we know from the dates on their tombstones, were only teenagers at the time. There is one boy buried there who died a week before his 16th birthday.

There were thousands of such soldiers to whom nazism meant no more than a brutal end to a short life. We do not believe in collective guilt. Only God can look into the human heart, and all these men have now met their supreme judge, and they have been judged by Him as we shall all be judged.

Our duty today is to mourn the human wreckage of totalitarianism, and today in Bitburg cemetery we commemorated the potential good in humanity that was consumed back then, 40 years ago. Perhaps if that 15-year-old soldier had lived, he would have joined his fellow countrymen in building this new democratic Federal Republic of Germany, devoted to human dignity and the defense of freedom that we celebrate today. Or perhaps his children or his grandchildren might be among you here today at the Bitburg Air Base, where new generations of Germans and Americans join together in friendship and common cause, dedicating their lives to preserving peace and guarding the security of the free world.

Too often in the past each war only planted the seeds of the next. We celebrate today the reconciliation between our two nations that has liberated us from that cycle of destruction. Look at what together we’ve accomplished. We who were enemies are now friends; we who were bitter adversaries are now the strongest of allies.

In the place of fear we’ve sown trust, and out of the ruins of war has blossomed an enduring peace. Tens of thousands of Americans have served in this town over the years. As the mayor of Bitburg has said, in that time there have been some 6,000 marriages between Germans and Americans, and many thousands of children have come from these unions. This is the real symbol of our future together, a future to be filled with hope, friendship, and freedom.

The hope that we see now could sometimes even be glimpsed in the darkest days of the war. I’m thinking of one special story — that of a mother and her young son living alone in a modest cottage in the middle of the woods. And one night as the Battle of the Bulge exploded not far away, and around them, three young American soldiers arrived at their door — they were standing there in the snow, lost behind enemy lines. All were frostbitten; one was badly wounded. Even though sheltering the enemy was punishable by death, she took them in and made them a supper with some of her last food. Then, they heard another knock at the door. And this time four German soldiers stood there. The woman was afraid, but she quickly said with a firm voice, “There will be no shooting here.” She made all the soldiers lay down their weapons, and they all joined in the makeshift meal. Heinz and Willi, it turned out, were only 16; the corporal was the oldest at 23. Their natural suspicion dissolved in the warmth and the comfort of the cottage. One of the Germans, a former medical student, tended the wounded American.

But now, listen to the rest of the story through the eyes of one who was there, now a grown man, but that young lad that had been her son. He said: “The Mother said grace. I noticed that there were tears in her eyes as she said the old, familiar words, `Komm, Herr Jesus. Be our guest.’ And as I looked around the table, I saw tears, too, in the eyes of the battle-weary soldiers, boys again, some from America, some from Germany, all far from home.”

That night — as the storm of war tossed the world — they had their own private armistice. And the next morning, the German corporal showed the Americans how to get back behind their own lines. And they all shook hands and went their separate ways. That happened to be Christmas Day, 40 years ago.

Those boys reconciled briefly in the midst of war. Surely we allies in peacetime should honor the reconciliation of the last 40 years.

To the people of Bitburg, our hosts and the hosts of our servicemen, like that generous woman 40 years ago, you make us feel very welcome. Vielen dank. [Many thanks.]

And to the men and women of Bitburg Air Base, I just want to say that we know that even with such wonderful hosts, your job is not an easy one. You serve around the clock far from home, always ready to defend freedom. We’re grateful, and we’re very proud of you.

Four decades ago we waged a great war to lift the darkness of evil from the world, to let men and women in this country and in every country live in the sunshine of liberty. Our victory was great, and the Federal Republic, Italy, and Japan are now in the community of free nations. But the struggle for freedom is not complete, for today much of the world is still cast in totalitarian darkness.

Twenty-two years ago President John F. Kennedy went to the Berlin Wall and proclaimed that he, too, was a Berliner. Well, today freedom-loving people around the world must say: I am a Berliner. I am a Jew in a world still threatened by anti-Semitism. I am an Afghan, and I am a prisoner of the Gulag. I am a refugee in a crowded boat foundering off the coast of Vietnam. I am a Laotian, a Cambodian, a Cuban, and a Miskito Indian in Nicaragua. I, too, am a potential victim of totalitarianism.

The one lesson of World War II, the one lesson of nazism, is that freedom must always be stronger than totalitarianism and that good must always be stronger than evil. The moral measure of our two nations will be found in the resolve we show to preserve liberty, to protect life, and to honor and cherish all God’s children.

That is why the free, democratic Federal Republic of Germany is such a profound and hopeful testament to the human spirit. We cannot undo the crimes and wars of yesterday nor call back the millions back to life, but we can give meaning to the past by learning its lessons and making a better future. We can let our pain drive us to greater efforts to heal humanity’s suffering.

Today I’ve traveled 220 miles from Bergen-Belsen, and, I feel, 40 years in time. With the lessons of the past firmly in our minds, we’ve turned a new, brighter page in history.

One of the many who wrote me about this visit was a young woman who had recently been bas mitzvahed. She urged me to lay the wreath at Bitburg cemetery in honor of the future of Germany. And that is what we’ve done.

On this 40th anniversary of World War II, we mark the day when the hate, the evil, and the obscenities ended, and we commemorate the rekindling of the democratic spirit in Germany.

There’s much to make us hopeful on this historic anniversary. One of the symbols of that hate — that could have been that hope, a little while ago, when we heard a German band playing the American National Anthem and an American band playing the German National Anthem. While much of the world still huddles in the darkness of oppression, we can see a new dawn of freedom sweeping the globe. And we can see in the new democracies of Latin America, in the new economic freedoms and prosperity in Asia, in the slow movement toward peace in the Middle East, and in the strengthening alliance of democratic nations in Europe and America that the light from that dawn is growing stronger.

Together, let us gather in that light and walk out of the shadow. Let us live in peace.

Thank you, and God bless you all.


May 31, 2006

President Bush should heed Tony Blair’s advice (EJ Dionne, 5/31/06, Seattle Times)

Imagine where British Prime Minister Tony Blair would be if he hadn’t joined with President Bush in prosecuting the Iraq war. […]

You wish, at least, that the prime minister could have edited Bush’s rhetoric. More important, you wish Blair would have pushed Bush much harder to approach the rest of the world in a way that would have left us with a few more friends and allies.

The reality is that most of the political damage that Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair sustained from the war is a function of the latter’s insistence (along with Colin Powell) on trying to sell it to the international community and to do so using the WMD argument. Had the P.M. just accepted the President’s assessment that the UN wasn’t going to be any use and that it was up to enforce their resolutions for them he’d have nothing to apologize for today. Though his heart is generally in the right place, Mr. Blair continues to stumble when he makes himself believe his own backbenchers, the continental Europeans, and the UN are interested in the same causes he is. The transnationalist project is aimed at stopping men like Tony Blair as much, or more, as stopping those like Saddam.


May 22, 2006

Uganda Defies EU, Begins DDT Program to Fight Malaria (Paul Driessen, May 1, 2006, The Heartland Institute)

The African nation of Uganda has announced it will defy European Union threats and begin indoor spraying of DDT to battle rampant malaria.

Malaria kills more people in Uganda each year than any other disease, including AIDS and tuberculosis, which typically receive more media attention. Malaria accounts for 40 percent of all illnesses and 21 percent of deaths in Uganda’s hospitals. Every year the disease kills approximately 100,000 children under five years old in the country.

“We have to kill malaria using DDT, and the matter has been settled that DDT is not harmful to humans and if used for indoor-insecticide spraying,” Uganda Health Minister Jim Muhwezi told the East African on April 4. “It’s the most effective and cheapest way to fight malaria.” […]

European Union officials and nongovernmental organizations, who claim DDT spraying inside Ugandan huts may result in trace levels of the chemical being found on exported Ugandan crops, threatened to restrict the import of Ugandan crops in retaliation for the nation’s use of DDT.

Q: What kind of people defy bureaucrats just to save millions of lives?


May 9, 2006

US food aid for crisis-hit Darfur (BBC, 5/09/06)

President George W Bush has announced US emergency food shipments to ease the crisis in Sudan’s Darfur region, urging Congress to approve $225m in aid.

He also said he was sending his secretary of state to the UN Security Council to help speed up the deployment of UN peacekeepers to the region. […]

Calling the situation in Darfur a “genocide”, President Bush said five aid ships would be urgently redirected to Sudan to provide extra help for the two million people displaced by the conflict.

He said: “These actions will allow the World Food Programme to restore full food rations to the people of Darfur this summer.”

Money for the world’s largest aid operation has been running out. Rations for May have been cut in half.

Mr Bush said: “Darfur has a chance to begin anew… America will not turn away from this tragedy.”


May 7, 2006

Sudan agrees to UN troops for Darfur as treaty signed (Mohamed Osman, 5/07/06, Sunday Herald)

A spokesman for the Sudanese government has confirmed that United Nations peacekeepers will now be welcome in Darfur after a peace agreement between Khartoum and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), the main rebel group involved in the conflict.

Bakri Mulah, secretary-general for external affairs in the information ministry, issued the invitation on behalf of the Khartoum government after the agreement was reached on Friday in Abuja, the Nigerian capital.

The Sudanese government initially rejected calls for UN peacekeepers to replace the thousands of African Union peacekeepers currently in Darfur.

“We heard the appeal of the UN secretary-general Kofi Annan [for UN peacekeepers to join those of the African Union] … Now there is no problem,” a spokesman said.

The government of Sudan and the main Darfur rebel faction expressed hopes that three years of fighting could now come to an end.

A nice illustration of how the UN can be useful, following our lead.


May 6, 2006

Sudanese, Rebels Sign Peace Plan For Darfur: U.S. Pressured Parties; Doubts Remain on Deal (Glenn Kessler, May 6, 2006, Washington Post)

With a prod from the United States, the government of Sudan and the biggest Darfur rebel faction signed a complex peace plan yesterday that diplomats and experts said would require careful implementation to ensure an end to a conflict that has left as many as 450,000 people dead and 2 million homeless. […]

U.S. officials say an accord is essential in order to persuade the Sudanese government to accept a U.N. peacekeeping force that would include logistical assistance from 400 to 500 NATO officers. The African Union currently has a 6,000-person force with a limited mandate in place. Many experts say it has been ineffective at stopping the fighting.

As the negotiations in Abuja stretched into the wee hours, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo told the rebel leaders that they would miss a historic opportunity if they did not accept the agreement.

Zoellick said that at some time between 2 and 4 a.m. Friday, he pulled out a letter from President Bush to Minnawi pledging to “strongly support” implementation of the deal and make sure anyone who broke it would be “held accountable” by the U.N. Security Council. Zoellick read the letter to the assembled gathering. One problem, he said, was that it was clear that many rebels had not read the tentative agreement and did not realize that issues they kept raising had already been addressed.

In the past year, Zoellick has become the administration’s point man on Sudan, making four trips to Khartoum, the capital, and the Darfur region to press the two sides to agree. He also has shepherded efforts to implement another peace deal, signed last year, that ended a 20-year conflict between the Muslim government and rebels in the southern part of the country, which is largely animist and Christian.

The Darfur agreement is an amended version of a draft document produced earlier in the week by the African Union, which mediated the talks.

One faction that refused to sign is led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur, who founded the movement that launched the revolt against the government but has since split. The other rebel group is the Justice and Equality Movement.

“We won’t sign it because the deal does not protect the people of Darfur. We don’t have any real power in this deal,” Ahmed Tugod, a JEM negotiator, said in an interview. “It only answers part of our problems, and we reject partial solutions.”

Analysts yesterday were divided on the prospects for success.

Prod? First we told The Sudan it had to give autonomy to its South, now its West. That’s a bit more than prodding.


May 3, 2006

The loose supercannon: The Age of War: The United States Confronts the World, by Gabriel Kolko (Allen Quicke, 5/04/06, Asia Times)

Since World War II the United States has been increasingly willing to use its military might to impose its will on the world. But it is not sure exactly what its will is, and it has never evolved a workable doctrine that specifies its global role and how and when force should be used to achieve its ends. The result is haphazard foreign-policy decisions and ill-conceived military adventures embarked on without an understanding of local conditions and in utter disregard of possible consequences. Besides, Kolko argues, military means seldom if ever achieve the desired political ends. Still, the US goes in, with massive firepower, its smart bombs thinking overtime and its superweapons primed, only to find more often than not that its awesome arsenal is utterly unsuited for the job at hand. Thus it gets sucked in to prolonged, escalating conflicts such as Vietnam and Iraq, and its original intentions are forgotten as it fights on simply to avoid defeat and humiliation – in other words, to protect its credibility as a superpower. The massive human, social and economic damage that it inflicts in the process serves to destabilize regions and create enemies that the US did not have before.

Add to this “shock and awe” the increasing economic inequalities abetted by the US-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and you have the ingredients for anti-American terrorism: desperate people with no other recourse, economically on the brink and having been on the receiving end of US firepower.

If some of this sounds familiar, it’s because it is standard anti-American fare. Yet the iteration of the facts behind such assertions is instructive. Let’s look at some of them, starting with a very abbreviated list of better-known US military interventions since 1950 (a similar list would have served Kolko’s argument well, yet it is missing from the book).

1. Korea, 1950-53
2. Egypt, 1956
3. Vietnam, 1962-73
4. Cambodia, 1969-75
5. Laos, 1971-73
6. Dominican Republic, 1965-66
7. Iran (hostage rescue attempt), 1980
8. Lebanon, 1982-84
9. Grenada, 1983
10. Libya, 1986
11. Panama, 1989-90
12. Kuwait, 1991
13. Iraq (no-fly zone), 1991-2003
14. Somalia, 1992-93
15. Haiti, 1994
16. Bosnia (with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization), 1995
17. Sudan, 1998
18. Serbia (with NATO), 1999
19. Afghanistan, 2001-present
20. Iraq, 2003-present

A fuller list, such as one provided byZNet, numbers at least 60 US military and/or covert interventions since 1950, excluding shows of naval/air strength, covert action and/or the use of proxy forces where the United States did not have command, and US pilots flying foreign warplanes. Instances in which the US has used proxy forces and/or covert action for regime change, for propping up “friendly” rulers, or to fight communism include scores of countries around the globe: Angola, Cuba, Venezuela, Indonesia, the Philippines, Namibia, Iran in 1953, Afghanistan in the 1980s, Iran again in 2006, to name just a very few.

And all this for what?

For this: “Just 25 years ago, there were only 45 democracies. Today, Freedom House reports there are 122 democracies, and more people live in liberty than ever before.”

As to the alleged ideological inconsistency over the years that we’ve been forcing that evolution, one need only compare this statement, this statement and this one to this one and this one in order to see that the assertion is nonsensical.


April 24, 2006

Study reveals domestic abuse is widespread in Syria: The first study of its kind in the country shows 25 percent of women may be victims of violence. (Rhonda Roumani | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor)

[A] new study released earlier this month that says as many as 1 in 4 Syrian women may be victims of physical violence is beginning to reveal just how widespread a problem domestic abuse is throughout the country.

The study, funded by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and conducted by the state-run General Union of Women, is the first of its kind to try to quantify and explain the types of violence Syrian women face.

As Phyllis Chesler and Donna M. Hughes argue in the essay we included in Redefining Sovereignty, feminists need to work with religious conservatives if they are to help liberate women in the Islamic world.