Thursday, December 06, 2007

Genocide Studies Media File
November 26 - December 6, 2007

A compendium of news stories, features, and human rights reports pertaining to genocide and crimes against humanity. Compiled by Adam Jones. Please send links and feedback to

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"Justice Still Delayed in Argentina"
By Uki Goni, 28 November 2007
"In August 2003, Ana Careaga was jubilant. Argentina had just overturned two amnesty laws protecting military officers from prosecution for human rights crimes committed during its bloody 1976-83 dictatorship. 'I thought justice would be done at last,' says Careaga, a survivor of the Atletico death camp, where in 1977, at the age of 16, she was tortured at the hands of the military. Careaga wasn't looking for justice for herself but for her mother Esther, who had been a founder of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, a group of women who in 1977 started marching every Thursday in front of the the presidential palace in downtown Buenos Aires, to demand news of their missing children. A captive of another death camp, Esther Careaga perished in a 'death flight,' thrown alive from a military plane into the waters of the South Atlantic, the preferred method of disposal of its enemies by the dictatorship. But the hope of seeing sentences for such crimes handed down anytime soon is fading fast for Careaga and many other relatives of the over 20,000 people who 'disappeared' during those dark years. Over four years after the repeal of the laws, only a handful of the 850 suspects protected by them have been convicted, as trials remain bogged down in endless pre-trial hearings and insistent appeals by defense lawyers. 'This is a continuation of the amnesty laws by other means,' says Careaga. 'The delays are inadmissible. If normal judges can't do the job, they should set up special courts to try crimes against humanity in Argentina.' Careaga adds, 'The crimes have been proven, the witnesses have testified over and over again' referring to years of pre-trial hearings. [...]"


"Holocaust Denier to Do Prison Time in Austria"
Associated Press dispatch on, 3 December 2007
"A right-wing Austrian writer who fled to Spain after being convicted of Holocaust denial charges 15 years ago must serve his 18-month sentence, Vienna's highest court said Monday. Gerd Honsik, 67, must serve out the sentence handed down in 1992, the court said, rejecting his plea for leniency because of his age and an unspecified illness. However, the court also turned down a prosecution request to make the former fugitive serve even more time. Honsik was captured in southern Spain in August and extradited in October. He fled after being convicted of denying the existence of the Holocaust and claiming the Nazis never used gas chambers -- grounds for criminal prosecution in Austria. The charges stemmed from writings that defended Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. Between 1986 and 1989, Honsik published writings disputing that the Nazis killed 6 million Jews during World War II. Among his books is one titled 'Acquittal for Hitler?' Austria's law making it a crime to deny the Holocaust applies to 'whoever denies, grossly plays down, approves or tries to excuse the National Socialist genocide or other National Socialist crimes against humanity in a print publication, in broadcast or other media.' The crime is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. British author David Irving was convicted under the law in February 2006 and sentenced to three years in prison. He served 13 months and was released in December 2006 on probation."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"Bangladesh Looks for Evidence of 1971 Genocide", 6 December 2007
"Intelligence agencies and police in Bangladesh on Thursday were looking for evidence of genocide allegedly committed by Islamic extremists after a private citizen filed a sedition case overnight against three prominent Islamists, judicial officials said. Former minister and secretary general of the Jamaat-e-Islami group, Ali Ahsan Mohammed Mujahid, senior cleric Kader Mullah and retired government minister Shah Abdul Hannan were also accused of murder, rape and looting in a petition to put the three men on trial for war crimes. Fazlur Rahman, a former independence fighter, filed the three separate cases in the court of chief metropolitan magistrate Emran Hossian Chowdhury, decrying their role in the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan. In his petition Rahman said the three had opposed the independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan and were involved in creating militia groups to try to help the then Pakistani authorities win the war. The three men were also blamed for organizing al-Badr and al-Shams death squads from among Pakistani collaborators who were involved in the massacre of Bangladeshi civilians. Bangladeshi records say about three million civilians died in the nine-month war which also involved India after nearly ten million refugees fled the country. [...]"


"China Names Massacre Victims on 70th Anniversary"
Reuters dispatch, 4 December 2007
"China has published an eight-volume list of 13,000 victims of the Nanjing massacre in which it says invading Japanese troops killed 300,000 civilians, state media said on Tuesday. The Chinese publications, released to mark the 70th anniversary of the start of the massacre, also known as the 'Rape of Nanking,' include the names, ages, sex, occupations and residential addresses of the victims, which Japanese army unit was responsible and how the victims were killed. 'The books are the most complete name lists of the known victims of the slaughter to date,' the China Daily said. 'The publication of name lists is just a start. We will continue collecting information about the victims,' the newspaper quoted Zhang Xianwen, editor-in-chief of the compilation, as saying. The lists are part of a 27-volume series of historical materials on the massacre and were released before December 13, the day in 1937 when Japanese troops took over the city, then known as Nanking and the capital of Nationalist China. China, where many people still harbor deep resentment over Japanese wartime atrocities, says Japanese troops killed 300,000 men, women and children, many of the victims raped or otherwise tortured. An allied tribunal put the death toll at about 142,000. Some Japanese historians say the numbers are exaggerated, estimating as few as 20,000 soldiers and civilians were killed. Japan does not present any figure, although it acknowledges that many civilians were killed by invading Japanese troops."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"Accord to Open Nazi Archive to Public"
Associated Press dispatch in The Globe and Mail, 28 November 2007
"The 11 countries that oversee a vast archive in Germany of Nazi documents and concentration camp records have completed ratification of an accord to open its doors to the public, ending more than 60 years of secrecy, the Red Cross said Wednesday. Greece was the last of the 11 to formally file its ratification papers with the German Foreign Ministry, clearing the way for Holocaust survivors and researchers to access some 50 million pages of wartime documents. The archive in Bad Arolsen, Germany, is administered by the International Tracing Service, an arm of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and has been used exclusively to trace missing persons, reunite families and provide documentation to victims of Nazi persecution to support compensation claims. 'The ratification process is complete,' Reto Meister, director of the Tracing Service, said by telephone from the Buchenwald concentration camp memorial. Mr. Meister said a long list of academics and research organizations already have applied to begin work in the archive, which includes untapped documents of communications among Nazi officials, camp registrations, transportation lists, slave labour files and death lists that detail the mechanics of the Nazi torment. 'I am pleased that the archive of the International Tracing Service can now be opened for research,' said Guenter Gloser, Germany's deputy foreign minister responsible for Europe. 'I would like to invite all researchers to make use of this, and work through this dark chapter of German history.'"
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

"Israeli Migration Agents Target German Jews"
By Kate Connolly
The Guardian, 28 November 2007
"An Israeli intelligence organisation is to send agents to Germany in an effort to persuade tens of thousands of Jews from the former Soviet Union to settle in Israel. Representatives of the organisation Nativ are soon to operate on the approval of the Israeli government to 'counter the dangerous assimilation of former Soviet Jews in Germany,' according to the wording of a decision recently passed by the cabinet of prime minister Ehud Olmert. Around 200,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union, about 70% of the total community, are currently living in Germany having begun arriving at the invitation of the government in the early 1990s. But their assimilation into what is now the fastest growing Jewish community in the world has been problematic, largely due to linguistic and cultural differences, including varying approaches to defining Jewishness and even sometimes a lack of knowledge about the Holocaust. ... The Central Council of Jews, the organisation representing Jews in Germany, has expressed its fury that Israel is trying to effectively steal its members. In a recent letter to Mr Olmert, the council described the decision as a 'sign of mistrust which we find personally offensive.' Stephan Kramer, the council's general secretary said that it gave the impression that the 'connection to Israel' and 'imparting Jewish values' was not important to Jewish community leaders, when it in fact belonged to the 'foundations of Jewish existence.' He added: 'If you read the cabinet decision, you get the impression that Jewish Germans need to be evacuated. That sends a fatal signal.' The German government has joined the row, insisting that it should be up to individuals to decide where they live. ... The council has said it fears the existence of Nativ will further deepen the rift between the older community and the former Soviet Jews, at a time when the revival of Jewish life in Germany is being widely celebrated. New synagogues are being built and old ones painstakingly renovated around the country, such as the Ryke Strasse synagogue in Berlin. [...]"


"Explosive Report by Indian Magazine Exposes Those Responsible for 2002 Gujarat Massacre"
Democracy Now, 5 December 2007
"An explosive report by the Indian magazine Tehelka reveals new information about those responsible for the massacre of 2,500 Muslims in the western Indian state of Gujarat in March of 2002. The brutal violence against Muslims took place over a span of three days, followed an attack on a train carrying rightwing Hindu activists. Fifty-eight people on the train were burned to death when it stopped in the town of Godhra. Mainstream analyses have explained the statewide violence against Muslims as a 'spontaneous' reaction to the attack on the train. However, Tehelka's extensive exposé challenges this understanding of what happened in Gujarat five-and-a-half years ago and demonstrates that the anti-Muslim violence was highly organized and premeditated. The exposé was published in late October after a reporter infiltrated a rightwing Hindu organization for six months. It includes spycam video footage of Hindu activists bragging about killing Muslims and detailing the support they received from the highest levels of the state government. With state elections in Gujarat beginning next week, the exposé could have a significant political impact. Narendra Modi, who was Chief Minister during the 2002 massacre, never lost his position. He remains one of the leading contenders. Modi is from the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party], which is tied to a network of rightwing Hindu organizations. Many of the activists interviewed by Tehelka say the anti-Muslim violence could not have happened without Modi's tacit support. [...]"
[n.b. Thanks to Fara McLaren for bringing this source to my attention.]


"Nuclear Meltdown"
By Fred Kaplan, 3 December 2007
"If there was ever a possibility that President George W. Bush would drop bombs on Iran, the chances have now shrunk to nearly zero. In one of the most dramatic National Intelligence Estimates ever, the 16 agencies of the U.S. intelligence community concluded today 'with high confidence' that Iran 'halted its nuclear weapons' four years ago, in the fall of 2003. ... A little context is necessary to understand this report's full significance. For the past two years, various factions in the Bush administration have engaged in internecine skirmishes over how to deal with the anticipation of an Iranian atom bomb. Cheney and his associates are the prominent hawks, in favor of stepping up the pressure and, if the time comes, attacking Iran's nuclear facilities, perhaps pre-emptively. President Bush has sometimes seemed to take this side, at least rhetorically, as when he said recently that failure to keep Iran from gaining the ability to build A-bombs could trigger 'World War III.' Opposing this faction is ... well, nearly every other agency and high-ranking official that deals with national-security policy. And ever since Robert Gates replaced Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense one year ago, the pro-diplomacy wing has grown increasingly outspoken. ... And now, with today's NIE, we see the entire U.S. intelligence community not only, in effect, coming down on the side of the doves but concluding that the threat animating the hawks doesn't even exist. ... Skeptics of war have rarely been so legitimized. Vice President Cheney has never been so isolated. If Bush were to order an attack under these circumstances, he would risk a major eruption in the chain of command, even a constitutional crisis, among many other crises. It seems extremely unlikely that even he would do that."


"Israel Risks Apartheid-Like Struggle if Two-State Solution Fails, Says Olmert"
By Rory McCarthy
The Guardian, 30 November 2007
"Israel's prime minister issued a rare warning yesterday that his nation risked being compared to apartheid-era South Africa if it failed to agree an independent state for the Palestinians. In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, Ehud Olmert said Israel was 'finished' if it forced the Palestinians into a struggle for equal rights. If the two-state solution collapsed, he said, Israel would 'face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, and as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished.' Israel's supporters abroad would quickly turn against such a state, he said. 'The Jewish organisations, which were our power base in America, will be the first to come out against us because they will say they cannot support a state that does not support democracy and equal voting rights for all its residents,' he said. The Israeli government is usually bitterly resentful of any comparison to the apartheid regime but Olmert's remarks looked like an effort to galvanise support from a sceptical Israeli public for a return to peace negotiations with the Palestinians in the days after the Annapolis conference. Israel has a 20% Arab minority who are citizens and can vote, although they are frequently discriminated against and are described by some as a 'demographic threat.' Within a few years the number of Arabs in Israel and the Palestinian territories is expected to equal, and then exceed, the number of Jews in Israel and the settlements. Some Palestinians argue that they should campaign for a so-called one-state solution: equal voting and citizenship rights within a larger country that includes Israel and the occupied territories and in which Palestinians will soon have a majority. It is not the first time that Olmert has risked the South African comparison. Four years ago, in another interview with Ha'aretz, he gave a similar warning. But that was a time when, as deputy to the then prime minister Ariel Sharon, he argued that Israel should unilaterally draw up a border with the Palestinians, withdrawing from Gaza and holding on to the major Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank. [...]"

"An Excursion through the West Bank is a Trip to Disbelief"
By Dan Lieberman
Online Journal, 26 November 2007
"[...] Entering Bethlehem means being greeted by the separation wall which runs close to homes. The former popular Bethlehem has shrunk in size and economy. Israel decided to incorporate 22 percent of Bethlehem's land into Jerusalem. The government also routed the wall so that it cuts across the Jerusalem/Bethlehem highway and closes the previously used road to Bethlehem. This road brought tourists past the souvenir shops, which are now mostly closed. Hotels are only 10 percent occupied. The livelihoods of many Bethlehem citizens have disappeared. To obtain employment, laborers line up at 3 a.m. at checkpoints they must pass through in order to go to Jerusalem and work. The checkpoint funnels persons through a small fenced area, similar to a stockyard, bringing them to a turnstile and to security control. The once busy and proud Bethlehem is now a decaying town; empty shops, empty homes, empty tourist attractions. If the Christian Lord could rise again, he would be alone. The UN claims decaying Bethlehem water pipelines lose 25 percent of the water. The former Palestine Authority intelligence headquarters, bombed by Israeli jets on March 5, 2002, remains a bombed out group of senseless buildings. At a hilltop site in Gush Etzion, (Bloc of the Tree), the famous Zionist settlements, which were destroyed and abandoned under Jordanian rule, but have returned to grow to 40,000 settlers since Israel's occupation after the 1967 war, Israel's modification of the land is apparent. Israeli setlements dot the landscape. Several temporary vans with antennae are in view on the top of the hill. Two Israelis come jogging from the incipient settlement. An old Palestinan village is obvious in the near distance. We are told that its cisterns have been dampened and the village is static -- building of new homes is not permitted, except for special circumstances. A new narrow road winds its way in the distance. The direct road which led to the main road has been blocked, bypassed, reblocked and on and on. [...]"
[n.b. A stark account of "urbicide," to use the term recently deployed in the genocide-studies literature. See also Stephen Graham's fine essay, "'Clean Territory': Urbicide in the West Bank," available online; and a useful Wikipedia entry on the subject.]


"'Comfort Women' Want Canada's Help, Japan Apology", 27 November 2007
"They were kidnapped from homes across Asia and raped repeatedly by Japanese soldiers during the Second World War. Now in their eighties, the women -- referred to as 'comfort women' by their Japanese captors -- are fighting back against the atrocities that were inflicted on them seven decades ago. On Tuesday, four of the women were in Ottawa hoping to get federal politicians on board as they demanded a formal apology from the Japanese government. Japan insists that the government has said sorry and offered money long ago to the 200,000 women and girls -- some as young as 12 -- who were used as sex slaves by the military from 1932 to 1945. The U.S. Congress recently asked for a formal apology from Japan's parliament, and now MPs here in Canada are backing a similar resolution. 'Sexual slavery is a crime against humanity and I just think we have the moral responsibility to speak out,' New Democrat MP Olivia Chow told CTV News. The Japanese, though, are lobbying hard against a formal apology. Ten days ago, their prime minister even called Prime Minister Stephen Harper to argue that his country has already done enough. But the women maintain that Japan has not done enough to satisfy the victims, and pleaded with MPs not to let the issue die. The women -- who traveled to Canada from China, Korea, the Philippines, and the Netherlands -- told politicians in Ottawa that the matter has not been settled. They said their injuries from war haven't healed and recalled the horrific events they endured during the war. One of the women said she was only 14 when she was impregnated by one of the soldiers who raped her. The fact that she was carrying a baby didn't stop the rapes from occurring repeatedly. Ellen van der Ploeg was living in Java when the Japanese occupiers labeled her as a prostitute. 'We were there for the pleasure of the Japanese soldiers,' said van der Ploeg. 'After 62 years, I'm still waiting for my salary.'"
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"Propaganda War is Declared in Cinemas over Nanking Massacre"
By David McNeill
The Independent, 5 December 2007
"One way to learn what happened in one of history's most noxious but disputed episodes is to ask Satoru Mizushima. After what he calls 'exhaustive research' on the 1937 seizure of the then Chinese capital by Japanese troops, estimated to have cost anywhere from 20,000 to 300,000 lives, Mizushima offers a very precise figure for the number of illegal deaths: zero. 'The evidence for a massacre is faked,' he explains. 'It is Chinese Communist propaganda.' For support, he brandishes a book containing what he says are dozens of doctored photos. One shows a beheaded Chinese corpse with a cigarette in its mouth. 'Japanese people don't mistreat corpses like that,' he says, stabbing the page for emphasis. 'It is not in our culture.' The world will soon get a chance to assess his claims when Mizushima's movie, The Truth of Nanking, reaches the cinemas. Arguments over what occurred in Nanking began almost as soon as Imperial soldiers marched into the city on 13 December 1937 and have only grown in ferocity since. These smouldering disputes are set to cross over into mass entertainment on the 70th anniversary of the massacre, with nearly a dozen movies, backed by US, European and Chinese money, set to pick again at Nanking's scabs. Whatever the end result, one thing is certain: Japanese neo-nationalists have little hope of winning the propaganda war second time around. Yesterday, Chinese historians published an eight-volume list of 13,000 victims of the invasion, which includes the names, ages, sex, occupations and addresses of the victims, which Japanese army unit was responsible and how the victims were killed. But the work of the historians will make little impact in comparison with that of the film-makers. Mizushima's reputed $2m (£1m) budget for The Truth is dwarfed, for example, by the $53m Purple Mountain filming in China. Adapted from the bestseller The Rape of Nanking by the bête noire of Japanese conservatives, Iris Chang, the US-Chinese film is aiming for nothing less than an Asian version of Schindler's List. [...]"


"Last Chance to Catch Nazis in South America, Say Campaigners"
By Uki Goni and Rory Carroll
The Guardian, 28 November 2007
"A final effort to track down and prosecute Nazi war criminals who fled to South America after the second world war was launched in Argentina yesterday. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a Jewish human rights group, called its initiative Operation Last Chance because there was little time left to catch the suspects before they died. It will take the form of a media campaign in Chile, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil and offer financial rewards for information that leads to convictions. The scheme, announced at a press conference in Buenos Aires, shone fresh light on South America's murky and embarrassing role as a haven for Nazis after Hitler's defeat in 1945. Between 150 and 300 suspected war criminals are believed to have slipped across the Atlantic to new lives, in some cases with the connivance of host governments, notably Argentina where President Juan Perón branded the Nuremberg trials an 'infamy' and organised rescue missions to smuggle Nazi officers out of Europe and relocate them as 'technicians' in Argentina's armed forces. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre first launched its scheme in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia in 2002. The operation yielded the names of 488 suspects from 20 countries, it said. Of that number, 99 cases have been submitted to local prosecutors, resulting in three arrest warrants, two extradition requests and dozens of ongoing investigations. ... The highest-profile catch was Adolf Eichmann, one of the orchestrators of the Holocaust, who was kidnapped by Israeli agents in Argentina in 1960 and spirited to a trial in Jerusalem where he was executed two years later. Those who evaded capture included the Auschwitz doctor, Josef Mengele, who lived in Argentina before dying in Brazil in 1979, and the Butcher of Riga, Eduard Roschmann, blamed for the deaths of 40,000 Jews in Riga in Latvia, who died in Paraguay in 1977. Simon Wiesenthal, the Holocaust survivor who founded the centre, died in 2005."


"The Trial of Fujimori"
By John Crabtree
New Statesman, 3 December 2007
"The trial of ex-Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori, due to begin on December 10, will put the spotlight on the large scale of corruption and human rights violations that took place in Peru in the 1990s. If convicted, he will be the first elected Latin American president in living memory to go to jail. Hitherto only a handful of military dictators -- including members of the Argentine junta that seized power in 1976 and the Bolivia's General Luis Garcia Meza who overturned democracy in 1980 with the support of that country's cocaine mafia -- have ended up behind bars in their own country. Fujimori was extradited from Chile to Peru in September, following lengthy judicial proceedings in Santiago. The Chilean Supreme Court finally ruled the crimes allegedly committed by Fujimori were sufficient to justify extradition. The case against Fujimori centres on his involvement in the corrupt use of public funds in Peru during his ten-year rule as president, as well as his role in authorising two now notorious cases of human rights violations. The first of these took place in November 1991 in a Lima suburb known as the Barrios Altos, when the military assassinated several people attending a party. The second was the killing, in July 1992, of a teacher and nine students at the 'La Cantuta' university in Lima. In both cases, 'La Colina' death squad was immediately responsible. ... The Barrios Altos and La Cantuta killings represent only isolated instances of human rights violation. According to the authoritative Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, published in 2003, some 70,000 Peruvians lost their lives in the course of a twenty-year war (1980-2000) between the Peruvian state and the Maoist-inspired Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) insurgency. The vast majority of victims were innocent peasants caught in the crossfire in this protracted and brutal conflict. [...]"


"Fulbright Fellowship Supports Research and Study of Genocide in Rwanda", 5 December 2007
"A genocide scholar from the University of Arkansas has been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to conduct research in Rwanda while developing a genocide studies program at that country's national university. At the National University of Rwanda, Samuel Totten will work with faculty and graduate students from the Centre for Conflict Management, as well as faculty in history, political science and law, to develop a master's degree program in genocide studies. In addition, he will conduct three research projects that build on his previous research in Rwanda. ... As part of his Fulbright Fellowship, from January through July 2008, Totten will conduct extensive interviews and oral histories with Rwandans. He will complete a current study of Rwandan gacacas -- local courts that aim to uncover the truth of who killed whom during the Rwanda genocide and to sentence the convicted to prison. During a visit to Rwanda in 2006, Totten conducted a series of in-depth, randomized interviews with 25 village residents about the genocide and the gacacas. The Fulbright Fellowship will allow him to conduct more interviews and analyze the data. Totten also will undertake a study of the status and actions of Hutus and Tutsis incarcerated in Rwanda prisons just prior to and during the 1994 genocide. He plans to spend a month conducting interviews with prisoners in four or five prisons in various parts of Rwanda. [...]"
[n.b. Congratulations, Sam!]

"Rwanda 'Hate Media' Terms Slashed"
BBC Online, 28 November 2007
"Three Rwandan media executives have had their sentences reduced for inciting violence against ethnic Tutsis during the genocide when 800,000 people died. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda reduced the life sentences of Ferdinand Nahimana and Hassan Ngeze to 30 and 35 years respectively. Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza's jail term was reduced from 35 to 32 years. Nahimana and Barayagwiza set up a radio station which broadcast lists of people to be killed in 1994. Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) urged Hutus to 'exterminate the cockroaches' in the wake of the assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana on 6 April 1994. Barayagwiza was also a leading member of the Coalition for the Defence of the Republic (CDR) -- a Hutu extremist party. Ngeze was the editor of an extremist Hutu magazine called Kangura. He was convicted for the publication's incitement to hatred but also for his role in the killings of Tutsis in his home town of Gisenyi. The Tanzanian-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) originally sentenced the men in 2003. The presiding appeal judge, Fausto Pocar, said the appeal tribunal had overturned the conclusion of the initial trial judges that there had been 'an understanding' between the accused -- RTLM, the CDR and Kangura with a view to committing genocide. [...]"

"Ghosts of Rwanda"
By Michael Gerson
The Washington Post, 28 November 2007 [Registration Required]
"We are used to seeing aged Holocaust survivors with faded photographs, telling their stories to remind the young and forgetful. So it is shocking to meet a 31-year-old genocide survivor with memories so fresh they bleed. I talked to Freddy Mutanguha in a field of white crosses, near a half-finished monument to perhaps 800,000 victims of the Rwandan genocide. 'My mom,' he recalled, 'gave money to be killed by a bullet, because she saw the machetes and knew what they would do to her. But the bullet was too expensive.' The mass violence of Hutu against Tutsi left a nation of corpses -- and a nation of stories. A young man took me on a tour of the neighborhood where he had been hunted for weeks by soldiers and informers. At one point, a friend purchased his life with the bribe of a case of beer. He hugs a woman along the dirt street, commenting as she walks away, 'She lost all of her children.' A man I met in passing, I later learned, was 14 when he performed the lonely task of burying his mother, father and siblings in a grave near their home. And the ghosts seem to gather in sacred places. At Ntarama Church, soldiers surrounded thousands of Tutsis seeking refuge, blocked the door and threw grenades inside. The walls and rafters of the dark sanctuary are covered with the clothing in which the victims were found. Light comes through the tin roof in holes from shrapnel, like constellations frozen at the hour of death. [...]"
[n.b. Thanks to Yadi Pantoja for bringing this source to my attention.]


"In the Name of God: The Saudi Rape Victim's Tale"
By Daniel Howden
The Independent, 29 November 2007
"Inside Saudi Arabia she has come to be known simply as the 'Qatif girl,' a teenager who was gang-raped then humiliated by first the police, then the judicial authorities. Her case has propelled her into the international headlines and made her an acute embarrassment for the House of Saud. To the Saudi Justice Ministry, she is an adulteress whose case is being used by critics of the Kingdom. To much of the rest of the world, she is a symbol of all that's wrong with Saudi Arabia. Today she lives under effective house arrest. She is forbidden to speak and may be taken into custody at any time. Her family's movements are monitored by the religious police and their telephones are tapped. Her lawyer, Saudi Arabia's foremost human rights advocate, Abd al-Rahman al-Lahem, has been suspended. He has had his passport confiscated and faces a hearing next week in which he may be disbarred. The crime of 'Qatif girl,' it seems, has been to refuse to be silent about what has happened to her. The 19-year-old first sought to bring to justice the seven men who raped her, then complained in public when the courts saw fit to sentence her to 90 lashes for 'mingling,' the crime of being out in public with a male who was not her relative prior to the attack. Coverage of the case this month in the usually tightly censored Saudi media infuriated the authorities. They increased her sentence to 200 lashes and six months in prison. Her sentence still hangs over her. [...]"


"War Crimes Prosecutor Hands Serbia an Ultimatum"
By Mike Corder
Associated Press dispatch in The Herald (Glasgow), 7 December 2007
"Outgoing Yugoslav war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte has given Belgrade an ultimatum: hand over fugitive General Ratko Mladic by Monday, or she will block Serbia's bid to join the EU. EU officials initialled a pre-membership deal with Serbia last month, saying it was satisfied with Belgrade's co-operation with the tribunal. Del Ponte, however, says a formal signing of the agreement hinges on full co-operation. 'For me, it means Mladic,' she said yesterday. 'Mladic in The Hague.' She said that while visiting Belgrade on Monday, she told Serbian leaders: 'I give you some days more, but by Monday, Mladic must be in The Hague. Otherwise it will be a negative assessment about co-operation.' Del Ponte presents her final report on Monday to the UN Security Council, which set up the tribunal in 1993 in response to widespread atrocities in the Balkan wars. Her reports carry significant weight at the EU and a negative assessment would make it politically hard for member states to put Serbia on the road to full membership. The former Swiss attorney general leaves the court at the end of this month after more than eight years, to be her country's envoy to Argentina. During her tenure, 91 suspects were transferred to the court and 63 were indicted. However, she conceded that the failure to get her hands on key fugitives Mladic and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was a disappointment. The pair, after former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, 'were the most responsible for the crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide committed during the conflict in Bosnia,' she said. Karadzic and Mladic are charged with genocide and crimes against humanity for allegedly orchestrating the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and the siege of Sarajevo. [...]"

"Top Serbian Official Issues War Threat over Kosovo"
By Julian Borger
The Guardian, 6 December 2007
"The EU special envoy on Kosovo today demanded a retraction of a threat by a senior Serbian official that his country could resort to war if the mostly ethnic Albanian province declares independence. Aleksandar Simic, an advisor to Serbia's prime minister, was quoted in the Belgrade media as saying that Serbia had the legal right to use war as a means of defending its territory if Kosovo, a UN protectorate for the past eight years, declares independence in the coming weeks as expected. 'Serbia has had negative experiences from certain armed clashes during the civil wars in the former Yugoslavia, and this is why we are more prudent and cautious now, but, of course, state interests are defended by war as well,' Mr. Simic said. Wolfgang Ischinger, the European member of a troika of international negotiators who have spent the past four months trying in vain to find a negotiated settlement on Kosovo's future, reacted angrily to Mr Simic's remarks. 'I believe it is inadmissible and intolerable that even before the troika report is out one of the parties expresses himself in this way,' Mr Ischinger said in London today. 'I believe this is in clear violation of the firm commitments expressed by the president of Serbia himself at the conference table in a solemn fashion.' The envoy, who is also Germany's ambassador to London, said he expected the Serbian government to retract the statement. [...]"

"UK Troops Ready for Kosovo Crisis"
By Ian Traynor
The Guardian, 30 November 2007
"Britain yesterday offered to be the first Nato country to send extra troops to Kosovo within weeks, as the Conservatives and Balkan experts warned of a potentially violent crisis brewing. While David Cameron accused the Kremlin of stirring up trouble in the Balkans and warned of a new crisis by Christmas, Gordon Brown's government also risked Russian wrath by issuing a robust statement of support for quick Kosovan independence. Lord Ashdown, the former international governor of Bosnia, accused the Russians and the Serbian government of fomenting trouble in Bosnia and Kosovo, and demanded troops reinforcements to try to keep the peace. 'Unless we get a grip on this situation very fast, the issue of the Balkans will be back on our agenda with a vengeance,' Ashdown told the BBC. Amid a growing sense of foreboding after the collapse of two years of negotiations between the Serb and Kosovo Albanian leaderships over the future of the contested Balkan province, the Foreign Office signalled strong support for a breakaway Kosovo. 'Long-term European stability and security demand a viable status settlement for Kosovo without delay,' a spokesman said, voicing support for the supervised independence proposed by the UN envoy, Martti Ahtisaari. If more peacekeepers were needed in Kosovo, Britain would be the first to send extra forces, he said. In one of his first big foreign policy speeches in Washington last night, Cameron called for extra troops immediately to pre-empt violence. 'There could be a new crisis in the Balkans by Christmas ... That is a direct threat to our national security, and we must take decisive action now to prevent it,' he said. British diplomats indicated that any call for extra troops should first come from Nato commanders on the ground."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

"Final Kosovo Talks End in Failure"
BBC Online, 28 November 2007
"Serbs and ethnic Albanians have failed to resolve the future status of Kosovo at a final round of internationally-brokered talks. The UN had set a 10 December deadline for a negotiated settlement on Kosovo. The province's ethnic Albanians demand independence from Serbia but Belgrade has consistently rejected this. Although both sides say they will avoid a return to violence, the US envoy to Kosovo has warned the 'peace of the Balkans is very much at stake.' ... Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders have said they would consider a unilateral declaration of independence if the 10 December deadline lapsed without a negotiated deal. But the EU has cautioned against this, saying Kosovo must only achieve statehood in partnership with international bodies. Speaking after the final round of talks in Vienna on Wednesday, Kosovo's ethnic Albanian President Fatmir Sejdiu said independence for Kosovo 'will happen very quickly' but refused to give an exact date. However, Serbian President Boris Tadic said Belgrade would 'annul' any unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo. He said his country would use all legal and diplomatic means to resist such a declaration, stopping short of violence. Though technically part of Serbia, Kosovo has been administered by the UN for the last eight years. ... Russia has supported Serbia's stance at the UN Security Council, arguing that independence for Kosovo could provide dangerous inspiration for separatists elsewhere. All attempts to decide the final status of Kosovo through negotiations have so far failed."

"Serbia Threatens Blockades on Kosovo"
Associated Press dispatch on, 28 November 2007
"Serbia threatened to impose an economic and travel blockade on Kosovo if the breakaway province declares independence, as a last-ditch attempt to negotiate a settlement deadlocked and appeared doomed to fail. International mediators' failure to forge a compromise before a December 10 UN deadline raised the likelihood that an increasingly impatient Kosovo will declare statehood sometime early in 2008, throwing the Balkans into fresh turmoil and possibly violence. Top officials from the rival sides both conceded they remain far apart. Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority demands full independence, while Serbia insists the southern province remain part of its territory. 'Hopefully, in a time not too long from now, we will be able to take our decision,' Kosovo's president, Fatmir Sejdiu, told reporters in the Austrian spa town of Baden, where the closed-door talks at a castle hotel wrap up on Wednesday. Sejdiu shrugged off Serbia's fierce opposition to statehood for Kosovo, saying the province 'will not be held hostage' to those who object. As the talks mediated by the US, European Union and Russia hit what looked like an insurmountable stalemate, there were ominous statements from the Serbian side suggesting ugly and possibly bloody confrontations could await Kosovo if it declares independence unilaterally as many expect. Serbia will impose a 'complete economic and travel blockade' of Kosovo, including cutting off electricity supplies to the province and banning ethnic Albanians and their goods from crossing the borders, a high-ranking Serbian official told The Associated Press in Belgrade on Tuesday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"Unearthing War's Horrors Years Later in South Korea"
By Choe Sang-Hun
The New York Times, 3 December 2007 [Registration Required]
"Shortly after the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, Kim Man-sik, a military police sergeant, received an urgent radio message from the South Korean Army’s Counterintelligence Corps: Go to local police stations, take custody of scores of Communist suspects held there and execute them. Mr. Kim complied. What he did and saw in those days is etched permanently in his mind. 'They were all tied together with military communications wire,' said Mr. Kim, now 81. 'So when we opened fire, they all pulled at each other to try to escape. The wire cut into their wrists. Blood was splattered all over their white clothes.' That Mr. Kim's story has emerged after half a century is a testament to this nation's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, modeled after the South African group set up in the 1990s to expose crimes and injustices committed during the apartheid era. Unlike the situation in South Africa, where the truth commission started work soon after the collapse of the apartheid government, South Korea's commission was not created for decades. During most of that time, the country was ruled by anti-Communist authoritarian governments that wanted to keep buried the history of violence against people who had been accused of being Communists. It was not until after President Roh Moo-hyun was elected that the country created the commission in 2005, starting a nationwide investigation to uncover the history of atrocities by each Korea. ... South Korean troops executed tens of thousands of unarmed civilians and prisoners as they retreated in advance of the North Korean invaders during the war, according to historians. The victims were often accused of being Communist sympathizers or collaborators. The commission's investigators have discovered the remains of hundreds of people -- including women and children -- who were killed without trial. They have also identified 1,222 probable instances of mass killings during the war. The cases include 215 episodes in which survivors say American warplanes and ground troops killed unarmed civilians. [...]"


"U.N. Fails Darfur Again"
By Nat Hentoff
The Village Voice, 6 December 2007
"Consider this a battle plan—which includes intersecting campaigns under way here and abroad—to rescue the survivors of this century's first genocide: the hundreds of thousand of lives that are at stake in the Darfur holocaust. To begin with, forget the United Nations as a savior. As famed British playwright Tom Stoppard put it plainly: 'If the United Nations could die of shame, it would have been dead years ago.' To put another nail in its coffin, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon -- the Alberto Gonzales of that feeble body -- convened, in concert with the African Union, peace talks in Sirte, Libya, on October 27. But the talks soon collapsed because the leaders of the two main rebel groups refused to come, thanks to their acute distrust of Sudan's Hitler, General Omar al-Bashir. On the first day of the conference, Bashir, in a slick propaganda move, declared a cease-fire in Darfur, presumably disarming the Janjaweed, the government's mass killers and rapists. On the very next day, Bashir's bombers attacked civilian and rebel targets in West Darfur. As genocide historian Eric Reeves reported, neither the U.N. nor the African Union condemned these bombings. The only way to end this genocide is by putting intense, continuing pressure on China to compel Bashir to stop the bloodbath. China is, by far, the chief buyer of Sudan's oil and has substantial other investments in the country -- while also being Bashir's main arms supplier. At the U.N. Security Council, China protects Sudan against any possibility of real sanctions aimed at Bashir and supports Sudan's obstructions of the much-heralded Security Council Resolution 1769, which will supposedly send 26,000 troops and civilian police to Darfur, along with helicopters, by the beginning of next year. With Bashir holding supreme power, that deadline -- or any other -- will never be met. The shooting-down of U.N. Resolution 1769 -- along with the hopes of Darfur's survivors -- received only scant attention in the American press, mainly the five small paragraphs on page A10 in the November 22 New York Times: "U.N. Concerned Over Darfur Force." But with the value of the dollar falling around the world, who cares about a Darfur force? Where is Darfur anyway? [...]"

"World Court Opens Two Darfur Probes"
By Maggie Farley
The Los Angeles Times, 6 December 2007 [Registration Required]
"The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Wednesday that he was opening new investigations in Darfur, one targeting Sudanese government officials for alleged violence against civilians in displacement camps and the other against those who have attacked aid workers and U.N. peacekeepers. Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo of Argentina also said that he would seek to hold senior Sudanese officials accountable for protecting two suspects indicted by the ICC this year. The prosecutor said he hoped the inquiries would pressure Sudan's leaders and play off diplomats' frustration over their stonewalling. The investigations also put rebel groups on notice that their actions are being scrutinized, he said. When Moreno-Ocampo announced his first two arrest warrants in June, United Nations officials and diplomats were reluctant to press the government in Khartoum to hand over the suspects, fearing it would upset negotiations over a peacekeeping force and talks for the troubled Darfur region. But since then, Ahmad Harun, one of those indicted, has been promoted to coordinate aid and oversee peacekeepers for the displaced people in Darfur he is charged with helping uproot. The ICC charged the other suspect, militia leader Ali Mohammed Ali Abdalrahman, better known as Kushayb, with leading mass attacks in Darfur on Harun's orders. He was freed after a brief detention. Since June, Khartoum has raised obstacles on the deployment of peacekeepers and access for aid workers, as well as cooperation with the ICC. 'The secretary-general and the Security Council have seen that trading peace for justice has not gained them much,' said Richard Dicker of New York-based Human Rights Watch. 'Today, there is rising pressure on Sudan to arrest and surrender these guys, or the ICC will go after them too.' [...]"

"China 'Deeply Concerned' over Threats in Darfur"
Agence France-Presse dispatch in The Mail & Guardian (South Africa), 27 November 2007
"China on Tuesday voiced deep concern about the safety of its peacekeepers in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region after rebel groups boycotting the peace process declared they were not immune from attack. 'Up to now there has been no incident, but we are deeply concerned about the matter,' the Chinese ambassador to Khartoum, Li Cheng Wen, said. More than 100 Chinese engineers were deployed to Darfur last week to build roads and bridges and dig wells to prepare for a 26 000-strong African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force, but they were immediately told to go home by rebels. In all, 315 Chinese engineers at the invitation of the United Nations will deploy by December to the region, where war has raged for nearly five years. 'Joining the peacekeeping action in the Darfur region reflects China's constructive role in solving Darfur's problem properly,' the ambassador said. 'This is good for Darfur peace and stability. It benefits reconstruction and improves people's life in Darfur. So it is very difficult for the Chinese side to understand and [we] cannot accept the criticism of joining the peacekeeping operation. Furthermore, we stand against the public threat to the Chinese peacekeepers' safety. I will contact certain organs in Unamid [the joint AU-UN force] to guarantee their safety and take all necessary measures to protect them,' the ambassador said. The Chinese military engineers carry small arms and are entitled to defend themselves if attacked, in line with UN resolutions. 'China hopes those military groups that have not signed the Darfur Peace Agreement will join the peace process as soon as possible and work so that peace and development can be realised,' added the ambassador. Darfur rebels have charged that as 'allies' of the government in Khartoum, the Chinese are not immune from attack. China is the biggest buyer of Sudan's oil and sells weapons to the Khartoum government -- blamed for fanning the violence in Darfur. [...]"


"In Britain, Free Speech for Far Right?"
By Mark Rice-Oxley
The Christian Science Monitor, 27 November 2007
"It styles itself as the world's most prestigious debating forum, a hallowed chamber at the heart of Oxford University that has played host, over the years, to everyone from Mother Teresa to Henry Kissinger, and from Diego Maradona to the Dalai Lama. But now the Oxford Union is courting furious controversy for inviting two guests of an altogether different distinction. David Irving is a discredited historian who served a year in an Austrian jail for denying the Holocaust. Invitations to the pair to take part in a debate on Monday night has provoked furious reaction in Britain. MPs and ministers have withdrawn from events or resigned their membership of what is essentially an elite club for the political leaders of tomorrow to cut their teeth. Antifascist groups were descending on Oxford Sunday to vent their anger at the decision to offer a platform to two of Britain's most venomous voices on the right. 'This is not about freedom of speech, it's about providing a free platform to disseminate fear in the British community of Jews, Asians, and black people,' says Denis MacShane, a Labour MP and former minister, who pulled out of an Oxford debate because of the invitation. Mr. Irving and Mr. Griffin, he says, 'have had freedom of speech. They have had their day in court and were convicted of Holocaust denial which is one of most egregious forms of anti-Semitism.' Mr. MacShane is not the only one voting with his feet. Last week, the defense minister, Des Browne, pulled out of a debate; and a Conservative MP, Julian Lewis, went one step further, tearing up his life membership of the prestigious union which he said was giving a 'boost' to 'a couple of scoundrels who can put up with anything except being ignored.' [...]"

"Oxford Union Debate Features Holocaust Denier"
The New York Times, 26 November 2007 [Registration Required]
"In the face of angry protests, the Oxford Union debating society went ahead today with plans for an evening debate featuring David Irving, a British author jailed in Austria in 2005 for denying the Holocaust, and Nick Griffin, leader of the far-right British National Party, acquitted by a British court last year of stirring racial hatred. The police in Oxford said they planned to mount 'a ring of steel' around the union building in the city center, where student and trade union groups were preparing to bus in hundreds of people for what they described as an 'anti-fascist' protest. The union's members, mostly students at Oxford University, voted by a margin of more than two to one at a special meeting on Friday to proceed with the event, which was to debate free speech. Mr. Irving, the author of several books on Hitler's Germany, had billed his appearance at the Oxford debate as a warm-up for a proposed national speaking tour in Britain, where his writing and other publicly expressed views on that period have provoked bitter dispute for years. An Austrian appellate court ordered him released last year after he had served one year of a three-year term for denying the Holocaust. Mr. Griffin's party has remained a fringe group despite attracting growing support among disaffected, mainly white voters in areas of northern England that have substantial Asian populations. He was found not guilty of provoking racial hatred last year in a court in the northern city of Leeds. Prosecutors at the trial played a videotape recording made by an undercover reporter for the BBC in which Mr. Griffin attacked British Muslims, accusing them of plotting to make Britain an Islamic republic. The invitation to the two right-wing speakers plunged the Oxford debating society into one of the fiercest controversies in its 184-year history. In 1933 it stirred anger in Britain with its notorious 'king and country' debate, in which members voted they would in no circumstances fight a war against Nazism. Although an independent body with no formal links to Oxford University, many of the union’s members are Oxford students, and many of the union’s leaders have gone on to prominent role in British politics. [...]"


"Groups Will Use Holocaust Day to Highlight Mass Murder in Darfur"
By Colin Brown
The Independent, 26 November 2007
"Britain's official day to mark the Holocaust will be dedicated to highlighting the mass murder taking in place in Darfur today, to increase pressure on the Sudanese government to stop the killing there. The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust will use its national day on 27 January to demand tougher action to stop atrocities in Sudan. The official charity was set up with the backing of the Government to learn the lessons of the Holocaust against six million Jews in the Second World War. A survey conducted by YouGov for the charity showed that 53 per cent of British people are aware of the outrages being committed in Darfur but 83 per cent have done nothing about them. About 24 per cent said they had done nothing because they did not believe they could change anything, and 18 per cent said they did not know what to do. The charity was hoping that by drawing attention to the killing in Darfur, it would persuade more people to lobby MPs and protest for tougher action against a regime presiding over the mass murder. ... The UN has declared the situation in Sudan a 'severe humanitarian crisis' rather than 'genocide,' which would allow countries to intervene more directly under international law. Britain, the EU, US and UN are working to put pressure on the Sudanese government to disarm and disband the militia. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair did not rule out the use of force, but that is not on the agenda, although UN peace talks earlier this month failed to produce a solution. [...]"


"Britain's Missing Babies: A Chilling New Investigation Reveals a Disturbing Trend"
By Paul Bracchi
The Daily Mail, 2 December 2007
"The waiting rooms of Dr. Mangala Telang's private clinics in the suburbs of Delhi are always full. Dr. Telang is a leading IVF specialist, after all, and one of the doctors recommended by the British High Commission (her name is given out to Britons visiting or living in the city who need to see a gynaecologist). Pictures of smiling, gurgling babies adorn the walls of her surgeries. How chillingly ironic these photographs turn out to be. In fact, doctors like Mangala Telang are at the heart of a scandal -- and human tragedy -- which extends to thousands of homes in Britain. Worrying new research reveals that between 1990 and 2005, about 1,500 fewer girls were born to Indian mothers living in England and Wales than would have been statistically probable for this group. Indeed, the Oxford University population expert who collated the information insists the discrepancy in birth ratios between boys and girls is too 'sudden and pronounced to have a likely biological or environmental cause ... the most probable explanation is sex-selective abortion.' The revelation follows a threemonth investigation by a team from the highly-respected BBC Asian Network. ... The 1,500 total represents one in ten girls 'missing' from birth statistics for mothers having their third or fourth female child. It is almost certainly a very conservative estimate, based solely on records for Indian-born women who moved to Britain, not Indian women born in Britain -- for which data is not easily available. Indian women in Britain it appears, are also travelling to the subcontinent to use the services of doctors such as Mangala Telang, who does not carry out terminations herself, but for 4,000 rupees (about £49), Dr Telang will tell you the sex of your unborn child and is happy to recommend someone who can terminate the pregnancy. It is illegal in India to use ultrasound scans for such a purpose -- even in the UK it is the policy of most hospitals not to divulge this information until after the 24-week abortion limit. Anyone who is familiar with Indian society and culture will probably understand why. Girls are often unwanted. [...]"
[n.b. Thanks to Jo Jones for bringing this source to my attention.]


"Britain: Muslims End Holocaust Day Boycott"
The New York Times, 4 December 2007 [Registration Required]
"The Muslim Council of Britain, the biggest Muslim umbrella group in the country, has voted to end its boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day, The Guardian reported. The organization's central working committee voted 18 to 8 on Saturday to end the boycott, which began in 2001, and to send representatives to the next Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration, on Jan. 27, in Liverpool. The Guardian said that those who voted to attend said the boycott had allowed the council to be accused of anti-Semitism. Those who supported the boycott argued for a more inclusive title like Genocide Memorial Day that they said could give greater recognition to recent genocides like those in Rwanda and Bosnia. The newspaper said there were concerns that the vote might lead some of the 500 organizations in the council to leave."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]


"Now and Forever"
By Bob Herbert
The New York Times, 4 December 2007 [Registration Required]
"Most of the time we pretend it's not there: The staggering financial cost of the war in Iraq, which continues to soar, unchecked, like a rocket headed toward the moon and beyond. Early last year, the Nobel-Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz estimated that the 'true' cost of the war would ultimately exceed $1 trillion, and maybe even $2 trillion. Incredibly, that estimate may have been low. A report prepared for the Democratic majority on the Joint Economic Committee of the House and Senate warns that without a significant change of course in Iraq, the long-term cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could head into the vicinity of $3.5 trillion. The vast majority of those expenses would be for Iraq. Priorities don't get much more twisted. A country that can't find the money to provide health coverage for its children, or to rebuild the city of New Orleans, or to create a first-class public school system, is flushing whole generations worth of cash into the bottomless pit of a failed and endless war. ... What matters more than the precision of these estimates (Republicans are not happy with them) is the undeniable fact that the costs associated with the Iraq war are huge and carry with them enormous societal consequences. Far from seeking a halt to the war, the Bush administration has been considering a significant U.S. military presence in Iraq that would last for many years, if not decades. There has been very little public discussion and no thorough analysis of the overall implications of such a policy. ... There are myriad better ways to use the many millions of dollars that the U.S. spends on Iraq every day. Two important long-term investments that come to mind -- and that would put large numbers of Americans to work -- are the development of a serious strategy for achieving energy independence over the next several years and the creation of a large-scale program for rebuilding the aging American infrastructure. ... Youngsters who were just starting high school when the U.S. invaded Iraq are in college now. Their children, yet unborn, will be called on to fork over tax money to continue paying for the war. Seriously. How long do we want this madness to last?"

"America in the Time of Empire"
By Chris Hedges, 27 November 2007
"All great empires and nations decay from within. By the time they hobble off the world stage, overrun by the hordes at the gates or vanishing quietly into the pages of history books, what made them successful and powerful no longer has relevance. This rot takes place over decades, as with the Soviet Union, or, even longer, as with the Roman, Ottoman or Austro-Hungarian empires. It is often imperceptible. Dying empires cling until the very end to the outward trappings of power. They mask their weakness behind a costly and technologically advanced military. They pursue increasingly unrealistic imperial ambitions. They stifle dissent with efficient and often ruthless mechanisms of control. They lose the capacity for empathy, which allows them to see themselves through the eyes of others, to create a world of accommodation rather than strife. The creeds and noble ideals of the nation become empty cliches, used to justify acts of greater plunder, corruption and violence. By the end, there is only a raw lust for power and few willing to confront it. The most damning indicators of national decline are upon us. We have watched an oligarchy rise to take economic and political power. The top 1 percent of the population has amassed more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined, creating economic disparities unseen since the Depression. If Hillary Rodham Clinton becomes president, we will see the presidency controlled by two families for the last 24 years. ... Nothing makes [the] diseased priorities more starkly clear than what the White House did last week. On the same day, Tuesday, President Bush vetoed a domestic spending bill for education, job training and health programs, yet signed another bill giving the Pentagon about $471 billion for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. All this in the shadow of a Joint Economic Committee report suggesting that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been twice as expensive [as] previously imagined, almost $1.5 trillion. ... We leave the fighting and dying mostly to our poor and hired killers. No nationwide sacrifices are required. We will worry about it later. It all amounts to a tacit complicity on the part of a passive population. This permits the oligarchy to squander capital and lives. It creates a world where we speak exclusively in the language of violence. It has plunged us into an endless cycle of war and conflict that is draining away the vitality, resources and promise of the nation. It signals the twilight of our empire."


"It's Only Black Muslims"
By Nat Hentoff
The Village Voice, 27 November 2007
"[...] Remember that it took just 100 days to murder 800,000 people in Rwanda. And, needless to say, if these mounting atrocities were taking place, day after day after day, in Belgium, Spain, or Poland, correspondents and television crews from across the globe would be there. But in this case, the victims are 'only' black Muslims that Sudan's National Islamic Front government despises as inferior human beings. It is already resettling Arab Muslims onto much of the land that two and a half million of the black survivors have been torn from—and because of the constant violence, some humanitarian organizations that provide food and medicine to these people are leaving to save themselves. Others have been expelled by the government. It would be hard to find any survivors in Darfur with a single remaining hope of help from the pinnacle of the international community -- the United Nations. So far, there have been 21 U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding that action be taken by the commander in chief of this holocaust, Sudan's maximum leader, General Omar al-Bashir. Bashir has broken every U.N. agreement he has signed. He basks in the knowledge that under U.N. rules, no member state can be forced to accept U.N. peacekeeping troops without that state's permission—no matter what barbarisms it is inflicting on its own people. Meanwhile, the various rebel tribes fighting this government for their own reasons have splintered into often brutal factions that attack not only the Janjaweed and uniformed Sudanese forces, but also one another and the remaining humanitarian workers. ... Though [President Bush] had, at one time, harbored a genuine desire to stop the killing and raping, there is another complicating factor in our relationship with General al-Bashir. There has long been close cooperation between the CIA and Sudan's intelligence forces, which purportedly provide us with leads on Al Qaeda and other terrorists operating in Africa. As I've written in a previous column, the head of Sudanese intelligence was flown to Washington for a secret strategy conference with CIA chieftains as the genocide devoured more victims. I wonder which high-end Washington restaurant has been graced with his presence. That cozy relationship continues to this day. [...]"


"The Horror of a Stricken Nation Waiting to Die"
By Martin Fletcher
The Times, 1 December 2007
"[...] We found paupers' burials, starving children with stunted bodies, orphans left to fend for themselves in the most brutal environments. It is a country regressing from commercial farms to vegetable patches, from the light bulb to the oil lamp, from the tap to the well. Feet -- often bare -- are replacing the wheel as the most common form of transport. Once Africa's breadbasket, Zimbabwe can no longer provide its citizens with bread and water. 'This is the world's worst humanitarian disaster, worse even than Darfur,' said David Coltart, an opposition MP. 'We lose more people a week to preventable illnesses than are lost in Iraq, but because there's no blood on the streets, little attention is paid to what's going on here.' Zimbabwe, like Sarudzai, has deteriorated dramatically since March. It is closer than ever to complete collapse, according to the International Crisis Group. Inflation has soared from 1,700 to 15,000 per cent. Draconian price controls have emptied the shops because producers cannot cover their costs. Though millions are starving, farmers are slaughtering dairy herds because they cannot sell milk at a viable price. But those who still have money can buy almost anything on the flourishing black market. ... The human consequences are desperate. A senior NGO official said that nearly half the population now needed food aid. In both rural and urban areas The Times found children with the distended bellies and swollen joints of kwashiorkor -- a disease caused by severe malnutrition. In one rural clinic, a 20-month-old boy lay dying of marasmus, another disease caused by malnutrition. He weighed 11 lb. There was no hope, said the doctor in charge. The clinic treats hundreds of villagers who come from far and wide each day on buses, donkey carts or foot. More than 80 per cent are HIV-positive. Half are medically malnourished. That lethal combination has destroyed their immune systems and caused an explosion of other diseases such as TB, malaria, meningitis and pneumonia. ... No country on Earth has such a rapidly contracting economy or plummeting life expectancy, but diplomats still believe Mr Mugabe will retain the presidency in elections due next March. [...]"


"Ending Famine, Simply by Ignoring the Experts"
By Celia W. Dugger
The New York Times, 2 December 2007 [Registration Required]
"Malawi hovered for years at the brink of famine. After a disastrous corn harvest in 2005, almost five million of its 13 million people needed emergency food aid. But this year, a nation that has perennially extended a begging bowl to the world is instead feeding its hungry neighbors. It is selling more corn to the World Food Program of the United Nations than any other country in southern Africa and is exporting hundreds of thousands of tons of corn to Zimbabwe. In Malawi itself, the prevalence of acute child hunger has fallen sharply. ... Farmers explain Malawi's extraordinary turnaround -- one with broad implications for hunger-fighting methods across Africa -- with one word: fertilizer. Over the past 20 years, the World Bank and some rich nations Malawi depends on for aid have periodically pressed this small, landlocked country to adhere to free market policies and cut back or eliminate fertilizer subsidies, even as the United States and Europe extensively subsidized their own farmers. But after the 2005 harvest, the worst in a decade, Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi's newly elected president, decided to follow what the West practiced, not what it preached. Stung by the humiliation of pleading for charity, he led the way to reinstating and deepening fertilizer subsidies despite a skeptical reception from the United States and Britain. Malawi's soil, like that across sub-Saharan Africa, is gravely depleted, and many, if not most, of its farmers are too poor to afford fertilizer at market prices. 'As long as I'm president, I don't want to be going to other capitals begging for food,' Mr. Mutharika declared. ... In a withering evaluation of the World Bank's record on African agriculture, the bank’s own internal watchdog concluded in October not only that the removal of subsidies had led to exorbitant fertilizer prices in African countries, but that the bank itself had often failed to recognize that improving Africa's declining soil quality was essential to lifting food production. 'The donors took away the role of the government and the disasters mounted,' said Jeffrey Sachs, a Columbia University economist who lobbied Britain and the World Bank on behalf of Malawi's fertilizer program and who has championed the idea that wealthy countries should invest in fertilizer and seed for Africa's farmers. The rest of the world is fed because of the use of good seed and inorganic fertilizer, full stop,' said Stephen Carr, who has lived in Malawi since 1989, when he retired as the World Bank's principal agriculturalist in sub-Saharan Africa. 'This technology has not been used in most of Africa. The only way you can help farmers gain access to it is to give it away free or subsidize it heavily.' [...]"
[n.b. What Mr. Mutharika clearly does not understand is that his station in life is to do what the West says, not what it does. He is to preside over a starving people, and spend his days running hat-in-hand to wealthy countries, seeking charitable handouts from their granary-busting mega-subsidized surpluses. Then he is to race home in time to dutifully cut the last kwacha from any remaining subsidy to the poor ... Seriously, this article is as interesting for what it leaves unsaid as for what it reports. What is the scale of destruction wrought in recent years and this very minute, by hegemonic policies that *dogmatically rule out and actively work to eliminate* all subsidies of this type? There is a "holocaust of neglect," as Henry Shue memorably argued; but there is also holocaust by active intervention, and when this takes the form of policies so totally at odds with those one implements at home, the damage caused might reasonably be considered not only intentional, but selective and discriminatory; therefore (if massive in scale) genocidal.]


"Poor Most 'Vulnerable' to Climate Change: UN", 27 November 2007
"If changes are not made, the world's poorest countries could see 'hundreds of millions facing malnutrition, water scarcity, ecological threats, and a loss of livelihoods,' says the report, 'Fighting climate change: Human solidarity in a divided world.' United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) Papa Seck, a contributing author to the report, told CTV's Canada AM on Tuesday that the effects of climate change are already in motion. 'If every person in the world was emitting like the average Canadian we'd need about nine planets to absorb the CO2 (carbon dioxide) that is emitted in order to avoid dangerous climate change,' said Seck. 'It is the same thing for the United States.' The findings come just one week ahead of a major climate-change conference in Bali where experts will meet to negotiate a successor climate treaty to the Kyoto Accord. Seck said Tuesday's report offers countries like Canada climate-change solutions that are attainable. 'We advocate a path that is feasible, it won't cost the world to much to achieve ... we just need the political will to do it,' he said. 'The world's poor just cannot afford for us to renege on our responsibilities.' The report calls for a 'twin track' approach that combines 'stringent mitigation to limit 21st Century warming to less than 2°C (3.6°F), with strengthened international cooperation on adaptation.' On mitigation, the authors want developed countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050. The report also calls on rich countries to put climate-change adaptation at the centre of international partnerships on poverty reduction. In total, the authors say $86 billion by 2015 is needed from rich countries to help the world's poor adapt to global warming. 'Increased exposure to drought, to more intense storms, to floods and environmental stress is holding back the efforts of the world's poor to build a better life for themselves and their children,' says the report. The report also calls for increased international support for the development of sub-Saharan Africa's capacity to monitor climate and improve public access to meteorological information. 'Ultimately, climate change is a threat to humanity as a whole. But it is the poor, a constituency with no responsibility for the ecological debt we are running up, who face the immediate and most severe human costs,' UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis said in the report."


"Talkin' World War III: The Return of the Repressed"
By Ron Rosenbaum, 29 November 2007
"[...] The real worry is what happens when Musharraf falls, which seems at least a good possibility. What happens if the authority to authorize a [nuclear] launch falls into the hands of either al-Qaida-sympathizer elements in the military and intelligence service or, worst case, al-Qaida itself? After all, polls in Pakistan have consistently shown Bin Laden to be more popular than Musharraf. From a cave to a nuclear control room is not an utterly unforeseeable nightmare. I think this is the urgent debate question that should be posed to both parties' candidates. What happens if Pakistan falls into the hands of al-Qaida-inclined elements? What happens if Musharraf hands over the launch authorization codes before he's beheaded? Don't kid yourself: At this very moment, there's a high probability that this scenario is being wargamed incessantly in the defense and intelligence ministries of every nuclear nation, most particularly the United States, Russia, and Israel. War is just a shot away, a well-aimed shot at Musharraf. But World War III? Not inevitably. Still, in any conflict involving nukes, the steps from regional to global can take place in a flash. The new 'authorized' users of the Islamic bomb fire one or more at Israel, which could very well retaliate against Islamic capitals and perhaps bring retaliation upon itself from Russia, which may have undeclared agreements with Iran, for instance, that calls for such action if the Iranians are attacked. [...]"
[n.b. A scary and quite urgent piece.]

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