Monday, January 21, 2008

NOW AVAILABLE: Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction, by Adam Jones (Routledge, 2006; 430 pp., US $33.95 pbk). See www.genocidetext.net. "The best introductory text available to students of genocide studies ... likely to become the gold standard by which all subsequent introductions to this enormously important subject will be measured" (Kenneth J. Campbell).

Genocide Studies Media File
January 5-21, 2008

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 adamj_jones@hotmail.com.

Consider inviting colleagues and friends to subscribe to Genocide_Studies and the G_S Media File. All it takes is an email to genocide_studies-subscribe@topica.com.

ARGENTINA/IRAN

"Bush's Iran/Argentina Terror Frame-Up"
By Gareth Porter
The Nation, 18 January 2008
"Although nukes and Iraq have been the main focus of the Bush Administration's pressure campaign against Iran, US officials also seek to tar Iran as the world's leading sponsor of terrorism. And Team Bush's latest tactic is to play up a thirteen-year-old accusation that Iran was responsible for the notorious Buenos Aires bombing that destroyed the city's Jewish Community Center, known as AMIA, killing eighty-six and injuring 300, in 1994. Unnamed senior Administration officials told the Wall Street Journal January 15 that the bombing in Argentina 'serves as a model for how Tehran has used its overseas embassies and relationship with foreign militant groups, in particular Hezbollah, to strike at its enemies.' This propaganda campaign depends heavily on a decision last November by the General Assembly of Interpol, which voted to put five former Iranian officials and a Hezbollah leader on the international police organization's 'red list' for allegedly having planned the July 1994 bombing. But the Wall Street Journal reports that it was pressure from the Bush Administration, along with Israeli and Argentine diplomats, that secured the Interpol vote. In fact, the Bush Administration's manipulation of the Argentine bombing case is perfectly in line with its long practice of using distorting and manufactured evidence to build a case against its geopolitical enemies. After spending several months interviewing officials at the US Embassy in Buenos Aires familiar with the Argentine investigation, the head of the FBI team that assisted it and the most knowledgeable independent Argentine investigator of the case, I found that no real evidence has ever been found to implicate Iran in the bombing. Based on these interviews and the documentary record of the investigation, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the case against Iran over the AMIA bombing has been driven from the beginning by US enmity toward Iran, not by a desire to find the real perpetrators. [...]"

AUSTRALIA

"Australia's 'Stolen' Children Get Apology But No Cash"
By Barbara McMahon
The Observer, 13 January 2008
"As one of Australia's 'stolen generation', John Moriarty was only four when he was taken away from his mother: loaded on to an army truck and sent thousands of kilometres away from his home in the Gulf of Carpentaria to be raised in a series of bleak institutions. He was given a birth date -- April Fool's Day -- forbidden to speak his Yanyuwa language and did not see his mother again for 10 years. 'I was stripped of my nurturing, loving bush family, my culture and my connections to land that stretch back through my ancestors for thousands of generations,' he said. Now, 65 years after he was snatched, the Australian government is preparing to make what many believe is a long-overdue national apology to Moriarty and thousands of indigenous children forcibly removed from their parents. Australia's new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says it will acknowledge the pain suffered by the stolen children and their families. But satisfaction that an acknowledgment is at last in the offing is being overshadowed by a row over whether the victims should also receive financial compensation. Activists want a A$1bn (£443m) fund to be established, saying an apology without recompense would be a hollow gesture. ... Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin has been consulting indigenous leaders over the wording of the apology but the government is refusing to consider a compensation fund. Aboriginal lawyer Michael Mansfield is one of a number of activists pressing for a reparation scheme. He says the A$1bn figure is based on a scheme set up by the Tasmanian state government for an estimated 150 claimants. About A$5m (£2.2m) has been set aside and each claimant is expected to receive between A$40,000 (£18,00) and A$100,000 (£45,500). [...]"

CAMBODIA/DARFUR

"Cambodian Officials Claim US Actress Broke into Genocide Museum"
DPA dispatch on EarthTimes.org, 21 January 2008
"Cambodian police and officials said Monday that the show of force to stop American actress Mia Farrow from staging an anti-China rally at a former Khmer Rouge prison was only increased after she had earlier staged a night-time break-in. Farrow and supporters from local German-funded organization Center for Social Development (CSD) were stopped from burning a symbolic torch at the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum Sunday when the museum was shuttered and up to 200 police roped off access. 'The problem Sunday was made worse after the actress and a group of supporters forced their way into the museum after closing time Saturday and started taking pictures,' Toul Sleng Museum director Chey Sopheara said by telephone. 'They shoved a guard and tried to force a gate. They entered through the guard's entrance and then behaved in a very rude way and made a big problem for our staff,' he alleged. Police confirmed they had received a report of a disturbance at the former torture centre featuring Farrow Saturday night and had stepped up security in light of her group's behavior. Farrow's global Dream For Darfur rally aims to bring attention to China's economic support of Sudan ahead of the August Beijing Olympics, but Cambodia banned the rally, saying it involved the country in foreign politics and did not respect Khmer Rouge victims. Up to 16,000 people were tortured or murdered at the former high school which the Khmer Rouge converted into a notorious torture machine. Up to 2 million Cambodians died during its 1975-79 regime. Sopheara said Farrow and her supporters had toured the centre without incident Saturday morning in the company of journalists, but had returned by themselves after closing time and forced entry. [...]"

"Cambodian Police Block Farrow's Darfur Rally"
Reuters dispatch on MSNBC.com, 20 January 2008
"Cambodian police barred Hollywood actress Mia Farrow and other activists from laying flowers at a 'Killing Fields' museum on Sunday, as part of a campaign to end atrocities in Sudan's Darfur. Some 100 baton-wielding police blocked Farrow, who fronts the Dream for Darfur pressure group, and her fellow activists from entering the compound at Tuol Sleng, the Phnom Penh high school that became Pol Pot's main torture center. 'Darfur has nothing to do with Cambodia. Go protest in Darfur,' Phnom Penh police chief Touch Naruth told reporters after the brief stand-off ended without incident. The group, which had planned to light a symbolic Olympic torch in the compound, has held similar events in Chad, Rwanda, Armenia, Germany and Bosnia as part of a campaign to persuade China to push Khartoum into ending the violence in Darfur. The group, which included a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, were due to hold a press conference later in the day. Beijing is hosting the 2008 Olympic Games and human rights groups have targeted China in the hope of using the spotlight thrown on the country to influence Chinese foreign policy. China, a major investor in Sudan's oil industry, has been accused of breaching international rules and fanning bloodshed by selling Sudan weapons that have been diverted to Darfur. International experts estimate 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million others have been driven from their homes in years of fighting. The Sudanese authorities put the death toll at 9,000 and say the West has exaggerated the conflict. Farrow said in an earlier interview that Phnom Penh was putting the interests of Beijing, one of its biggest donors, above the memories of the estimated 1.7 million victims of Pol Pot's 1975-79 reign of terror. [...]"

CONGO

"Fighting in Congo Rekindles Ethnic Hatreds"
By Lydia Polgreen
The New York Times, 10 January 2008 [Registration Required]
"[...] The recent clashes in eastern Congo between the army and the troops of the dissident general have exacted a grievous toll on a region ravaged by a decade of war. Around 400,000 people have been forced to flee their homes, thousands of women have been raped and hundreds of children have been press-ganged into militias, the United Nations says, raising alarm among diplomats the world over. But the fighting is also rekindling the kind of ethnic hatred that previously dragged this region into the most deadly conflict since World War II. It began with the Rwandan genocide, in which Hutu extremists killed 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu in 1994. Many of the genocide's perpetrators fled into Congo, igniting regional conflicts that were fueled by the plunder of Congo’s minerals, lasted for nearly a decade and killed, by some estimates, as many as four million people through violence, disease and hunger. Now a new wave of anti-Tutsi sentiment is sweeping Congo, driven by deep anger over the renegade Tutsi general. Many see his rebellion as a proxy for Rwanda, to the east, whose army occupied vast parts of Congo during the most devastating chapter of the regional war and plundered millions of dollars' worth of minerals from the country, according to many analysts, diplomats and human rights workers. The current battle is in many ways a throwback to the earliest and most difficult questions at the heart of the Congo war, and also a reflection of longstanding hostilities toward Tutsi, who are widely viewed here as being more Rwandan than Congolese. Many Congolese Tutsi see themselves as members of an especially vulnerable minority, one that has already suffered through genocide and whose position in Congo has always been precarious. But many other Congolese see Tutsi, many of whom have been in Congo for generations, as foreign interlopers with outsize economic and political influence. [...]"

GERMANY/HOLOCAUST DENIAL

"Holocaust Revisionist's Lawyer Jailed
PressTV.com, 15 January 2008
"A German court has sentenced the former lawyer of Ernst Zundel to three and a half years in prison for denying the Holocaust herself. In addition to 3 1/2 years in prison, Sylvia Stolz has also been banned by the court from practicing law for five years. During the trial of the Holocaust revisionist scholar, Ernst Zundel, Stolz called the Holocaust 'the biggest lie in world history.' Stolz has reportedly read a newspaper article to the court about the appearance of world renowned Israeli artist, Gilad Atzmon in Bochum. In a public statement, Atzmon is quoted as having said that the written history of the Second World War and the Holocaust are a 'complete forgery, initiated by Americans and Zionists.' Stolz represented 67-year-old Zundel in his first trial in Germany and was banned from the court for allegedly trying to sabotage the proceedings. Zundel's second trial ended in February, 2007 with his conviction for denying the Holocaust and was sentenced to the maximum five years in prison."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

GUATEMALA/SPAIN

"Spanish Judge Shelves Guatemalan Genocide Probe"
Agence France-Press dispatch on Yahoo!Xtra News, 17 January 2008
"A Spanish judge probing genocide over 36 years of civil war that left some 200,000 people dead or 'disappeared' in Guatemala shelved his quest Wednesday, a court official told AFP. Santiago Pedraz was handed the dossier after an October 2005 Spanish constitutional court decision authorising the country to investigate crimes against humanity wherever they took place. But, fresh from Alvaro Colom being sworn in as Guatemala's new president on Monday, Pedraz has admitted total frustration in his epic inquiry following 'the refusal of the Guatemalan authorities to cooperate.' The court source said Pedraz had made repeated attempts to secure information through 'letters rogatory,' which are legal letters of request used where specific treaties are not in force. 'Not one of them received a reply,' he added. While the judge has given up on that line of inquiry, he has nevertheless refused to rule out future developments in the case, should 'victims or witnesses' come forward. To that end, he has asked media in seven countries (Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and the United States) to publicise his search for information. Arrest warrants for seven suspects will also remain in force, the court specified. 'Guatemala is committing, as a state, a violation of its obligation, fulfilled by all civilised countries, to signal and punish genocidal acts,' it added. Once part of the Mayan empire, Guatemala was ruled by Spain from 1524 until its independence in 1821. In 1996, a peace accord ended a generation of fighting between government troops, leftist rebels and right-wing vigilante groups. Many victims of the civil war, the majority of whom died or disappeared during the military regimes from 1978 to 1986, were indigenous people. [...]"
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch. I like: "Once part of the Mayan empire, Guatemala ..." That's roughly like saying, "Once part of the Roman empire, Great Britain ..."]

INDONESIA

"On Deathbed, Suharto Avoids Answering for Crimes"
By Seth Mydans
The New York Times, 18 January 2008 [Registration Required]
"Gilang was one of the last victims of former President Suharto's harsh 32-year rule, a young activist who disappeared here on the day the former president was forced from power 10 years ago and whose body was found six days later, shot, stabbed and disemboweled. As with many of Mr. Suharto's victims, his killers have never been identified or brought to justice, escaping prosecution much as Mr. Suharto himself has done over the past decade. Now, on what appears to be his deathbed, it seems Mr. Suharto will end his life -- like Pol Pot in Cambodia -- without having to answer for crimes on a monumental scale that include severe human rights abuses and prodigious corruption. For the past two weeks Mr. Suharto, 86, has struggled for life in a Jakarta hospital with what doctors say is multiple organ failure. Along with a stream of medical reports about his condition, a debate has emerged over whether to honor him as a statesman or to pursue him as a criminal even after his death. The day of Gilang's disappearance, May 21, 1998, marked the end of a regime in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed in purges, massacres, assassinations, kidnappings and civil wars. It was a regime that has been compared with a Mafia empire in which Mr. Suharto, as president, enriched himself, his family and his friends and is accused of stealing at least $15 billion in state funds. It ended when Mr. Suharto's power was undermined by a devastating economic collapse, widespread rioting, student demonstrations and finally rejection by his own military and cabinet ministers. Now in the capital, Jakarta, the mood seems to be one of forgiveness and amnesia. A parade of politicians, religious figures, pop stars and three foreign leaders has paid hushed visits to his bedside as if he were already lying in state. A number of public figures have joined a call for an end to investigations and prosecutions against him, describing them as unseemly. [...]"

IRAQ

"Right-Wingers Can't Cover Up Iraq's Death Toll Catastrophe"
By John Tirman
AlterNet.org, 21 January 2008
"[...] A new mortality survey ... appeared earlier this month in the New England Journal of Medicine. Conducted by the Iraqi Ministry of Health, it found 151,000 deaths by violence as of June 2006, about the same period as the Lancet article. Newspaper coverage duly noted that their estimate was only one-quarter that of the Lancet. But a little digging would have revealed much more: the total deaths attributable to the war, non-violent as well as violent, was about 400,000 for that period, now 19 months ago. If the same trends continued, that total today would be more than 600,000. The deaths-by-violence in that latter survey remained the same from year-to-year, however, which is not plausible -- all observers agree that violent deaths were rising sharply in 2005 and 2006. The discrepancy is found in how the survey was conducted: interviewers identified themselves as employees of the Ministry of Health, then under the control of Shiite cleric Moktada al Sadr. Those interviewed, therefore, would be wary of saying a brother or son or husband had been killed by violence, fearing retribution. And, indeed, there are non-violent categories in the survey that suggest just such equivocation: 'Unintentional injuries' would equal about 40 percent of the death-by-violence toll, for example. Road accidents were ten times their pre-war totals-if someone is run off a highway by a U.S. convoy, is that a 'non-violent' death? The researchers, to their credit, acknowledge that their estimate is likely too low due to several factors. They did not go into dangerous neighborhoods, which made up 11 percent of the sample, and could not accurately estimate the death toll in those, which would of course have been high. Still, the survey is revealing on the non-violent mortality, too: deaths by kidney failure, cancer, diabetes, and others rose by several times, signaling the near-collapse of the health care system. The MoH survey is the fifth trying to measure mortality during the war, and there is significant congruence among all. (The Lancet estimate is not actually the highest; that belongs to the private British polling firm, Opinion Research Business, which found that as of August 2007, 1.2 million Iraqis were dead due to the war.) But all the surveys point to one thing: a colossal amount of killing and dying has been going on, far more than numbers used in most discussions of the issue in the fleeting instances when concern for Iraqis appears. [...]"

"Ceremony Mourns Victims of Iraq's 'Anfal' Genocide"
By Shamal Aqrawi
Reuters dispatch, 14 January 2008
"A genocidal campaign under Saddam Hussein against Iraq's Kurds must never be forgotten, officials said on Monday at a ceremony for 371 victims, whose grieving relatives demanded those responsible be put to death. Up to 180,000 people may have been killed as chemical gas was used, villages were razed and thousands of Kurds were forced into camps during the 1988 Anfal, or 'Spoils of War,' campaign. Kurdish and Iraqi political leaders gathered for the solemn ceremony as 371 flag-draped coffins were laid out in neat rows in a large commercial warehouse in Arbil in semi-autonomous Kurdistan in Iraq's north. The wooden coffins contained the remains of Kurds found in four mass graves near the northern cities of Mosul, Dahuk and Sulaimaniya and the southern city of Samawa since 2004. All have since been identified and will be reburied in a cemetery in Sulaimaniya on Wednesday. ... Saddam's cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majeed, former Defence Minister Sultan Hashem and former army commander Hussein Rashid Muhammad have been convicted of genocide over the Anfal campaign and remain in U.S. military custody awaiting execution. Majeed, widely known as 'Chemical Ali,' has also gone on trial for his role in crushing a Shi'ite rebellion in southern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War. Majeed, Hashem and Muhammad are being held while officials squabble over who has authority to transfer them for execution despite an appeals court upholding the death sentence last September and ordering that it be carried out within 30 days. The U.S. military has said it will not hand them over until the Iraqi government resolves the dispute. [...]"

"How the New England Journal of Medicine Undercounted Iraqi Civilian Deaths"
By Andrew Cockburn
Counterpunch.org, 12-13 January 2008
"[...] As the authors themselves admit, they did not visit a significant proportion of the original designated clusters: 'Of the 1086 originally selected clusters, 115 (10.6%) were not visited because of problems with security,' meaning they were inconveniently situated in Anbar province, Baghdad, and two other areas that were dangerous to visit (especially for Iraqi government employees from a Shia-controlled ministry.) While such reluctance is understandable -- one of those involved was indeed killed during the survey -- it also meant that areas with very high death tolls were excluded from the survey. To fill the gap, the surveyors reached for the numbers advanced by the Iraqi Body Count, (IBC) a U.K. based entity that relies entirely on newspaper reports of Iraqi deaths to compile their figures. Due to IBC's policy of posting minimum and maximum figures, currently standing at 80,419 and 87,834, their numbers carry a misleading air of scientific precision. As the group itself readily concedes, the estimate must be incomplete, since it omits deaths that do not make it into the papers, a number that is likely to be high in a society as violently chaotic as today's Baghdad, and higher still outside Baghdad where it is even harder for journalists to operate. Nevertheless, the NEJM study happily adopted a formula in which they compared the ratio between their figures from a province they did visit to the IBC number for that province, and then used that ratio to adjust their own figures for places they did not dare go. [...]"

"W.H.O. Says Iraq Civilian Death Toll Higher Than Cited"
By Lawrence K. Altman and Richard A. Oppel Jr.
The New York Times, 10 January 2008 [Registration Required]
"The World Health Organization on Wednesday waded into the controversial subject of Iraqi civilian deaths, publishing a study that estimated that the number of deaths from the start of the war through June 2006 was at least twice as high as the oft-cited Iraq Body Count. The study is the latest in a long series of attempts to come up with realistic numbers of civilian deaths. The numbers are politically fraught, and researchers' work has been further complicated by problems in collecting data while working in a war zone. The estimates have varied widely. The Iraq Body Count, a nongovernmental group based in Britain that bases its numbers on news media accounts, put the number of civilians dead at 47,668 during the same period of time as the World Health Organization study, the W.H.O. report said. President Bush in the past used a number that was similar to one put forward at the time by the Iraq Body Count. But another study, by Johns Hopkins, which has come under criticism for its methodology, cited an estimate of about 600,000 dead between the war’s start, in March 2003, and July 2006. The World Health Organization said its study, based on interviews with families, indicated with a 95 percent degree of statistical certainty that between 104,000 and 223,000 civilians had died. It based its estimate of 151,000 deaths on that range. Those figures made violence the leading cause of adult male deaths in Iraq and one of the leading causes of death for the population as a whole, the health organization research team reported online in the New England Journal of Medicine. More than half the violent deaths occurred in Baghdad. While the new study appears to have the broadest scope to date, increasing its reliability, well known limitations of such efforts in war areas make it unlikely to resolve debate about the extent of the killing in Iraq. [...]"

"Who Is Killing the Women of Basra?"
By Yifat Susskind
CommonDreams.org, 10 January 2008
"In Basra, Iraq's second largest city, 2008 was ushered in with an announcement of the 2007 death toll of women targeted by Islamist militias. City officials reported on December 31 that 133 women were killed and mutilated last year, their bodies dumped in trash bins with notes warning others against 'violating Islamic teachings ...' But ambulance drivers who are hired to troll the city streets in the early mornings to collect the bodies confirm what most residents believe: the actual numbers are much higher. The killers' leaflets are not very original. They usually accuse the women of being prostitutes or adulterers. But those murdered are more likely to be doctors, professors, or journalists. We know this because activists from the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) have taken on the gruesome task of visiting city morgues to try and determine the scale and pattern of the killings. According to OWFI, most of the women who have been murdered 'are PhD holders, professionals, activists, and office workers.' Their crime is not 'promiscuity,' but rather opposition to the transformation of Iraq into an Islamist state. That bloody transition has been the main political trend under US occupation. It's no secret who is killing the women of Basra. Shiite political forces empowered by the US invasion have been terrorizing women there since 2003. Within weeks of the invasion, these groups established 'Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice' squads, which many Iraqis refer to simply as 'misery gangs.' They began by patrolling the streets, harassing and sometimes beating women who did not dress or behave to their liking. Coalition forces did nothing to stop them, and soon the militias escalated their violence to torturing and assassinating anyone who they saw as an obstacle to turning Iraq into an Islamist state. [...]"
[n.b. Thanks to Peter Prontzos for bringing this source to my attention.]

JEWISH HOLOCAUST

"The Hunt for Doctor Death"
By Rory Carroll and Uki Goni
The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 January 2008
"It was 1945 and Europe was a crime scene. The most destructive war in history had left a miasma of ruined cities, refugees and occupation armies, but there was worse than that. The Nazi extermination camps had been discovered and little-known place names were becoming sickeningly famous: Auschwitz, Birkenau, Belzec, Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Sobibor, Treblinka. It was time for a reckoning. The Nuremberg trials sent Hitler's senior henchmen to the gallows or long stretches in prison. But others escaped. Quietly, middle- and low-ranking war criminals slipped the Nuremberg net and subsequent efforts to catch them. They obtained false papers, packed their bags and vanished across the Atlantic to a safe haven: South America. Legends followed them: stories of U-boats packed with Nazi gold docking on the coast of Patagonia. Novels and films imagined a shadowy Fourth Reich of mosquitoes, swastikas and eugenic laboratories in the Amazon jungle and the Andean foothills. The reality was more prosaic but still sinister. Hundreds, possibly thousands, had escaped through the 'ratline' and found sanctuary. As the decades passed, a handful were caught. Adolf Eichmann, an architect of the Holocaust, was kidnapped by Israeli agents in Argentina in 1960. Klaus Barbie, the 'Butcher of Lyons,' was extradited from Bolivia in 1983. Erich Priebke, a Waffen SS captain, was extradited from Argentina in 1995. The story petered out. The fugitives were octogenarians, nonagenarians and, for the most part, dead. When the 20th century ended so, it seemed, did the hunt for Nazis. Not quite. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre recently made a bombshell announcement. The hunt was back on. The Jewish human rights group revealed that it was launching one final drive to locate the remaining genocide collaborators hiding in South America: Operation Last Chance. [...]"

"How Movies Have Portrayed the Holocaust" (movie review)
By Moira Macdonald
The Seattle Times, 18 January 2008
"If a filmmaker depicts unspeakable atrocities of history on screen, are those atrocities by necessity diminished and lessened? Should filmmakers not even try to depict the Holocaust, as their efforts couldn't possibly measure up to its true horror? Is this chapter of history far beyond any traditional narrative form? These are some of the questions examined by Daniel Anker's documentary 'Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust,' a critical and thoughtful look at the way the film industry has depicted the World War II genocide. Working with a relatively small number of films (narrator Gene Hackman notes that most World War II movies focused on the war in the Pacific and the spirit of American teamwork there), Anker provides a careful and engrossing history. We see early newsreel footage of Nazi book-burning, accompanied by a jovial voice-over that seems to take this no more seriously than a college prank. In the early 1930s, Hollywood was careful not to offend Nazi Germany. Though there was some early resistance to Hitler, including Hollywood's Anti-Nazi League (we see a brief clip of Melvyn Douglas reading a statement from the group, with Myrna Loy seated next to him), many others were simply afraid to speak out. Even by 1939, we're told, half the cast of the anti-Nazi film 'Confessions of a Nazi Spy' refused to have their names in the film's credits. Film historians in 'Imaginary Witness' tell us that of the few films that dared to confront Nazi Germany, many were 'written in code' -- few used the word 'Jew,' and many marketing campaigns downplayed war content. Sidney Lumet speaks movingly of his own shock at finally hearing the word 'Jew' spoken on screen -- in Charles Chaplin's independently financed, daring 1940 satire of Hitler, 'The Great Dictator.' [...]"

"Bush: US Should Have Bombed Auschwitz"
By Aaron Heller
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 11 January 2008
"President Bush had tears in his eyes during an hour-long tour of Israel's Holocaust memorial Friday and told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the U.S. should have bombed Auschwitz to halt the killing, the memorial's chairman said. Bush emerged from a tour of the Yad Vashem memorial calling it a "sobering reminder" that evil must be resisted, and praising victims for not losing their faith. Wearing a yarmulke, Bush placed a red-white-and-blue wreath on a stone slab that covers ashes of Holocaust victims taken from six extermination camps. He also lit a torch memorializing the victims. Bush was visibly moved as he toured the site, said Yad Vashem's chairman, Avner Shalev. 'Twice, I saw tears well up in his eyes,' Shalev said. At one point, Bush viewed aerial photos of the Auschwitz camp taken during the war by U.S. forces and called Rice over to discuss why the American government had decided against bombing the site, Shalev said. 'We were talking about the often-discussed "Could the United States have done more by bombing the train tracks?"' Rice told reporters later aboard Air Force One. 'And so we were just talking about the various explanations that had been given about why that might not have been done.' The Allies had detailed reports about Auschwitz during the war from Polish partisans and escaped prisoners. But they chose not to bomb the camp, the rail lines leading to it, or any of the other Nazi death camps, preferring instead to focus all resources on the broader military effort, a decision that became the subject of intense controversy years later. Between 1.1 million and 1.5 million people were killed at the camp. 'We should have bombed it,' Bush said, according to Shalev. [...]"

PALESTINE/ISRAEL

"Israeli Blockade Paralyzes Gaza Life"
By Ibrahim Barzak
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 21 January 2008
"Israel refused to reopen crossings or allow crucial fuel supplies into Gaza on Monday, holding firm in its campaign to keep Palestinian rocket fire at bay despite warnings from the U.N. that vital food aid could be suspended within days. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Gaza's residents can 'walk, without gas for their cars,' suggesting that he would not lift the chokehold any time soon. Israel and Gaza's Hamas government were locked in a public relations battle over the depth of the hardship. An angry Hamas TV announcer shouted that 'we are being killed, we are starving!' and Palestinian leaders pleaded for national unity, while Israel accused Hamas of fabricating a crisis to gain world sympathy. Gaza's power plant shut down late Sunday, plunging Gaza City into darkness, and gas stations and many bakeries stopped operating. Health officials warned that hospital generators were running out of fuel. 'We have the choice to either cut electricity on babies in the maternity ward or heart surgery patients or stop operating rooms,' said Health Ministry official Moaiya Hassanain. International food aid may be suspended by the week's end if the closures continue, a U.N. aid agency spokesman said Monday, because of a shortage of fuel and plastic bags used to pack food. Most Gaza residents rely on food aid. ... Olmert said he would not allow a humanitarian crisis to unfold, but also warned that Gaza's 1.5 million residents won't be able to live a 'pleasant and comfortable life' as long as southern Israel comes under rocket attack from Gaza. 'As far as I'm concerned Gaza residents will walk, without gas for their cars, because they have a murderous, terrorist regime that doesn't let people in southern Israel live in peace,' Olmert told legislators from his Kadima Party. [...]"
[n.b. How does Olmert's justification differ from that of the Palestinian suicide bomber, who believes that Israeli civilians should not "be able to live a 'pleasant and comfortable life'" so long as Israel occupies Palestinian territory? Does the Israeli strategy result in fewer civilian casualties?]

POLAND/JEWISH HOLOCAUST

"A Scholar's Legal Peril in Poland:
Princeton Historian Could Face Criminal Charges Over Book"

By Craig Whitlock
The Washington Post, 18 January 2008 [Registration Required]
"Polish prosecutors are considering taking the unusual step of filing criminal charges against an Ivy League professor for allegedly 'slandering the Polish nation' in a book that describes how Poles victimized Jewish survivors of the Holocaust in the aftermath of World War II. Jan T. Gross, a Princeton University historian and native Polish Jew, has raised hackles here with the publication of 'Fear,' an account of Poland's chaotic postwar years in which Jews who barely survived the brutal Nazi occupation under the Germans often went on to suffer further abuse at the hands of their Polish neighbors. The book was first published in 2006 in the United States, where reviewers found it praiseworthy. Gross's work, however, generated bitter feelings among many Poles who accused him of using inflammatory language and unfairly stereotyping the entire population as anti-Semitic. When the Polish-language edition of his book was released here last Friday, prosecutors wasted no time in announcing that he was under investigation. A spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office in Krakow, which is handling the case, said a decision was expected this week on whether to press charges against Gross or summon him for questioning. The law in question was adopted in 2006, around the time that 'Fear' was published in English; Gross and some other historians say it was partly a response to the book. The measure prohibits anyone from asserting that 'the Polish nation' was complicit in crimes or atrocities committed by Nazis or communists. The maximum penalty is three years' imprisonment. The threat of legal action has not deterred Gross so far. He arrived in Warsaw on Monday for a nationwide tour to promote his book, which has already sold out in some stores. In an interview, he said he doubts prosecutors will charge him. [...]"

RWANDA

"'Genocide' Teachers Suspended"
News24.com, 21 January 2008
"About 50 Rwandan teachers, suspected of disseminating 'genocide ideology,' have been suspended from working, local human rights league Liprodhor has reported. 'According to official sources, the Minister of Education Jeanne d'Arc Mujawamariya last week suspended 50 or so head teachers, teachers and curriculum developers accused of facilitating the "ideology of genocide" in their establishments,' Liprodhor indicated on its website. Perpetrated by Hutu extremists, the April-July 1994 genocide saw 800,000 lives lost -- according to the United Nations -- primarily minority Tutsis. Almost 15 years later, anti-Tutsi messages stemming from the education system were still being unearthed. 'Tutsis are snakes, we're sick of them and we will kill them,' reads a copybook taken from Mataba secondary school in Province du Nord. Mujawamariya and her Secretary of State Joseph Murekeraho had been interrogated by a parliamentary commission, which found that an ideology of genocide remained strong in 84 out of 637 Rwandan secondary schools. A 400-page report from the commission compiled copies of anonymous manuscripts seized from numerous schools in the country. Gaseke Secondary School, about 30km from Kigali, circulated 10 Hutu commandments that had been published before the genocide by the extremist newspaper Kangura. 'Never commit adultery with a Tutsi woman. Never become friends with a Tutsi,' states doctrine from Gaseke school. The parliamentary committee was not satisfied with Mujawamariya and Murekeraho's explanations and had decided to question them again at a later date, not yet announced."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

SERBIA/KOSOVO

"Kosovo is Key as Hardliner Wins First Leg of Serb Poll"
By Ian Traynor
The Guardian, 21 January 2008
"According to exit polls and early results last night in Belgrade, Nikolic took more than 39% of the vote to Tadic's 35% in a crucial ballot that could determine whether Serbia turns east, into Russia's offered embrace, or west, towards European integration. Neither contender, however, scored an outright victory, requiring an absolute majority of the vote. The other seven candidates were eliminated from the race, leaving Nikolic and Tadic to contest a run-off on February 3. Nikolic, an extreme nationalist who fought as a paramilitary in the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s and served under the late president Slobodan Milosevic, could yet be beaten, since many of the votes last night, on a high turnout of more than 60%, were cast for pro-western democrats. His support, however, is more easily mobilised and he could well secure victory in two weeks. A win for Nikolic and the Radicals, whose party leader, Vojislav Seselj, is currently being tried for war crimes at the tribunal in The Hague, would be viewed as a disaster in western Europe and a severe setback to EU policy in the Balkans. In an attempt to boost Tadic's chances, Brussels announced last week that it was opening talks on visa-free travel to Europe for Serbs. Several EU countries also want to sign a pre-membership deal with Belgrade before the end of the month in order to help Tadic to a second-round victory. But some EU states are strongly opposed to this, demanding that key Serbian war crimes suspects be arrested and extradited to The Hague as a condition for the EU deal. [...]"

SUDAN/DARFUR

"Sudan Appoints Darfur War Crimes Suspect to Senior Job"
Associated Press dispatch in The Globe and Mail, 21 January 2008
"The Sudanese government confirmed Monday it had named a suspected militia chief accused of atrocities in Darfur to a senior official position. Musa Hilal, the suspected overlord of the janjaweed militias blamed for the worst atrocities against civilians in Darfur, was named adviser to Sudan's Ministry of Federal Affairs last week, Sudanese media reported. Government officials initially denied the appointment, made by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, but the minister confirmed the nomination on Monday. 'The appointment is already effective,' Federal Affairs Minister Abdelbasit Sabderat told The Associated Press by telephone. 'Mr. Hilal will be handling tribal affairs throughout the Sudan,' he said, insisting Darfur would not be the advisor's only focus. The ministry manages the central government's relations with the outlying provinces in Africa's largest country. Mr. Hilal is the leader of the Mahamid, a clan belonging to the powerful Rezeigat tribe of nomad Arabs in Darfur. He is accused of having led the proxy-militia raised by the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum to fight Darfur's ethnic African rebels. Over 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million been chased to refugee camps -- largely ethnic Africans -- since the fighting began in 2003. The UN Security Council imposed travel and financial sanctions against Mr. Hilal and three others in April, 2006, for his role in what U.S. President George W. Bush has called a 'genocide.' Mr. Hilal has denied any wrongdoing, stating in a 2004 video interview with the New York-based Human Rights Watch that he always acted on orders and under Khartoum's control. [...]"

"Attack Seen as Setback for the U.N. in Darfur"
By Colum Lynch
MSNBC.com, 13 January 2008
"A U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force faced the first major challenge to its authority in Darfur, Sudan, this week, enduring more than 10 minutes of hostile fire from Sudanese forces without responding with a single shot. The assault Tuesday evening against a clearly marked supply convoy of more than 20 trucks and armored personnel vehicles left a Sudanese driver critically wounded and prompted a formal protest from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. It also gave the U.N.-backed force a humiliating defeat during the critical first weeks of its mission in Darfur. The United Nations' chief peacekeeping official, Jean-Marie Guehenno, vowed to 'repel' future attacks against U.N. and African Union personnel. But other U.N. officials said the force's Nigerian commander, Gen. Martin Luther Agwai, lacks the firepower to respond forcefully to a larger and better-equipped Sudanese military. The incident marked a setback to U.S.-backed efforts to end nearly five years of violence in Darfur through the deployment of more than 26,000 peacekeepers, mostly Africans. The mission replaced 7,000 African Union peacekeepers who had largely retreated to their barracks amid armed attacks. So far the new force has about 9,000 peacekeepers, most of whom are African Union troops who simply replaced their green berets with blue U.N. berets. The United States, the United Nations and other key powers had reason to believe an attack such as Tuesday's was coming. In September, an armed group assaulted an African Union base, killing 10 soldiers near the town of Haskanita. Since then, U.N. leaders have warned of the risk of failure from entering the Darfur conflict without adequate resources to repel an attack. But requests for vital equipment -- including 24 transport and attack helicopters -- have gone unanswered. [...]"

"Sudan Admits Attacking UN/AU Darfur Peacekeepers"
By Andrew Heavens
Reuters dispatch, 10 January 2008
"Sudan admitted on Thursday that its troops had opened fire on a joint U.N./African Union peacekeeping convoy in Darfur, contradicting an earlier denial by its ambassador to the United Nations. The attack underlines the dangerous task facing the joint peacekeeping force, which took over from a beleaguered African Union contingent this month. United Nations officials have repeatedly accused Khartoum of obstructing the roll-out of the force. A spokesman for the Sudanese armed forces said the attack was the result of a 'shared mistake.' He said the U.N./AU Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) had failed to ask for permission to pass through the area, Sudan's state news agency SUNA reported. The U.N. has insisted it did tell the Sudanese army about the convoy's route in advance. The Sudanese armed forces spokesman said the UNAMID convoy should also not have been travelling at night. ... Sudanese soldiers fired light weapons and rocket-propelled grenades at the UNAMID supply convoy for up to 12 minutes as it headed for the west Darfur town of Tine late on Monday, the United Nations said. U.N. officers on the ground told Reuters soon after the attack that they assumed the Sudanese soldiers had mistaken the peacekeepers for rebels, who have been increasingly active in the region in recent weeks. [...]"

TURKEY/ARMENIAN GENOCIDE

"Turkish Min[ister] Wants Police Role In Journalist Murder Probed"
Agence France-Presse dispatch on Nasdaq.com, 21 January 2008
"Turkey's justice minister has called for a 'serious' investigation of allegations that security forces were involved in the murder last year of ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. 'Certain members of the security forces are said to be linked to this murder,' Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin said in an interview published Monday in the daily Sabah. 'Every allegation must be considered a tip-off and seriously investigated,' he said. Thousands marked the first anniversary of Dink's assassination on Saturday with protesters accusing the authorities of ignoring the alleged protection the suspected gunman and his associates received from the police. 'If what they (the police) did was a crime, they must be definitely punished,' the minister said. Dink's murder prompted fresh calls for the elimination of the 'deep state' -- a term used to describe security forces acting outside the law to preserve what they consider Turkey's best interests. Lawyers for Dink's family say the police withheld and destroyed evidence to cover up the murder, including footage from a bank security camera in downtown Istanbul near where Dink was gunned down on Jan. 19, 2007. The charge sheet says police received intelligence as early as 2006 of a plot to kill Dink organized in the northern city of Trabzon, home of self-confessed gunman Ogun Samast, 17, and most of his 18 alleged accomplices currently on trial. A taped telephone conversation between a policeman and a suspect shortly after the killing suggests the officer knew of the plot in advance. The tape, leaked to the media last year, includes degrading comments about Dink. Dink campaigned for reconciliation between Turks and Armenians, but nationalists hated him for insisting the World War I massacres of Armenians under Ottoman rule was an act of genocide -- a label Ankara fiercely rejects. [...]"

UKRAINE/NAZI HOLOCAUST

"Genocide's Ghosts"
By Vivienne Walt
Time.com, 16 January 2008
"[...] In 2002 Patrick Desbois, a Catholic priest from Paris, visited Rava-Ruska for the first time, intrigued by tales he had heard from his grandfather as a boy. The older man had been a prisoner of war in the town in the early 1940s, and had told young Patrick that horrors had occurred there. When Desbois arrived in Rava-Ruska -- a town of about 8,000 a few miles from the border with Poland -- to learn what had happened, 'it was like a black hole,' he says. 'There was nothing in the books.' Desbois says the then mayor declined to divulge details. But when the priest returned a year later, the deputy mayor, Yaroslav Nadiak, led him to the forest of Borowe outside the town and revealed what Rava-Ruska's townsfolk had long known: that some 1,500 Jews had been shot and hastily buried in a mass grave there in November 1943. 'He told me: "Patrick, I could take you to a hundred villages like this,"' says Desbois. 'And I said: "OK. Let's go."' In fact, the number was far higher than that, and Desbois admits he had little idea of the huge task he had set himself when he began his full-time research in 2004. In 15 trips to Ukraine, the 52-year-old priest has since located more than 750 killing sites, some of which contain several mass graves, and he now suspects there may be another 1,800 graves scattered across the country. Ukraine's graves -- many of them just depressions in the ground, suggesting the weight of hundreds of bodies -- were neglected through decades of Soviet rule. Now, with many of the Holocaust's witnesses in their 70s and 80s, Desbois feels he is running out of time. 'In five years,' he says, 'there will be no more witnesses.' [...]"
[n.b. Another galvanizing profile of an extraordinary man. The New York Times published its own piece on Desbois last October.]

UNITED KINGDOM/JEWISH HOLOCAUST

"Buttons Depict Holocaust Victims"
BBC Online, 21 January 2008
"An art installation using more than six million buttons to symbolise the victims of the Holocaust has been unveiled at a London shopping centre. The work by Leeds-based artist, Antonia Stowe, depicts the industrial scale of the genocide which saw millions of Jews killed during World War II. Entitled "6 Million +", it also commemorates those killed in recent genocides in the Balkans and Africa. It is being displayed at Brent Cross in north London until 1 February. Opening the exhibition on Monday, the Mayor of Barnet Maureen Braun, said it was 'an extremely moving and visual way of appreciating the full horror of what happened during the Holocaust.' 'I invite residents to reflect with me on the horrors of the last century and look forward with hope for the future,' she said."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

UNITED STATES/ATLANTIC SLAVERY

"New Jersey's Apology for Slavery"
By Bonnie Goldstein
Slate.com, 8 January 2008
"In November, New Jersey Assemblymen William Payne and Craig Stanley introduced a resolution mandating that the state apologize formally for its role in the Atlantic slave trade. (See below and the following four pages [for scans of the declaration].) Expressing 'New Jersey's profound regret,' the declaration's text relates that New Jersey at one time 'had one of the largest populations of captive Africans in the northern colonies.' Although New Jersey prohibited the importation of slaves after 1786, it 'was the last northern state to emancipate its slaves,' waiting until 1846 to abolish the practice. The declaration extends 'solemn regrets to those who were enslaved and the descendants of those slaves, who were deprived of life, human dignity, and the constitutional protections accorded all citizens of the United States.' On Jan. 7, the resolution cleared New Jersey's Assembly and state Senate in near-unanimous floor votes. Virginia, Maryland, Alabama, and North Carolina have already expressed official remorse for past support of slavery."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

UNITED STATES/CANADA/THE "WAR ON TERROR"

"Torture Manual Wrongly Includes Allies: Bernier"
CTV.ca, 19 January 2008
"Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier has distanced his department from one of its training manuals that lists the United States and Guantanamo Bay as places of torture. 'I regret the embarrassment caused by the public disclosure of the manual used in the department's torture awareness training,' he said in a statement released Saturday. 'It contains a list that wrongly includes some of our closest allies. I have directed that the manual be reviewed and rewritten. The manual is neither a policy document nor a statement of policy. As such, it does not convey the Government's views or positions.' ... Canadian Maher Arar was tortured in Syria after being 'renditioned' there by the United States in 2002. Canadian William Sampson was imprisoned and tortured in Saudi Arabia. Foreign Affairs used the manual as part of its torture awareness training. The department mistakenly released the document to lawyers involved in a lawsuit centred on alleged abuse of detainees in Afghanistan."

"Canada Places U.S., Israel on Torture Watch List"
Reuters dispatch in The New York Times, 17 January 2008 [Registration Required]
"Canada's foreign ministry has put the United States and Israel on a watch list of countries where prisoners risk being tortured and also classifies some U.S. interrogation techniques as torture, according to a document obtained by Reuters on Thursday. The revelation is likely to embarrass the minority Conservative government, which is a staunch ally of both the United States and Israel. Both nations denied they allowed torture in their jails. The document -- part of a training course on torture awareness given to diplomats -- mentions the U.S. jail at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba where a Canadian man is being held. The man, Omar Khadr, is the only Canadian in Guantanamo. His defenders said the document made a mockery of Ottawa's claims that Khadr was not being mistreated. Under 'definition of torture' the document lists U.S. interrogation techniques such as forced nudity, isolation, sleep deprivation and blindfolding prisoners. 'The United States does not permit, tolerate, or condone torture under any circumstances,' said a spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in Ottawa. A spokesman for Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier tried to distance Ottawa from the document. 'The training manual is not a policy document and does not reflect the views or policies of this government,' he said. The government mistakenly provided the document to Amnesty International Canada as part of a court case the rights organization has launched against Ottawa over the treatment of detainees in Afghanistan. Amnesty Secretary-General Alex Neve told Reuters his group had very clear evidence of abuse in U.S. and Israeli jails. 'It's therefore reassuring and refreshing to see that ... both of those countries have been listed and that foreign policy considerations didn't trump the human rights concern and keep them off the list,' he said. [...]"

UNITED STATES/INDIGENOUS PEOPLES

"Apaches Rise to Defend Homelands from Homeland Security"
By Brenda Norrell
U.N. Observer and International Report, 8 January 2008
"Apache land owners on the Rio Grande told Homeland Security to halt the seizure of their lands for the US/Mexico border wall, during a national media conference call Monday. It was the same day that a 30-day notice from Homeland Security expired with the threat of land seizures by eminent domain to build the US/Mexico border wall. 'There are two kinds of people in this world, those who build walls and those who build bridges,' said Enrique Madrid, Jumano Apache community member, land owner in Redford and archaeological steward for the Texas Historical Commission. 'The wall in South Texas is militarization,' Madrid said of the planned escalation of militarization with Border Patrol and soldiers. 'They will be armed and shoot to kill.' It was in Redford that a U.S. Marine shot and killed 18-year-old Esequiel Hernandez, herding his sheep near his home in 1997. 'We had hoped he would be the last United States citizen and the last Native American to be killed by troops,' Madrid said. Dr. Eloisa Garcia Tamez, Lipan Apache professor living in the Lower Rio Grande, described how US officials attempted to pressure her into allowing them onto her private land to survey for the US/Mexico border wall. When Tamez refused, she was told that she would be taken to court and her lands seized by eminent domain. 'I have told them that it is not for sale and they cannot come onto my land.' Tamez is among the land owners where the Department of Homeland Security plans to erect 70 miles of intermittent, double-layered fencing in the Rio Grande Valley. Tamez said the United States government wants access to all of her land, which is on both sides of a levee. 'Then they will decide where to build the wall. It could be over my house.' Tamez said that she may only have three acres, but it is all she has. [...]"




ISSUE: BLOOD FEUDS

"Blood Feuds Trap 1,200 Albanian Youths at Home"
By Nicola Smith
The Sunday Times, 20 January 2008
"In the bleak village of Mali i Jushit in northwest Albania, a teenager's crowded family home has become his prison. Mojo Muriqi has been confined to his sparse living quarters for nearly four years. If he ventures into the potholed street beyond his front door, he could be killed. Mojo is despondent about his future. At 19, he should be socialising in the historic near-by city of Shkodra and planning for student life and a career. Instead he spends his time playing cards or indoor football, sometimes doing the 'women's work' of cleaning. Despite Albania's macho culture, it is the women in this family who work the fields and pay the household bills. Mojo, who with 60 other male relatives is compelled to remain in a compound of family homes, is a victim of the ancient tradition of blood feuds. In 2003 Mojo's uncle killed a young man from the Mirashe family, who live in a village two miles away. It was a senseless murder that took place when the two argued while tending their sheep. Although the perpetrator is in jail, members of his extended family face a death sentence. The blood-feud code requires that the victim's family take revenge on any of the killer's male relatives. The sole proviso is that the boundaries of family homes must not be breached. ... While emigration seems the only escape route for him and his 20-year-old cousin Resmi, the feud is more like a game for the younger children. Six-year-old Xhevahir should have started school this year but instead he merely plays with the other boys in the household. The prospect of letting their sons attend school fills the mothers with terror. Aid organisations helping the families say that in recent years the rule that children are safe from revenge killings has been broken. [...]"

ISSUE: FOOD SECURITY/INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION

"Europe Takes Africa's Fish, and Migrants Follow"
By Sharon Lafraniere
The New York Times, 14 January 2008 [Registration Required]
"[...] A vast flotilla of industrial trawlers from the European Union, China, Russia and elsewhere, together with an abundance of local boats, have so thoroughly scoured northwest Africa's ocean floor that major fish populations are collapsing. That has crippled coastal economies and added to the surge of illegal migrants who brave the high seas in wooden pirogues hoping to reach Europe. While reasons for immigration are as varied as fish species, Europe's lure has clearly intensified as northwest Africa's fish population has dwindled. Last year roughly 31,000 Africans tried to reach the Canary Islands, a prime transit point to Europe, in more than 900 boats. About 6,000 died or disappeared, according to one estimate cited by the United Nations. ... Overfishing is hardly limited to African waters. Worldwide, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 75 percent of fish stocks are overfished or fished to their maximum. But in a poor region like northwest Africa, the consequences are particularly stark. Fish are the main source of protein for much of the region, but some species are now so scarce that the poor can no longer afford them, said Pierre Failler, senior research fellow for the British Center for Economics and Management of Aquatic Resources. The coastal stock of bottom-dwelling fish is just a quarter of what it was 25 years ago, studies show. Already, scientists say, the sea's ecological balance has shifted as species lower on the food chain replace some above them. ... In a region where at least 200,000 people depend on the sea for their livelihoods, local investments in fishing industries are drying up with the fish stocks. [...]"

ISSUE: GENOCIDE PREVENTION/INTERVENTION

"Intervention, Hailed as a Concept, Is Shunned in Practice"
By Warren Hoge
The New York Times, 20 January 2008
"Three years after the United Nations adopted a groundbreaking resolution to help it intervene to stop genocide, even longtime supporters of the rule acknowledge that it has not helped the organization end the violence in Darfur. The General Assembly resolution, approved in 2005, held nations responsible for shielding their citizens from mass atrocities and established the right of international forces to step in if nations did not fulfill this new 'responsibility to protect.' ... The United Nations has tried to take the lead in Darfur, the crisis-ridden region in western Sudan. But it has been stymied by the failure of major member states to fulfill promises to support action and by the intransigence of the Sudanese government. Sudan begrudgingly agreed last year to permit United Nations peacekeepers into Darfur but only as part of a joint mission with the African Union, whose own 7,000-member force had proved inadequate. Since then, the government has thrown up so many bureaucratic and operational roadblocks that the force that took over on Jan. 1 is only a third of its planned strength of 26,000, and Sudanese authorities are still blocking United Nations’ efforts to include specialized non-African troops considered essential to making the mission effective. In addition, countries with advanced militaries have not come forward to answer United Nations appeals for the sophisticated aviation and logistics assistance that the force needs. Darfur, in short, has shown that there is a great difference between gaining acceptance for a working theory and making the theory work. [...]"

Friday, January 04, 2008

NOW AVAILABLE: Men of the Global South: A Reader, edited by Adam Jones (Zed Books, 2006; 425 pp., US $29.99 pbk). "This impressive collection is a much-needed contribution to the visibility and understanding of diversity in the lives of men from the South" (Dr. Dubravka Zarkov, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague).

Genocide Studies Media File
December 28, 2007 - January 4, 2008

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 adamj_jones@hotmail.com.

Consider inviting colleagues and friends to subscribe to Genocide_Studies and the G_S Media File. All it takes is an email to genocide_studies-subscribe@topica.com.

CHILE

"Ex-Pinochet Agents Sentenced in Revenge Killings"
Associated Press dispatch on CNN.com, 28 December 2007
"Fifteen agents of Gen. Augusto Pinochet's regime were sentenced Friday to prison terms ranging from five to 18 years for the revenge killings of three dissidents. The deaths came after a bloody but unsuccessful 1986 attempt on the life of the former dictator, who died in December 2006 at age 91. The highest sentence, 18 years, was levied on Alvaro Corbalan, a former operative chief of the National Information Central, known as CNI for its acronym in Spanish, Pinochet's security service. Corbalan, a retired army major, and most of the others sentenced already are in prison serving sentences in other rights violations cases during Pinochet's 1973-90 dictatorship. One, retired police captain Ivan Quiroz, has been at large since fleeing after being sentenced in another human rights case this year."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

CHINA/JAPAN/NANJING MASSACRE

"The Nanking Nightmare" (movie review)
By Richard Schickel
Time.com, 4 January 2008
"[...] The Japanese would have been pleased if there had been no neutral eyewitnesses to this atrocity. They would have been even more pleased if no camera had been present. But the foreigners were educated and articulate people. They kept diaries, they wrote letters, they were determined to set down, on a daily basis, what they saw and experienced. Moreover, there were photographers, amateur and professional, of all nationalities using still and movie equipment to make a visual record of life in the tortured city. I have rarely, if ever, seen a documentary reconstruction of a historical event that is so rich in firsthand (and well-preserved) photographic material. All the directors did was assemble a cast of actors (some of them as well-known as Woody Harrelson and Mariel Hemingway, some of them unknown) and set them to reading the written record, cutting away to the moving footage, still pictures and a few interviews, as often as possible. Besides bearing insistent witness, the foreigners also created a 'Safety Zone,' some two miles wide, into which perhaps two or three hundred [thousand] refugees were crammed, with just enough food and medical supplies to survive -- if the foreigners, among them, ironically, a German business man who was a Nazi party member -- could protect its boundaries. This they -- imperfectly -- did until the worst was over in March 1938. They even managed to smuggle out some of their pictures to alert the world to this atrocity. Later, they made direct appeals to their governments, seeking some sort of (inadequate) redress, which arrived far too late, in the form of war crimes trials after hostilities ended. The film ['Nanking'] makes no attempt to explain these events, and that is, I think, a defect. It merely summons us to witness, asks us to do what we can to prevent similar atrocities. [...]"

CONGO/VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

"The Hidden Wounds of Congo's Wars"
By Anna Husarska
Slate.com, 4 January 2008
"[...] The invisible side of the war in northeast Congo is the most painful one: a virtual epidemic of rape, and -- if it is possible -- worse forms of sexual assault, such as the brutal destruction of girls' and women's organs. Hospitals here in Goma and in Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu, mend the victims as best they can. These are often complicated surgical operations that may not be successful the first time around. But there is a whole other trauma: the stigma, the rejection by family, the fear -- often, alas, justified -- of contracting HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases. With the painfully common use of rape and sexual mutilation as a weapon of war, those of us who work in humanitarian aid have to adapt our programs. Here in North and South Kivu, we have a separate program aimed at preventing and attending to this scourge -- known as 'gender-based violence.' So, when we finally arrived to Karambi, we immediately met the midwife to assess the situation. The place had a bad history -- in November, the local doctor reported 80 cases of rape (though only 10 percent of them came to see him). Another IRC medical center of comparable size, which serves many war-displaced people, saw a daily average of three cases of women seeking medical attention after rape. In December, there were 'only' 20 known cases of rape in Karambi. But when the midwife concluded that cows grazing on corn are an expression of ethnic oppression, I realized how urgent it is to attend to the other invisible wound: the deep-seated divisions and prejudices that persist and that fuel these sexual assaults and mutilations. [...]"

"East Congo Violence Fuels Rape Spree by Fighters"
By Kari Barber
Reuters dispatch, 3 January 2008
"Intense fighting between government and militia forces in eastern Congo has led to a surge in rape by fighters from all sides, women and doctors say. Renewed hostilities between the army and troops loyal to renegade Tutsi General Laurent Nkunda have stoked a volatile crucible of violence in Congo's North Kivu province, where traditional Mai Mai fighters and Rwandan Hutu militia also roam. 'I was leaving the market and I ran into FDLR on the road. They robbed me of everything and then four men raped me,' Francoise Mwamasirika, a 45-year-old mother said of Rwandan Hutu rebels who include leaders of Rwanda's 1994 genocide against Tutsis. Mwamasirika was stunned and barely able to speak when she arrived at a hospital in the South Kivu town of Minova. 'I won't go back,' she said. Sexual violence has escalated as hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee the safety of their homes -- around 400,000 people since August, when Nkunda quit a peace deal, bringing North Kivu's displaced population to 800,000. Congo's government has called a peace summit for Sunday, but there is little optimism the chronic fighting will end soon. Christophe Kimona, a surgeon at Goma's Heal Africa hospital, repairs the torn and damaged genitals of rape victims. Many can no longer control urination without surgery. 'The number of women we are seeing who have been raped is going up. We see an average of three or four rapes each day,' Kimona said. 'Those are just the ones who arrive at the hospital, we don't know how many are too ashamed to come.' Most rape victims say their attackers were armed groups of rebels or government soldiers. But Kimona said as rape becomes so common with the conflict, more civilians are committing rapes too, and the victims are often children. [...]"

KENYA

"Ethnic Violence: Why Kenya is Not Another Rwanda"
By Scott Baldauf
The Christian Science Monitor, 3 January 2008
"[...] The overtones of Rwanda's 1994 genocide are ominous, but Kenya's ethnic strife differs from that of Rwanda in crucial ways. The Rwandan genocide had been planned well in advance. State radio had demonized the economically powerful Tutsi minority for years, and after the apparent assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimina, that same state radio urged Rwandan Hutus to kill Tutsis in large numbers. Hutus were supplied with machetes to do the job, urged on by local officials -- and even parish priests -- to not rest until 'the work was done.' Kenya's ethnic strife, by contrast, is being carried out on a much smaller scale by many different actors. Much of the violence is focused on the economically and politically dominant Kikuyu group, but the attacks lack the Rwandan genocide's organization and preparation, and there is no evidence that Kenyan officials are organizing it. To the contary, all TV and radio stations have been temporarily forbidden to broadcast live and all news is heavily censored for the time being. The danger in Kenya, however, lies in the intransigence of the two main leaders, both of whom claim to be president after last week's vote. [...]"

"A Chilling Tour of the Kenyan Church That Became the Scene of Mass Murder"
By Steve Bloomfield
The Independent, 3 January 2008
"Tears streamed down the cheeks of 18-year-old Sheila Kai as she described the moment before the Kenya Assemblies of God Pentecostal church in Kiambaa was burnt to the ground. 'They told us to get inside the church or they would kill us,' she whispered, describing a gang of more than 200 men. 'Then they closed the door.' All possible escape routes were then locked shut with metal chains. Mattresses were placed around the outside of the building, then doused with paraffin and set alight. 'People were praying, calling for God, screaming,' Ms. Kai said. She was one of the lucky ones, dragged to safety through a window as the church collapsed. But dozens were killed; the youngest just three days old. ... Red Cross volunteers, who had originally believed that up to 100 people may have died, had recovered 17 bodies, all charred beyond all recognition, by yesterday morning. The remains of several small children had still not been found, their bodies reduced to ash by the force of the flames. The final death toll was likely to be between 30 and 40, officials said. Survivors of the Kiambaa massacre had walked the five long miles through the now barren sugar-cane fields to the nearest town, seeking refuge and treatment for their wounds. Last night Eldoret was under siege. Marauding gangs of 50 or more men burnt and looted houses in Kikuyu areas, attacking men, women and children. 'No Kikuyus!' they shouted, 'Go home!' -- referring to Kenya's Central province, the Kikuyu heartland. But no one could leave. Roadblocks ringed the town, manned by young men armed with machetes, sticks and bows and arrows. They hauled people from their cars, barking at them to show their identity cards. Those with Kikuyu names were dragged away and killed, witnesses said. [...]"

"Kenya Govt Denounces 'Genocide' as Toll Hits 300"
By C. Bryson Hull and Andrew Cawthorne
Reuters dispatch, 2 January 2008
"President Mwai Kibaki's government accused rival Raila Odinga's party of unleashing 'genocide' in Kenya on Wednesday as the death toll from tribal violence over a disputed election passed 300. 'It is becoming clear that these well-organised acts of genocide and ethnic-cleansing were well-planned, financed and rehearsed by Orange Democratic Movement leaders prior to the general elections,' the statement read by Lands Minister Kivutha Kibwana on behalf of his colleagues said. ODM had no immediate reaction to the accusation. Odinga's supporters, drawn mainly from his Luo tribe, have blamed the violence on Kibaki for 'stealing' the Dec. 27 presidential vote. Many clashes have pitted the Luo against Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe. ... The use of the word genocide will horrify Kenyans, used to being viewed by the world as a stable democracy, investment and tourist destination and oasis of peace in an otherwise volatile region scarred by like the 1994 Rwanda genocide. Kenya is an important ally of the West in its counter-terrorism efforts, takes growing money-flows from China, and is used to being the peacemaker -- rather than the conflict focus -- in African hot-spots like Somalia and Sudan. [...]

"Mob Sets Kenya Church on Fire, Killing Dozens"
By Jeffrey Gettleman
The New York Times, 2 January 2008
"[...] As for the people burned alive in the church, Mr. Bujra echoed what many Kenyans were thinking: 'It reminds me of Rwanda.' While the bloodshed of the past few days in Kenya has fallen far short of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, many Kenyans are worried that it is spiraling out of control. The violence has been a mix of hooliganism, political protest and ethnic bloodletting. Most of the victims have been Kikuyus, the tribe of the president and Kenya's traditional ruling class. Kikuyus have dominated business and politics since independence in 1963. They run shops, restaurants, banks and factories across Kenya, from the Indian Ocean coast to the scenic savannah to the muggy shores of Lake Victoria in the west. They make up only 22 percent of the population and are part of Kenya's mosaic of roughly 40 ethnic groups, which have intermarried and coexisted for decades. But the election controversy has created a new dynamic in which many of Kenya's other tribes, furious about the ballot rigging that may have kept Mr. Kibaki in power, have vented their frustrations against them. 'We are easy targets,' said Stephen Kahianyu, a Kikuyu, staring at the embers of his home in Nairobi that was burned to the ground on Saturday. Over the past few days, Kikuyus have fled to police stations and churches for protection. On Monday night, several hundred Kikuyus barricaded themselves inside the Kenya Assemblies of God church in Kiambaa, a small village near the town of Eldoret. The next morning, a rowdy mob showed up. According to witnesses, the mob was mostly Kalenjins, Luhyas and Luos, Mr. Odinga's tribe, which makes up about 13 percent of the population. They overran Kikuyu guards in front of the church and then pulled out cans of gasoline. There were no police officers around, witnesses said, and no water to put the fire out. Most people escaped. But in addition to those killed, dozens were hospitalized with severe burns. Witnesses said most of the people hiding inside had been women and children. [...]"

"135 Dead in Election Bloodbath"
By Nick Wadhams
The Times, 1 January 2008
"Kenya was plunged into further turmoil yesterday, as continued violence over Mwai Kibaki's disputed re-election involved angry supporters of the opposition candidate, Raila Odinga. Confrontations with police left at least 135 people dead. Fears grew that the bloodshed, which marks the worst crisis the East African country has known for decades, would spread into a larger ethnic conflict between Luo, who generally support Mr Odinga, and the Kikuyu tribe of Mr Kibaki. The 76-year-old President was sworn in for a second term on Sunday, despite claims of corruption and vote-rigging. In the west, where Mr Odinga’s support is highest, looters torched petrol stations and a police post, while about 300 Kenyans -- fearing for their lives -- fled across the border to Uganda. At least six Kikuyu were hacked to death in the eastern port city of Mombasa, popular with British tourists. ... Terrified Luo living in areas dominated by Mr Kibaki’s supporters hid behind locked doors, while residents in Nairobi's burning slums said that they feared for their lives. 'They took my phone, they took my money, they took what I had in my pockets,' said Peter Mwau, a resident of the Kibera slum who comes from the smaller Kamba tribe. 'I did not talk to them, I just went, they were holding machetes and iron bars. We did not even sleep.' A curfew was imposed in Kisumu, the main town of western Kenya and opposition stronghold, where police have been given orders to shoot on sight. Witnesses there reported 21 bodies with gunshot wounds lying in a hospital mortuary. [...]"

NAZI HOLOCAUST

"Nazi Victims' Fund Pays Out £21m"
By Angus Crawford
BBC News, 28 December 2007
"A British scheme to return money belonging to victims of the Nazis has paid out more than £21m, or 10 times its budget, BBC News has learned. The Enemy Property Claims Assessment panel (Epcap) was set up to help people who lived in enemy countries and whose British bank accounts were frozen. It was meant to end three years ago, but is still receiving applications. The monies include a 'six-figure sum' paid to a woman whose Jewish grandfather had his savings seized. 'When my mother died, we cleaned the house [and] I found some papers [that] looked very funny,' said Yvonne, who does not want her real name used. The mysterious looking documents, found by chance, could only be read when held up against a mirror. 'They were photographed in a mirror, black paper and white letters,' Yvonne said of the papers. They dated back to the 1940s and had details of money held in British bank accounts belonging to her grandfather. Yvonne said they explained stories she heard as a child growing up in Israel. 'My parents didn't get any money when they were getting married. It was all abroad,' she said of talk of missing family monies. Yvonne's grandfather was a successful Jewish businessman living in Eastern Europe and before war broke out, he had stowed much of his money in British banks. While he survived the war and later emigrated, he, like many Holocaust survivors, never recovered his savings. Wartime trading-with-the-enemy laws meant the property belonging to anyone living in an enemy country was confiscated and would not be given back. [...]"

SERBIA/KOSOVO

"Messy Kosovo Breakaway Stokes Fear of Partition"
By Matt Robinson
Reuters dispatch, 28 December 2007
"Serbia is telling Serbs in Kosovo to ignore an Albanian declaration of independence early next year, raising the prospect of an ethnic partition of the breakaway province that the West has long ruled out. Serbs dominate a thin slice of northern Kosovo, frustrating efforts by leaders of Kosovo's 90-percent Albanian majority and their U.N. overseers to extend control over the entire territory of Serbia's southern province. Kosovo's 2 million Albanians are expected to declare independence in the first months of 2008, almost nine years since NATO drove out Serb forces to halt the ethnic cleansing of Albanians in a Serb counter-insurgency war. The Albanians have Western backing after almost two years of failed Serb-Albanian negotiations. But the flag-raising is unlikely to extend beyond the Ibar river that slices through the flashpoint town of Mitrovica, forming a natural boundary between Serbs in the north and Albanians in the south. Beyond formally rejecting Kosovo's secession, Serbia promises to 'intensify' a network of parallel structures that service the 120,000 remaining Serbs. It has opened a government office in north Mitrovica, to U.N. accusations of 'provocation.' Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, promoting a resolution implicitly rejecting EU and NATO membership if the two recognize Kosovo, told parliament this week Serbs in Kosovo 'should ignore any unilateral declaration as an illegal act.' [...]"

SRI LANKA

"Sri Lanka War Seen Escalating"
By Ranga Sirilal
Reuters dispatch, 3 January 2008
"Sri Lanka's 25-year civil war with Tamil Tiger rebels will likely escalate into the bloodiest period of fighting the island has seen after the government scrapped a tattered truce, experts said on Thursday. Sri Lanka plunged back into war after four years of relative peace almost as soon as President Mahinda Rajapaksa took power in late 2005. But both he and the Tigers had held off scrapping a Norwegian-brokered truce to avoid appearing the villain. With the pact now formally ended, hopes of resurrecting collapsed peace talks any time soon are dead and investment in the $26 billion economy could suffer. Sri Lanka's stock market fell 1.2 percent on Thursday as investors braced for escalation. 'This means all-out war. The government has dropped the peace option and has opted for a fuller military onslaught on the rebels,' said Iqbal Athas, an analyst with Jane's Defense Weekly in Colombo. Wednesday's announcement came hours after suspected Tiger rebels bombed a military bus in central Colombo, killing four people and wounding 24. It was the latest in a litany of attacks that have killed hundreds in recent months. Violence continued on Thursday. The military said it destroyed six rebel bunkers in the northwestern district of Mannar, killing six Tigers, while the pro-rebel Web site, www.tamilnet.com, said the insurgents had thwarted a major army offensive and killed 10 soldiers in apparently the same incident. [...]"

SUDAN/DARFUR

"New Darfur Peacekeeping Force Takes Over"
By Mohamed Osman
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 31 December 2007
"The African Union transferred authority Monday to a new joint peacekeeping force with the United Nations in Darfur that the international community hopes will stem the violence in Sudan's war-torn western region. But the new mission is staffed far below its authorized level -- at only 9,000 of a planned 26,000 -- and many fear it will be as incapable of protecting civilians as the AU force it replaced. The ceremony at the new mission's headquarters outside the North Darfur capital of El Fasher capped months of international pressure on Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to admit the force. The Sudanese president has thrown up bureaucratic obstructions to the force's full deployment, including blocking Swedish and Thai troops, and it is unclear when further deployments will come. Western countries have also been slow to provide military helicopters, considered vital to making the force effective. As a result, many experts inside and outside the U.N. believe the mission will have little immediate effect on security in Darfur, where 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million been driven from their homes in 4 1/2 years of violence. Ethnic African rebels have been battling the Arab-dominated government's troops and the Arab militias known as janjaweed, which are accused of committing widespread atrocities against civilians. U.N. officials have said the force at full strength with 20,000 troops and 6,000 policemen -- backed, it is hoped, by attack helicopters -- would be robust and effective enough to stop attacks on refugees, civilians and aid workers. That would be a sharp contrast to the African Union force, which at 7,000 troops has been unable to stop violence in the region. [...]"

UNITED STATES

"Looking at America"
The New York Times (editorial) on Truthout.org, 31 December 2007
"[...] In the years since 9/11, we have seen American soldiers abuse, sexually humiliate, torment and murder prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. A few have been punished, but their leaders have never been called to account. We have seen mercenaries gun down Iraqi civilians with no fear of prosecution. We have seen the president, sworn to defend the Constitution, turn his powers on his own citizens, authorizing the intelligence agencies to spy on Americans, wiretapping phones and intercepting international e-mail messages without a warrant. We have read accounts of how the government's top lawyers huddled in secret after the attacks in New York and Washington and plotted ways to circumvent the Geneva Conventions -- and both American and international law -- to hold anyone the president chose indefinitely without charges or judicial review. ... Hundreds of men, swept up on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, were thrown into a prison in Guant√°namo Bay, Cuba, so that the White House could claim they were beyond the reach of American laws. Prisoners are held there with no hope of real justice, only the chance to face a kangaroo court where evidence and the names of their accusers are kept secret, and where they are not permitted to talk about the abuse they have suffered at the hands of American jailers. ... The C.I.A. contracted out its inhumanity to nations with no respect for life or law, sending prisoners -- some of them innocents kidnapped on street corners and in airports -- to be tortured into making false confessions, or until it was clear they had nothing to say and so were let go without any apology or hope of redress. These are not the only shocking abuses of President Bush's two terms in office, made in the name of fighting terrorism. There is much more -- so much that the next president will have a full agenda simply discovering all the wrongs that have been done and then righting them. [...]"
[n.b. A powerful editorial, though I'm unsure how the Times could publish it without also calling for the immediate arrest and/or impeachment of Bush and his henchmen.]

"LA Gang F13 Accused of Targeting Blacks"
By Thomas Watkins
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, 30 December 2007
"In a murderous quest aimed at 'cleansing' their turf of snitches and rival gangsters, members of one of Los Angeles County's most vicious Latino gangs sometimes killed people just because of their race, an investigation found. There were even instances in which Florencia 13 leaders ordered killings of black gangsters and then, when the intended victim couldn't be located, said 'Well, shoot any black you see,' Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said. 'In certain cases some murders were just purely motivated on killing a black person,' Baca said. Authorities say there were 20 murders among more than 80 shootings documented during the gang's rampage in the hardscrabble Florence-Firestone neighborhood, exceptional even in an area where gang violence has been commonplace for decades. They don't specify the time frame or how many of the killings were racial. ... The violence goes both ways, said Adam Torres, a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department gang detective whose beat includes Florence-Firestone. During a recent patrol on the east side of the neighborhood, he pointed to a cinderblock wall peppered with bullet holes. Torres said the Crips still control that area and any Hispanic there is at risk of being shot. Despite the wave of violence, George Tita, a criminologist with the University of California, Irvine, said racially motivated gang killings are an exception. Latinos and blacks are far more likely to be murdered by one of their own. [...]"

"Vermont Town Seeks Bush, Cheney Arrests"
By Dave Gram
Associated Press dispatch on RawStory.com, 28 December 2007
"President Bush may soon have a new reason to avoid left-leaning Vermont: In one town, activists want him subject to arrest for war crimes. A group in Brattleboro is petitioning to put an item on a town meeting agenda in March that would make Bush and Vice President Cheney subject to arrest and indictment if they visit the southeastern Vermont community. 'This petition is as radical as the Declaration of Independence, and it draws on that tradition in claiming a universal jurisdiction when governments fail to do what they're supposed to do,' said Kurt Daims, 54, a retired machinist leading the drive. As president, Bush has visited every state except Vermont. The town meeting, an annual exercise in which residents gather to vote on everything from fire department budgets to municipal policy, requires about 1,000 signatures to place a binding item on the agenda. The measure asks: 'Shall the Selectboard instruct the Town Attorney to draft indictments against President Bush and Vice President Cheney for crimes against our Constitution, and publish said indictment for consideration by other municipalities?' The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday. The press office did not immediately respond to an e-mail. ... Daims has been circulating documents that claim the community acquires a 'universal jurisdiction' to take such steps 'when governments breach their highest duties.' 'We have the full power to issue indictments, conduct trials, incarcerate offenders and do all other acts which Independent jurisdictions may of right do,' the statement says. [...]"




ISSUE: FOOD SECURITY AND WATER RIGHTS

"Water Not War"
By Peter Tatchell
The Guardian, 3 January 2008
"More than 1 billion people on our planet are forced to drink foul, infected water, which has killed at least 22 million people in the last decade. They could all have safe, clean water within 10 years, for just a tiny fraction of the cost of global military spending. Why isn't it happening? ... This morning I woke up and walked 12 feet to my kitchen tap. I drank a large refreshing glass of pure water. Alas, the easily accessible, clean, safe water that we take for granted in the west is only a distant dream for one-sixth of the world's population, especially in Asia and Africa. Hundreds of millions of poor people have to trek for many miles and hours every day to fetch often foul-smelling, diseased drinking water that can cause deadly dysentery, cholera, typhoid and intestinal worms and parasites. The lack of safe water supplies frequently impacts worst on marginal social groups, such as lower castes and ethnic minorities, who may be denied access to the best water sources and be forced to pay premium prices to private suppliers. Some tourist developments in developing countries, such as big hotels and golf courses, involve the private owners sinking their own bore holes to extract water from below ground. This often results in the depression of the water table, drying up wells and causing water crises in the surrounding villages. Water shortages and a lack of affordability in developing countries have, in some cases, been exacerbated by privatisation, which has usually benefited urban dwellers to the neglect of their rural counterparts, and has usually resulted in private monopolies and price hikes, to the detriment of low income families. With global warming and rising populations, the prospect looms of future disputes -- even wars -- over shortages of fresh water supplies. [...]"

"Why the Era of Cheap Food is Over"
By Peter Ford
The Christian Science Monitor, 31 December 2007
"[...] Two major trends have been pushing prices up faster than they have risen for more than 30 years. One is that increasingly prosperous consumers in India and China are not only eating more food but eating more meat. Animals have to be fed (grains, usually) before they are butchered. The other is that more and more crops -- from corn to palm nuts -- are being used to make biofuels instead of feeding people. At the same time, the world is drawing down its stockpiles of cereal and dairy products, which makes markets nervous and prices volatile. The result, says Joachim von Braun, who heads the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington, is that 'the world food system is in trouble. The situation has not been this much of a concern for 15 years.' ... Some analysts estimate that as much as 30 percent of the US grain crop will go toward producing ethanol this year, a doubling from 2006. IFPRI forecasts that if the world sticks to current biofuel expansion plans, the price of corn will go up 26 percent by 2020, and the price of oilseeds (such as soybean, sunflower, rapeseed) by 18 percent. If governments double efforts to produce this alternative fuel source, corn prices are expected to go up 72 percent and oilseeds by 44 percent in 12 years' time. ... As usual, it is the poorest people in the world who suffer most, because food takes up a bigger share of their daily shopping bill than it does for richer people. A family in Bangladesh, for example, living on $5 a day, typically spends $3 of that on food. The 50 percent rise in food prices the world has seen in recent years takes a $1.50 chunk -- nearly 30 percent -- out of the family budget. Even farmers are not immune. On the whole, small-scale farmers in developing countries buy more food than they sell, so they, too, are net losers. Relatively few peasants have holdings large enough to benefit from price increases. Big farmers in the rich countries, however, are doing well: US corn farmers have seen the price their crop fetches jump by 50 percent since 2000. Other net food exporters, such as India, Australia, and South Africa, will also do well out of rising prices. [...]"

ISSUE: HUMAN EVIL

"Will Smith, Hitler and the Holocaust's Unanswerable Question"
By Gabriel Rotello
HuffingtonPost.com, 27 December 2007
"Will Smith found himself in hot water last week after making a statement to a Scottish newspaper that Adolph Hitler 'didn't wake up going, "let me do the most evil thing I can do today." I think he woke up in the morning and using a twisted, backwards logic, he set out to do what he thought was good.' Smith's quote was preceded by the interviewer's gratuitous observation, 'Remarkably, Will believes everyone is basically good.' ... The Jewish Defense League said Smith's words 'spit on the memory of every person murdered by the Nazis' and called on theaters to boycott Smith's new movie. It looked like another Mel Gibson moment in the making. But what was lost in the controversy is that Smith's actual statement -- not that Hitler was a good person, but that Hitler thought he was a good person -- lies at the heart of one of the most baffling questions about Hitler that historians and philosophers have grappled with since the Holocaust. The most cogent discussion of that question is laid out in Ron Rosenbaum's brilliant book Explaining Hitler, which ought to be required reading for anyone interested in deciphering the worst villainy in modern history. Rosenbaum examines various attempts by historians and philosophers to explain 'what made Hitler Hitler.' And one of Rosenbaum's most interesting discussions centers on the very issue Will Smith addressed: Did Hitler, Rosenbaun asks, "believe in some deeply deluded way that he was doing good?" In other words, was he 'convinced of his own rectitude,' as Hitler biographer Hugh Trevor-Roper and many other scholars have argued? Or was Hitler 'deeply aware of his own criminality,' as philosophers such as Berel Lang and others maintain? To frame this discussion, Rosenbaum points to a tradition in Western philosophy going back to Plato that draws a distinction between two concepts: 'evil' and 'wicked.' In this tradition, 'evil' can describe people who do terrible things but who think, in their own deluded way, that they are actually doing good. 'Wickedness,' on the other hand, is reserved for people who do terrible things "knowing they are doing wrong.' In the case of Hitler, the question of whether he knew he was doing wrong and just did it anyway, or whether he actually thought he was doing good despite his horrific acts, bedevil all attempts to understand the worst crime of the twentieth century. And interestingly, lots of scholars come down on the side of Will Smith, arguing that Hitler was 'convinced of his own rectitude.' [...]"