Monday, September 10, 2012

United States / Soviet Union / Katyn Massacre

"People walk with a Polish flag near a memorial to the victims of Katyn, the Soviet massacre of 22,000 Polish officers in 1940, in Warsaw, Poland on Monday, Sept. 10, 2012." (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Katyn Massacre Memos Show US Hushed Up Soviet Crime
By Vanessa Gera and Randy Herschaft
Associated Press dispatch in The Huffington Post, September 10, 2012
"The American POWs sent secret coded messages to Washington with news of a Soviet atrocity: In 1943 they saw rows of corpses in an advanced state of decay in the Katyn forest, on the western edge of Russia, proof that the killers could not have been the Nazis who had only recently occupied the area. The testimony about the infamous massacre of Polish officers might have lessened the tragic fate that befell Poland under the Soviets, some scholars believe. Instead, it mysteriously vanished into the heart of American power. The long-held suspicion is that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt didn't want to anger Josef Stalin, an ally whom the Americans were counting on to defeat Germany and Japan during World War II. Documents released Monday and seen in advance by The Associated Press lend weight to the belief that suppression within the highest levels of the US government helped cover up Soviet guilt in the killing of some 22,000 Polish officers and other prisoners in the Katyn forest and other locations in 1940. The evidence is among about 1,000 pages of newly declassified documents that the United States National Archives is releasing Monday and putting online. Historians who saw the material days before the official release describe it as important and shared some highlights with the AP. The most dramatic revelation so far is the evidence of the secret codes sent by the two American POWs -- something historians were unaware of and which adds to evidence that the Roosevelt administration knew of the Soviet atrocity relatively early on.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Sudan / The Responsibility to Protect

The Tragic Cost of the World's Inaction in Sudan
By Gerald Caplan and Amanda Grzyb
The Globe and Mail, September 5, 2012
"Exactly one year and a week ago, we published a commentary piece in this newspaper predicting grave consequences if the international community did not intervene to stop the violence against civilians in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. Alas, we, and the many others like us who raised our voices, were ignored. A year later, we can clearly see the tragic cost of the world's collective inaction. We understand that it's hard to keep up with the never-ending horror stories from Sudan, both the original country and the new state of South Sudan that split from it. So there’s a good chance you haven’t heard much about the latest campaign of state-sponsored violence against civilians in Sudan, a nation with a long track record of genocidal counterinsurgency, genocide-by-attrition, and crimes against humanity. It is not too much to say that the 23-year reign of Sudan President Omar al-Bashir has been the most brutal of any head of state now in power. Tens of thousands of Canadians joined solidarity groups to protest his genocidal attacks in Darfur a few years ago. But as that crisis faded, so did interest in Mr. al-Bashir's continuing depredations. That disinterest has been reflected in the dismal underreporting of Mr. al-Bashir's latest crime.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Syria / Genocide Prevention

"Syrian children at a playground last week at a refugee camp in Zaatari, Jordan. Many speak of exacting revenge on the Alawites when they get back home." (Moises Saman/The New York Times)
Syrian Children Offer Glimpse of a Future of Reprisals
By David D. Kirkpatrick
The New York Times, September 3, 2012
"Like all the small children in the desert refugee camp here, Ibtisam, 11, is eager to go home to the toys, bicycles, books, cartoons and classmates she left behind in Syria. But not if that means living with Alawites, members of the same minority offshoot of Shiite Islam as Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad. 'I hate the Alawites and the Shiites,' Ibtisam said as a crowd of children and adults nodded in agreement. 'We are going to kill them with our knives, just like they killed us.' If the fighters seeking to oust Mr. Assad sometimes portray their battle as a struggle for democracy, the Sunni Muslim children of the Zaatari camp tell a much uglier story of sectarian revenge. Asked for their own views of the grown-up battle that drove them from their homes, child after child brought up their hatred of the Alawites and a thirst for revenge. Children as young as 10 or 11 vowed never to play with Syrian Alawite children or even pledged to kill them. Parroting older relatives -- some of whom openly egged them on -- the youngsters offered a disturbing premonition of the road ahead for Syria. Their unvarnished hatred helps explain why so many Alawites, who make up more than 10 percent of the Syrian population, have stood by Mr. Assad even as the world has written him off. They see him as their best protection against sectarian annihilation.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Brazil / Indigenous Peoples

Yanomami Indians. (Alamy)
Amazonian Community Wiped Out by Illegal Goldminers
By Amy Willis and Agencies
The Telegraph, August 30, 2012
"At least 80 members of a remote Amazonian tribal village may have been wiped out by gold miners after they launched an assault on the indigenous community, tribal leaders said. The charred remains of dozens of Yanomami Indians were discovered inside the village 'shabono' in the remote community of Irotatheri on the southern Venezuelan border with Brazil. A shabono is a circular hut that typically houses dozens of tribesmen and women. Three survivors were found walking in the jungle after the attack, having fled at the sound of gunshots, explosions and the sound of a helicopter while they were out hunting. The massacre is believed to have happened sometime last month but due to the remoteness of the village, information had to be relayed from village to village until it reached Yanomami tribal leaders who alerted the Venezuelan authorities. Luis Shatiwe Ahiwei, a leader of the Horonami Yanomami Organisation, said the number of people killed in the attack could not be certain but witnesses had said about 80 people lived there. Mr. Ahiwei and others members of the Yanomami organisation met with military officials and prosecutors earlier this week in the southern town of Puerto Ayacucho to ask that they travel to the area.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

United Kingdom / Iraq / International Criminal Court

"Tony Blair has strongly contested Archbishop Desmond Tutu's views." (Stefan Wermuth/Reuters)
By Toby Helm
The Observer, September 2, 2012
"Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called for Tony Blair and George Bush to be hauled before the international criminal court in The Hague and delivered a damning critique of the physical and moral devastation caused by the Iraq war. Tutu, a Nobel peace prize winner and hero of the anti-apartheid movement, accuses the former British and US leaders of lying about weapons of mass destruction and says the invasion left the world more destabilised and divided 'than any other conflict in history'. Writing in the Observer, Tutu also suggests the controversial US and UK-led action to oust Saddam Hussein in 2003 created the backdrop for the civil war in Syria and a possible wider Middle East conflict involving Iran. 'The then leaders of the United States and Great Britain,' Tutu argues, 'fabricated the grounds to behave like playground bullies and drive us further apart. They have driven us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand -- with the spectre of Syria and Iran before us.' But it is Tutu's call for Blair and Bush to face justice in The Hague that is most startling. Claiming that different standards appear to be set for prosecuting African leaders and western ones, he says the death toll during and after the Iraq conflict is sufficient on its own for Blair and Bush to be tried at the ICC. 'On these grounds, alone, in a consistent world, those responsible for this suffering and loss of life should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in The Hague,' he says.

Libya / Violence against Sufis

Islamists Attack Libyan School, Mosques in Challenge to NATO-installed Government
By Mel Frykberg
McClatchy Newspapers, August 29, 2012
"An estimated 200 heavily armed Islamists destroyed 30 graves at a historic Turkish school in Tripoli's old city early Wednesday and an unspecified number of other mosques also were attacked, further signs that Libya's NATO-installed government is facing a major challenge from extremists less than a month after the first elections in this country in 50 years. Details of the destruction at the Othman Pasha Madrassa, a boarding school, were sparse, but school staff said the attackers also damaged as many as 1,000 books they found on the premises and destroyed a tree that the attackers said people had been worshipping in contravention of Islamic teachings. The attack at the school, which was founded in the 19th century by a Turkish official who is now buried there along with members of his family, was another in a string of assaults that have targeted mosques and other sites associated with Sufism, a mystical brand of Islam that some conservative Muslims consider heretical. On Tuesday, Libya's interior minister, Fawzi Abdel Al, said that heavily armed Islamists posed a serious threat to Libya's security. He said he was withdrawing the resignation that he'd tendered after the General National Congress, the elected assembly that now rules Libya, criticized him for failing to protect several Sufi shrines and mosques that were destroyed over the weekend.