Monthly Archives: September 2007

Germany Debates Anti-Terrorism Laws

The German government is engaged in extensive debate about which new laws are needed in an age of potential terrorism. Minister of Justice Brigitte Zypries is proposing that attending a terrorist camp and undergoing training could be classified as a criminal act. Opponents argue there must be evidence the person on leaving such a camp had an intention of committing a terrorist action. Zypries is also proposing planning to make or making bombs should be considered as a terrorist act. Defense Minister Franz Jung is urging legislation which would allow him to order a highjacked plane to be shot down. He has previously made that claim but Germany’s Constitutional Court ruled he lacked the power. The German debate raises many questions as to whether or not nations must re-think their laws pertaining to what constitutes a criminal act.

Media Stereotypes Turkey

Kevin Marsh, a former British TV producer and now working with the BBC School of Journalism, attacked the media for only presenting a stereotyped view of Turkey to the world. After studying English television reports on Turkey he was struck by how often the same words and images were repeated: headscarf, Turkish women, military, Islam. Over an over again if a story dealt with Turkey it invariably was accompanied by images of women wearing a headscarf or Turkish generals condemning the headscarf.

Marsh believes newspapers are in the business of selling papers and thus they play upon fear, anxiety and prejudice. Marsh’s criticism could also be applied to the words, “Islam” or “Muslim.” Just about every time those words appear, they will be followed by words such as “terrorist,” or “violence.” As far as the media is concerned, Muslims spend their lives arguing about headscarves or engaging in violent actions.

US Army Baits Iraqis And Kills

Special sniper platoons are operating in Iraq under orders to “bait” Iraqis into picking up materials which might then result in their being shot. The Washington Post originally revealed the bait and shoot policy of the United States army. Soldiers were instructed to drop materials like detonation cords and observe who picked them up. If “suspicious” individuals picked up the material and walked away they were liable to be shot by hidden snipers. Sgt. Evan Vela is one of three snipers from the platoon of Captain Matthew Dider who are charged with murdering Iraqis. Gary Meyers, lawyer for Vela, said: “We believe that our client has done nothing more than he was instructed to do by superiors.”

Paul Boyce, a spokesperson for the army refused to discuss the accuracy of what critics are saying about the “bait” program. He did note, “to prevent the enemy from learning about our tactics, techniques, and training procedures, we don’t discuss specific methods targeting the enemy.” He claimed baiting was legal.

Lost in this discussion by the army is a simple fact — everyone who picks up an object is not part of “the enemy.” In a war torn region such as Iraq, people continually are picking up objects they might sell to supplement their meager incomes. Another fact lost in this story is why three enlisted men are on trial, but no officer is being charged even though officers gave them instructions to bait the area.

“We Are Being Stampeded Into War” Says Democratic Strategist

Zbigniav Brzezinski, former national security advisor to President Carter, charged the Bush administration with attempting to hype the situation regarding Iran as a pretext to getting Americans frightened enough to sanction violence against Iran. “If we escalate the tensions,” he said, “if we succumb to hysteria, if we start making threats, we are likely to stampede into a war which would be a disaster” and might embroil America in fighting that would last ten or twenty years. He argued as of present, there is no concrete evidence Iran has or is making an atomic bomb. “We have suspicions,” said the former security advisor, but we lack facts.

Bush and Cheney worked the hysteria ploy in 2003 and got America to support a war against Saddam Hussein for weapons that did not exist. There are no atomic weapons in Iran– there eventually might be such weapons, but it is a probability, not a certainty. War should only be undertaken when a nation is certain regarding what it regards as threats to its national security, not on the basis of suspicions.

North Korea and Syria Deny American Allegations

North Korea vigorously denied having sold nuclear weapons to Syria or had any involvement in nuclear programs with that nation. Their nuclear envoy, Kim Kye Gwan claimed “the matter is fabricated so you can ask the lunatics to explain it.” He charged America turned its back when allies like India or Israel engaged in nuclear activities but came down strong on any nuclear programs by nations it disliked. Syria also denied any nuclear engagement with North Korea and indicated it had no interest in attending the upcoming fall conference dealing with Israel and Palestinians. A spokesperson for the Syrian government noted, “we have no interest in going just to have our photos taken.” He said his government did not believe there was any serious interest in dealing with the Palestinian issue.

One thing is for certain, the Syrian spokesperson will never get a job in the Bush administration if he doesn’t want to take advantage of photo-op opportunities. But, Syria is raising a key issue — is Israel prepared to engage in serious negotiations? Yesterday, Prime Minister Olmert said it might take 20-30 years to resolve the Palestinian issue so why should Arab nations expect concrete results from the meeting?

Thousands Join Burmese Monks In Protests

Prime Minister Gordon Brown sent a powerful message of support to Burmese monks and their supporters who are fighting against the oppressive rule of a military junta. Brown told them “human rights are universal and no injustice can last forever.” His words were received in Rangoon where over a 100,000 people joined the march of monks who seek through peaceful means a way to end their nation’s control by an oppressive military junta. It appears Myanmar’s largest economic source of trade, China, is urging the military to avoid using force. There are rumors the military is planning to dress thousands of troops as monks and have them infiltrate the march in order to provoke violence which would then allow the regime to send in troops to end the march and protests.

Gordon Brown cited the world’s failure to halt the slaughter of innocent people in Rwanda and Zimbabwe makes in necessary for nations today to take action. The success or failure of this protest is still uncertain.

Russian Opposition Party Challenges Putin

The opposition Union of Right Forces is opposing President Putin’s attempts to reduce free enterprise in the Russian economy. The Union is offering candidates in the upcoming State Duma elections who champion the idea of free enterprise and individual initiative. They believe reforms begun by Yeltsin in the 1990s to open the Russian economy to market forces are being undone by Putin’s conservative quasi-authoritarian tendencies which increasingly place the government as a force in the national economy. The Union of Right Forces seeks a Russia which follows free market ideas, has a volunteer army, and a more open and liberal approach to foreign policy.

There is scant doubt Putin has complete control over the upcoming election and his candidates will win in a vast majority of races. The tragedy for the Russian people is to have an improving economy and a backward leader who seeks returning to the good old days of authoritarian rule.

China Upset At German Meeting With Dalai Lama

The Chinese government expressed its displeasure at Chancellor Merke’s meeting this week with the Dalai Lama. The Foreign Ministry accused the Dalai Lama of urging “separatist” talk which would undermine the security of the Chinese nation. It considered the meeting to be interfering with the internal affairs of China and warned Germany of consequences of such actions.

China believes Tibet is part of their nation while the people of Tibet believes they are a distinct nation whose leader is the Dalai Lama. At some point, China will recognize the right of people in Tibet to have their own rulers and cease getting upset every time the Dalai Lama meets someone.

Israel Human Rights Groups Denounce Government Gaza Plans

A coalition of Israel human rights groups condemned reported plans by the Israel government to cut off fuel and water supplies to Gaza which has been the scene of rocket attacks on Jewish settlements. Seven groups said such a move would be a “grave breach of the foremost principle of international humanitarian law: the obligation to distinguish between combatant and civilians.”

The presence of such groups within Israel is a testimonial to the vibrant feelings of democracy still present within Israeli society. It is doubtful if such statements would emanate from Arab sources when innocent Jews are killed by terrorists.

“I Will Go To Iran” says French Foreign Minister

Bernard Kouchner, in an interview with Le Figaro, said his words concerning Iran had been misconstrued and there was never any intention on his part or that of France to even suggest war was contemplated against Iran. “We do not oppose dialogue with the Iranians.” He said although some attributed ulterior motives by Iranians and claimed they were stalling for time, that is not his opinion. Kouchner said he was in constant contact with Ali Larijani who handles Iran’s foreign affairs. “I am willing to go to Tehran, if invited,” said Kouchner.

It is obvious calmer minds have intervened in France to tone down the anti-Iran rhetoric and get away from talk of war. Unfortunately, no such group exists in the Bush administration.