Monthly Archives: March 2008

Putin Offers NATO A Deal

Conciliatory Putin was in evidence and Bellicose Putin was asleep for a moment as he prepared for a three day NATO Council meeting in Bucharest, Rumania. The Ukraine and Georgia seek membership in NATO which Russia opposes and Putin most probably will offer NATO something in exchange for turning down the membership bid of the east European nations. Dimitry Rogozin, Russia’s envoy to NATO, said: “there will be a talk about the philosophy and basis of partnership. If we are partners we should start to jointly solve problems in the area of security.”

Deputy Foreign Minsiter Alexander Grushko on Friday promised Russian cooperation on Afghanistan if NATO turned down the Ukraine/Georgia membership bid. Russia will most probably allow NATO to ship supplies to Afghanistan across its territory. Putin might also endorse a deal that would reintegrate the breakaway region of Transdnestr into Moldova if Moldova ends its desire to enter NATO.

Putin has a few more months as president of Russia to cement his record as a leader in foreign policy. After the NATO meeting he and Dimitry Medvedev, will meet with President Bush to hammer out some issues between the United States and Russia, particularly the problem created by Bush’s desire to build missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic. Both leaders would like to leave office with good relations established between their nations.

Cancel Classes On Religious Holidays?

An Ontario Human Rights investigation has concluded that that York University’s long-standing practice of cancelling clases on Jewish holidays discriminates against students of other religions. The report vindicates a crusade by David Noble, a York University history professor, who has argued for years the practice discriminates against students of other religions. “This is fantastic,” said Noble. “It’s just too bad it took four years to have a third party confirm that this is an illegal practice.” Noble is a non-observant Jew. The university 34 years ago began cancelling clases for the two days of Rosh Hashanah and one day of Yom Kippur.

A recent report by York professor Thomas Klassen reveals York University’s 53,000 student population is 5.8% Jewish, 4.8% Muslim, 34.9% Catholic, 22.1% Protestant, 3.6% Hindu, 2.1% Buddhist, 2% Sikh as well as other religions. The report to the Human Rights Commission concludes the practice violates the Ontario Human Rights Code’s protection against discrimination based on an individual’s creed.

As universities become more ethnically and religiously diverse, it may well be time to rethink practices which concern closing for religious holidays.

Fallujah Killings Described In Court

A Marine charged with murdering an Iraqi detainee captured during fierce house-to-house fighting in Fallujah, said his squad leader asked for help in killing captives after weapons were found in their house. Sgt. Jermaine Nelson told investigators that his squad leader, Jose Nazario became furious after AK47s were found upstairs in the house and took a man into the kitchen and shot him through the eye. “So Nazario come up, he says, ‘I just did one. I’m not doing all of them myself so you’re going to do one. So I’m thinking I didn’t want to get shot myself.” Nelson is charged with a single murder count because at some point he decided o go along with the unlawful conduct of Nazario. His defense attorney argued the Marine should not be held responsible for obeying a direct order in combat.

Nazario’s defense attorney has argued the entire case rests on evidence supplied by Nelson and there is no forensic evidence to support claims against his client. In a separate case, a different squad was charged with killing 24 people n Fallujah but charges have been dropped aganst the squad leader. Four officers were charged with failing to invstigate the deaths, but the charges have been dropped against two of them.

War is definitely hell and humans do things in war the would not do in ordinary life. There is a difference between understanding emotional and physical dangers an individual faces during combat and condoning such illegal behavior. A persistent pattern in abuses in Iraq has been failure to ever bring charges against top level officers who were derelict in carrying out their responsibilities as leaders.

Hamas Offers Cease Fire On Civilians

Hamas leader Mashaal offered to have his organization cease any further attacks on Israel civilians if Israel would end attacks on Palestinian civilians. “We renew our offer to Israel to let the civilians on both parts not be part of the conflict. We renew this offer today.” He also confirmed that captured IDF soldier Gilad Schait is still alive. Mashaal insisted that 1,000 prisoners must be released in exchange for the return of the captured soldier. In an interesting comment, the Hamas leader claims the strength of his organization is greatly exaggerated by Israel and “we have primitive weapon.” Mashaal argued Palestinian suicide bombing only began after Baruch Goldstein killed 28 people who were praying in a mosque.

Even as the Hamas leader spoke, Prime Minister Olmert was telling Secretary of State Rice his government intends to continue building in Jewish areas of east Jerusalem and on the West Bank. Peace Now, the Israel group, issued a report which indicates the supposed feeze on settlement construction has never been accepted by the Israel government and documented at least 101 examples.

Hamas is a violent organization but its violence is also triggered by Israel violence. The American government should be focusing on first getting Hamas and Fatah back together, forging a cease fire, and drawing upon support from Arab nations to begin a meaningful peace process. Peace Now is correct, the freeze on West Bank housing construction is now a dead letter, but the issue of the West Bank will not go away. The Bush administration policy of allowing Israel to do whateve it desires on the West Bank will return to haunt peace efforts by the next person who becomes president of the United States.

Dutch Anti-Muslim Speech Guilty Of Hate

Endy Bayuni, writing in the Jakarta Post, urged Muslims throughout the world to simply ignore the new film, “Fitna” by Geert Wilders, the Dutch right wing fanatic. “Wilders is just as guilty of spreading hated through his lens about Islam as the Muslims who preach and use violence against what they perceive to be the enemies of Islam.” Bayuni regards the film as simply another example of Islamophobia in the Western world. “Let’s just hope Europeans have the common sense to dismiss Fitna as nothing more than as a propaganda tool for the Dutch politician’s anti-immigration platform.” He believes Wilders deliberately made the film so hateful in order to elicit within the Muslim world a violent reaction which he could use to prove all Muslims are prone to violence.

Since the goal of Fitna is convincing the Western world that violence is inherent within the Muslim religion, the best response for Muslims is following the wise advice of Bayuni by exhibiting the sounds of silence. A demagogue like Wilders can only thrive if people resort to violence, but what would happen if the entire Muslim world simply ignored his film? Muslims have suffered damage by violent responses to a few cartoons that, if ignored, would never have been seen by more than a few thousand people. Instead, by rioting and attacking Denmark, mobs gave cartoonist what they desire — fame.

FDR And Chiang Kai-Shek Said Tibet Belonged To China

In a surprising move, the Chinese government resurrected World War II correspondence between the hated Chiang kai-Shek and President Roosevelt to prove the United States has always backed China’s right to Tibet. It quotes a communication between Roosevelt and Churchill which has FDR saying: “I asked Churchill why did he mention Tibet at all, and he replied that Britain had no intention to occupy the region. I then said Tibet had been part of China since imperial times and it is now part of the Republic of China which had nothing to do with Britain.” The material also contains a telelgram from Soong Tes-wen to Chiang kai-Shek on May 21, 1943, which states the foreign minister had been told by Churchill: “In all treaties China inked with Britain, the British government ackowledged Tibet as part of China.”

The world is truly surprised that Communist China is now citing remarks from their hated enemy, Chiang kai-Shek, to support China’s claim to Tibet. Who knows what is next, transforming Chiang into a new hero of the Communist world?

What’s Impact Of Basra Fighting On US Troop Reduction?

General Petraeus has assured the American Congress and people the situation in Iraq is improving and there is an excellent chance troops dispatched for the surge would be able to return home. However, there is growing uncertainty how the current fighting in Basra will impact plans for reducing the size of the American armed force. During the 2004 election, President Bush emphasized the Iraq army had a well trained fighting force of over 140,000, but, of course, we know that was campaign rhetoric. The latest fantasy about the Iraq army has been replaced by the stark reality it is far from an effective fighting force and it is unable to dislodge Mahdi forces from Basra. Muqtada al-Sadr has ordered his troops to halt fighting provided the Iraq government stands down from its latest offense.

A constant ccomplaint by critics of Bush policies is failure to confront the entire range of military needs of Iraq. Retired General Bary McCaffrey notes: “Even now there is no Iraq air force, there’s no national military medical system, there’s no maintenance system.” During recent fighting in Basra the Iraq government had to call for assistance from British and American artillery since it lacks its own artillery force. Last November the GAO questioned Pentagon claims on the number of Iraq battalions able to operate “independently” since such units usually depend on U.S. fuel, ammunition, and other supples.

Eventually, there will be a lull in Basra fighting and al-Sadr will continue to exert his power. As always, Bush fails to grasp the political necessity in Iraq.

Verbal War Comments Heat Up Korean Scene

North Korea threatened military action against South Korea after Seoul’s top military officer saidhe county would consider attacking its communist neighbor if it ried to carry out a nuclear attack. The North Korean response was a tough, “Our military will not sit idle until warmongers launch a pre-emptive strike. Everything will be in ashes, not just a sea of fire, once our advanced pre-emptive strike begins.” The North Koreans may be angry over the harsher tone adopted by the new president of South Korea, Lee Myung-bak. A few hours after the angry tone, its wording was altered to substitue “flames” for sea of fire.”

On Friday, North Korea fired test m issile into the sea and warned it was ready to wipe out the South Korea navy. On Satuday, demanded an apology for the comment by a Korean general. Sunday’s verbiage was accompanied by a demand for an apology. South Korea’s Defense Ministry said it was considering how to answer these demands.

Perhaps, it is time for both sides to simmer down. There will be no pre-emptive strikes against North Korea and North Korea knows firing atomic bombs would result in its own destruction.

Al-Aqeda Training “Western Style” Looking Terrorists

CIA director Michael Hayden says al-Qaeda is training operatives who “look western” and could enter the United States to conduct terrorist attacks. “They are bringing operatives in that region(northwest area of Pakistan) for training– operatives that, a phrase I wold use, wouldn’t attract your attention if they were going through the customs line at Dulles with you.” The new recruits “look western” and “would be able to come into this country… without attracting the kinds of attention that others might.” Genral Hayden also noted Osama bin Laden was no longere the operational leader of al-Qaeda and had become an”iconic figure” while day-by-day opeerations were more frequently under the direction of the Egyptian militant, Ayman Al-Zawahiri.

The sad commentary about this ridiculous statement by the head of the CIA is that he doesn’t even grasp the implication of what he said to the press. It appears an assumption of General Hayden is that people with features from the Middle East would more likely capture your concern if on an airplane with them because, by his definition, they don’t look western and thus are more likely to be terrorists. In my youth, I was told I “looked Jewish” which automatically meant I was less than a real American. Now, we have an official of the Bush administration who believes those who look Middle Eastern are not like the resut of “us.” I have traveled in Israel where sometimes it is difficult separating the native Israel Sabras from Arabs. That is why Mossad agents can sometimes pass for Arabs. Should we be on the lookout for Israelis and Turks, and other-non western looking people?

Cease Fire In Iraq?

The government of Prime Minister Maliki was undoubtedly caught in a cross fire between demands of the Bush administration for proof he could impose peace in Iraq and determination of Muqtada al-Sadr to resist any attempt of eliminating his militia. The result was an ill-fated attack by about 30,000 Iraqi army and police upon militant forces in Basra, a city sitting atop major oil reserves. In the bitter fighting, hundreds were killed or wounded and there is no evidence al-Sadr’s forces have been beaten. However, the radical cleric issued a cease fire on condition the Iraq government ends its attack. “We call for an end to armed appearances in Basra and other other provinces. Anyone carrying a weapon and targeting government institutions will not be one of us.”

The Iraq government is now under pressure to end “illegal arrests” of members of the Mahdi army and implementation of an amnesty for those arrested. The Iraq government regarded al-Sadrs proposal as a “positive step.” However, American airplanes are bombing targets in Basra and at least 300 people reportedly have been killed and hundreds of others wounded.

The Iraqi army attack has not accompllished its goals of enforcing peace in the Basra are. In addition to al-Sadr’s forces there are other millitant groups still in control of areas in the city. The fiasco of this attempt merely once again reflects the misunderstanding of the Bush administration that military rather than political action is essential to bring about peace in Iraq.