Monthly Archives: March 2008

Sarkozy-Brown Announce African Education Venture

President Nicola Sarkzoy and Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced a joint British/French fund to improve education for over 16 million children in Africa by 2012. The two leaders discussed a range of topics including consruction of more nuclear facilities in Britain by the French utility company, EDF and a conference for non-nuclear nations interested in developing civilian atomic programs. Their meeting may well mark the birth of a new French/British axis in the world. Sakozy addressed Parliament and outlined ways in which the two nations could become a force for peace in the world. He also promised to reform the Agricultural Program which has been a major British concern for years.

The French president also urged the two nations to work with America and persuade that nation to become more environmentally pro-active. Sarkozy’s talk deeply impressed many members of Parliament and pointed the way to a new era of cooperation between the nations.

The world is witnessing the emergence of new power configurations such as a British-French alliance as well as France’s alliance with Germany. One can expect in the coming years these nations will become an unoffiical bloc exerting pressure on the United States. Senator McCain has already indicated if he is elected president there will be a new American desire to seek cooperation with the world and abandon the unilateral philosophy of George Bush who wants to be the decider-in-chief.

Israel Defense Force Teaching Children In School

The Israel Defense Force has initiated a new program in schools termed “the Golden Way and the Sky” as part of an effort to instill feelings of citizenship within young people. The campaign launched this week by the Education Ministry and the Israel Air Force sends thousands of IDF soldiers to visit schools and talk to students about the values and achievements that have made Israel’s armed forces succeed throughout their nation’s history. Officeers expound on values such as carrying out a mission at all costs and having pride in achievements of the Jewish state.

In one lesson, students are told the following scenario: “Soldiers are trapped in this house. Hizullah is firing on them from here, here, and here. After five hours, the soldiers decide they have to get out of the house and run under heavy fire to this location here. When they run, one of them stops, under heavy fire to inspect a body of one of the terrorists. That soldier was later awarded a medal for bravery. Why did he stop to examine the body?” Students shout out answers like looking for a radio or checking the terrorist’s disguise. But the officer points out he was seekng to gather intelligence.

Yosi Sarid, former education minister raises issues about emphasizing the military as critical to the lives of children and they will encounter a military experience later in life. Retired General Avigdor Kahalani, comments: “The school’s job is to prepare good citizens for the country. The teachers aren’t doing it so the army needs to.”

I can not comment on the job being done or not done by Israel teachers regarding education in citizenship, but one can assume there are thousands of successful educators working to foster values of good citizenship within the schools of Israel. There is something sad when members of the armed forces have to be the ones teachng citizenship. Does it raise issues as to what is the meaning of “citizenship?”

Fighting Rages In Iraq-Is The Surge Working?

Senator John McCain and Vice President Dick Cheney informed America after their recent trips to Iraq about the success of the Bush surge and that Iraq was headed for a final victory over exremists. Yesterday, Iraq’s Prime Minister was in the Basra area supervising efforts by the Iraq army to quell violence which has erupted in the oil rich area. He issued a three day deadline for Shiite militia to lay down their arms as groups fought over who would control the city. At least 55 are dead and over 300 wounded as fighting escalates between rival groups seeking to impose their will on the city. General Kevin Bergner of the US army noted: “This has been a difficult and challenging few days” for the Iraqi government.

The violence raises fears that radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr will end his unilateral cease fire and unleash his Mahdi army in a new outburst of violence which can only add greater strains on the Iraq government’s efforts to handle al-Qaeda forces. There are reports al-Sadr sent representatives who are askng Prime Minister Maliki to leave the Basra area and that no negotiation would take place until Iraq army forces cease their action against Shiite militias. The Sadr militia is angry at recent raids conducted by US forces and the Iraq army against them while they were obiding by the cease fire.

The Iraq government issued a rather interesting statement to the populace. “This is not a battle against the Mahdi army not is it a proxy war between the United States and Iran. It is the government of Iraq taking the necessary action to deal with criminals on the streets.”

Meanwhile in Baghdad mortar and rocket attacks hit the Green Zone and caused the death of at least one American. One assumes that Senator McCain will not be walking the streets of Baghdad claiming peace has been restored to the capital due to the surge.

The Shame of Britain’s Asylum Policy

For hundreds of years Great Britain has been home to thousands of activitists who fled their homeland in search of a port of refuge. But, a new report by the Independent Asylum Commission has issued a searing indictment of the Home Office’s failure to deal fairly with those applying for sanctuary in Great Britain. The commission found the nation’s treatment of asylum seekers “falls seriously below the standards to be expected of a humane and civilised country.” The Home Office apparently is confused regarding its own policy and there is a “lack of access to legal advice for aplicants” which frequently results in unjust decisions about their desire for safety. Three areas of concern include: the use of detention centers which often find torture victims, women and children incarcerated under terrible conditions, the use of force against detainees, and the use of destitution to force people to leave.

Among the most painful episodes in this story of failure is an inability to recognize that many asylum seekers are suffering from post traumatic stress having been brutalized in their home nations and now find themselves once again treated in an inhumane manner. The report took special note of many rape victims who initially felt unable to discuss the experience and their plight became overlooked in the final decision. Cuts in the budget have also meant there are insufficient legal advisers for sanctuary seekers and not enough psychological services.

Many of us raised in the Western world always looked to Great Britain as a model of hope for oppressed people and this report can only sicken those concerned about human rights abuses.

India High Cout Orders Invesigation Of Riots

The Supeme Court of India ordered an investigation into the brutal riots gainst Muslims which took place in the western state of Gujarat in February-April of 2002 and resulted in the death of at least 1000 Muslims. The government of that state was controlled by Hindu extreme nationalists who are accused of not simply failing to protect innocent Muslims from rioters but of actually inciting further violence. The riots were initially triggered by a fire that killed 60 pasengers on a train packed with Hindu pilgrims. Hindu nationalists blamed Muslims for the fire although to this day no one knows the origin of it. Rioters then attacked Muslims and killed them by the hundreds.

Teeta Setalvad, founder of the Citizens for Justice and Peace, which has been working with riot survivors, hailed the decision as an important step in moving toward reconciliation between the religions. The Supreme Court appointed an investigation commission which wll report back within three months.

Forced Marriages Growing Issue In Britain

A new study by Nazia Khanum reveals the growing problem in Great Britain of young girls, and some boys, being forced into marriages by their parents. She did an exhaustive study of Bradford which contain about 250,000 Muslims. Kekvin Brennan, minister responsible for child safety had reported at least 33 Bradford children under the age of 16 have disappeared without a trace. Brennan claims similar statistics are emerging from cities containing a high percent of Muslim immigrants. However, Ms. Khanum doubts the accuracy of the Brennan figures which she considers much too low. In the city of Lufton alone, there are 300 calls each year to an emergency number dealing with forced marriages.

Th socioiogist found girls living like prisoners in their own homes and came across cases of girls who were excellent students ready to attend a university who were forced to abandon their academic careers because their parents wanted them married. She uncovered many cases of girls being given a “vacation” back home only to discover on arrival they were being married to a man they had never seen. Girls are threatened by parents, who even promise to commit suicide, if the daughter will not agree to marriage. “Emme,” a student in hiding in Lufton said her parents made clear to her she was now the subject of her husband and must always obey him.

Khanum increasingly discovers examples of British officials who don’t want to get involved in family matters and simply refuse that forced marriages are a national scandal. “If the community refuses to recognize the problem,” she says, “it won’t do anything to change it. We must finally expose these human rights violations.”

Cost Of Folly– Military Tries Explaining To Bush

Behind the Pentagon’s closed doors, militay leaders met with President Bush in an effort to get him to grasp the human implications and consequences of his war in Iraq.
Wednesday’s 90 minute session held in a secure coference room kown as “the Tank” was arranged by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Military leaders discussed how the war impacted the private lives of soldiers and the total effect on an armed force which is stretched thin to the point of exhaustion. Pentagon press secretary Geogg Morrell, said the discussion roamed over topics like the escalation of fighting in Afghanistan and what may lie ahead. “Armed with all that,” said Morrell, “the president must now decide the way ahead in Iraq.”

George Bush rushed into a war that need not have been fought. He quickly proclaimed, “Mission Accomplished” in order to get some nice photos for the daily newspapers. He never meets the bodies of those who died, he rarely discusses losses, but he does not hestitate one minute to cut taxes when a war is raging. He holds the record of being the first president in American history who is more concerned about taxes than about those who are fighting. He refuses to come before the American people and explain if the war goes on, there must be some form of draft. We can not continue placing the burden on the shoulders of 1,500,000 Americans while the remaining 300,000,000 continue their normal lives. How many conservatives who support the war are willing to see their children drafted?

Hilllary Takes The Low Road Of Politics

Senator Barack Obama made an effort to address issues of racism in American society. During his speech, he also commented on why he remained in a church headed by a man whose language of peace and love also contained the pain and anguish of a black American who was raised in a segregated society. Senator Clinton is now under fire for her misuse of language which claimed she was “under sniper fire’ while in Bosnia. Naturally, like the good politician she has become, Clinton took the low road of switching the conversation from racism to that of why didn’t Obama leave the church. The Bill/Hillary show always takes the offense when on the defense.

“He would not have been my pastor…You know you don’t have a choice when it comes to our relatives. We have a choice when it comes to our pastors and the churches we attend.” But, the topic is racism, not that of who are or are not our pastors. She did not utter a word about the important topic since her sleaze attack apparently will resonate more powerfully with the public.

Hillary Clinton was not raised as a member of an oppressed group and she does not grasp the meaning of “community” among those who experience bigotry and oppression. I was raised in an east European Jewish ghetto community in the 1930s and 1940s. Many of my friends and relatives continually uttered anti-Christian comments as they discussed the pain suffered during pogroms in Russia or Poland. I did not disown those who spoke in such a way because they had too much pain. I, like Barack Obama, attempted to empathize with people whose life experience contained too many hurtful memories even as I entered the main stream of American society and married a Christian woman. I encountered anti-semitism during my military service, as did many American Jews. We worked hard to deal with such episodes since we simply could not walk away from them. Barack Obama is linked on an emotional level with Pastor Wright, not on an intellectual one. It is hard abandoning a member of your community with whom you shared good memories even when they utter words you find distasteful.

I find the remarks of Senator Clinton disgraceful because she had an opportunity to enter the dialogue about prejudice in American history and chose to take the demagogue route of attacking the messenger.

Pakistan Coalition Leader On “War On Terror”

Nawaz Sharif, head of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, a key person in the new coalition Cabinet, told John Negroponte, US Deputy Secretary of State, there was need for a complete review of how the “war on terror” should be conducted in his nation. He pointed out the situation has changed from one in which President Musharraf made unilaterial decisons because now a representative government is in place. He told the American his nation wants peace, but in achieving that goal, we do not seek to “turn our country into a murder house.”

There are reports many members of the coalition government want to initiate peace discussions with militants in the northwest region of their nation who presently are engaged in extensive fighting with government forces. If the new government enters into such discussions for a cease fire it might upset American forces in Afghanistan which seek to have the right of pursuing Taliban and al-Qaeda forces which freqeuntly obtain refuge in the northwest area.

Somalia In Chaos Claim Aid Workers

Top international aid agencies warned that the situation in Somalia had become too dangerous for its workers to provide assistance to one million Somali people caught in the ever escalating war that rages in their nation. Thirty-nine organizations issued their warning of an impending humanitarian catastrophe ahead of the United Nations Security Council debate tomorrow. They initially issued a statement last fall about the situation. “Since then, the crisis engulfing Somalia has deteriorated dramatically while acces to people in need continues to decrease. 360,000 people have been newly displaced and an aditional half a million people are reliant on humanitarian assistance. There are now more than one million internally displaced peple in Somalia. Intense conflict in Mogadishu continues to force an average of 20,000 people from their homes each month.”

A little over a year ago, the Bush administration encouraged Ethiopian forces to invade Somalia and displace a fundamentalist Muslim government, which at least, had restored some semblance of stability to the area. The presence of Christian Ethiopian forces in a Muslim society has merely exacerbated tensions and fostered new outbreaks of violence. There is scant evidence Ethiopian troops are able to control the situaiton and their normal response is violence to violence. One doubts if the people of Somalia are happy that President Bush is getting rid of terrorists in their nation.