Monthly Archives: May 2008

Winnie Mandela Blasts Anti-Immigrant Riots

Winnie Mandela, veteran activist with the African National Congress and a leader in the fight to create a free South Africa, sharply condemned recent anti-immigrant riots which have swept through the nation. She described the riots as “the wrose tragedy in the post-apartheid era” and said the government’s poor economic policies and lack of services were a root cause of the frustration which exploded in anger against foreigners in the land. “Is it not a terrible indictment when 14 years after our liberation, the minister of housing stands up in parliament and says she could not buld houses because there is no money?” Ms. Mandela also blamed failure on the part of the Mbeki government to control the entry of immigrants as another cause of the riots.

Unfortunately, Winnie Mandela did not address the issue that failure on the part of the Mbeki government to take a strong stand against the dictatorial rule of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe has allowed Mugabe to continue his disastrous economic policies which are the root cause of millions of his countrymen fleeing to South Africa in search of work. The South African government must make clear to Mugabe it is time for him to depart and allow the Movement for Democratic Change to assume power and restore the economy so that millions will return home from South Africa.

Some Progress In Syria-Israel Talks

In the latest rounds of unofficial discussions between Israel and Syria there are reports of some slight progress in resolving issues between the nations. A Syrain official who is close to the negotiations said that issues were being discussed along genral lines in preparation for future talks which hopefully would get down to specific issues that must be resolved. He said Israel has agreed in principle to the implementation of joint security efforts as atrust building step. Israel has not at this point insisted that Syria cut ties with Iran and Syria has made clear to the Iranian government it presently is dealing with issues of concern to its national interests.

Ibrahim Hamidi, one of Syria’s leading independent journalists, says his nation is anxious to return to the negotiating table and that sereious progress has been made in the talks so far. President Peres of Israel said if Presdient Bashar Asad is serious he will come to Jerusalem and address to the Knesset or invite an Israeli to speak with his legislature as Anwar Sadat did in the 1970s in order to achieve peace with Israel.

US Army Suicides Set Record In 2007!

American army officials revealed there was a record number of suicides in 2007 and that combat has filled the cups of many soldirs to the brim causing them to seek the way out of death. According to Col. Elspeth Ritchie, psychiatric consultnat to the Army Surgeon General, “the Army is very, very busy, and perhaps we haven’t taken care of each other as much as we’d like to.” Of those who committed suicide in 2007, 26% had never been deployed, another 24% had deployed once, while 7% had deployed more than once. Another 43% killed themselves after returning home. Overall, there were 117 active duty suicides in 2007 which represents an increase of 13 over 2006.

The numbers were up in other categories as well. In 2006, eighty of the soldiers who attempted suicide had seen others killed in combat, the 2007 figure was 93. In 2006, 39 of those who attempted suicide had killed others in combat while the figure in 2007 was 54. The 2007 suicide numbers include 33 mobilized National guard soldiers.

The US army has hired an additional 180 mental health personnel to work with issues of stress in combat and stress after returning home. in terms of the overall figue of 30,000 wounded and 4,000 dead, the figure of 117 may appear low, but the cost of fighting in Iraq has yet to be fully calculated and the nation will not know that final figure for many years to come.

Negotiate With Terrorists Urge UK Police Chief

Sir Hugh Orde, head of the Police Service of Northen Ireland, told the Manchester Guardian he believes it is necessary to negotiate with terrorist organizations in order to resolve problems. He had been actively involved in working with the terrorist IRA and learned from that experience of the necessity of working with groups whose avowed aims was to spread terror. Based on his research, Orde does not know of any example in history in which a single terror campaign ended without some sort of negotiation. “If somebody can show me any terrorism campaign when it has been policed out, I’d be hapy to read about it, because I can’t think of one.” He noted that Great Britain spent thirty years fighting the IRA and other terrorist groups in Northern Ireland before finally resolving issues around a bargaining table.

Orde was the one who had the initial discussion with IRa leader Gerry Adams and learned from that experience the importance of talking as well as policing. He believes it is time to talk with the Taliban, and is frank to say, “I don’t think that’s unthinkable, the question will be one of timing.”

Orde argues for a policy of being tough and effective in policing but always keeping open the door for negotiation if the timing is right for such an approach. As he puts it, that’s just common sense.

Bush Refuses To Join Cluster Bomb Ban

Moe than 100 countries in the world led by the European Union agreed on Wednesday to ban the use of cluster mbomb ammunition, but the United States and a few other nations like Turkey refused to sign on to the agreement. Cluster munitions are canisters packed with many bomblets that spread over a large area when dropped from a plane or fired from the ground. A major problem is many do not explode on hitting the ground and when civilians, including children, pick up thes lethal weapons it can result in loss of limbs or life. The draft treaty would not compel existing cluster bomb stocks to be destroyed.

The Bush administration insists the treaty is “flawed” because although the United States shares its humanitarian goals, “cluster munitions have demonstrated military utility and their ellimination fom U.S. stockpile would put the lives of our sodliers andthose of our coaltion partners at risk” claimed a Pentagon spokesperson. The State Department insists cluster bombs are part of the arsenal of the future and why single out one weapon.

If one pursues the logic of the US State Department and Pentagon, why not use atomic weapons against terrorists? Why single out a single weapon like that? Over a hundred nations have agreed to end the use of cluster bombs, surely the United States can go along with other nations of the world on ending use of a terrible weapon.

Bad Karma Hangs Over Sharon Stone Head

Actress Sharon Stone offered an apology to the people of China for her remarks that bad karma resulting from Chinese action in Tibet had caused the earthquake that devastated the nation and resulted in the death of over 60,000 people. She expressed sorrow and felt “deeply sorry for my inappropriate words and acts, which have hurt the Chinese peple’s feelings.” Even as she spoke Dior stores all over China were removing anything that might be associated with the actress who has done extensive work for the company. Most Chinese people simply will not buy the apology act and regard it simply as a ploy in order to avoid retaliation against her modeling work or her movies being shown in China– they will not be for the forseeable future.

In itself, this is merely a sad commentary on a person who happens to be an actress but somehow beieves she has knowledge about world affairs. We live in an age in which if someone can sing, act, or do tricks, they not only become a person of wealth, they also become a person whose opinions should be respected. Sharon Stone tried to pass herself off as someone who knows something about Tibet and is friendly with the Dalai Lama. We can assume she met him at some celebrity event. Perhaps, she is the flip side of George Bush, another actor who thought he had knowledge of world affairs. At least Ms. Stone has apologized for her stupidity, will the other actor come forth with an apology?

Caste Riots In India

India has been plauged ofr centuries over the issue of its complex hierarchy of castes and jobs and positions in society. Thousands of members of the Gujjar tribe demonstrated in the streets of Dehli demanding that their classification be changed to a lower rung in the hierarchy in order to improve opportunities for education and jobs. Police fired tear gas at demonstrators who vowed to continue their fight until their demands were met. In the complex divisive system the Gujjars are clasified as belonging to the country’s second lowest group known as Other Backward Classes. They want to be classified as belonging to the lowest caste who are the Dalits or commonly referred to as the Untouchables.

The Gujjars sawy they have faced discrimination in jobs, health care, and education, but if they were reclassified to being an Untouchable they would be eligible for government positions and unversity places that are reserved for that group. The Indian government reserves about half of all sets in State colleges and unijversities for lower castes and tribal groups to make up for centuries of prejudice.

The complex world of the Indian Caste system makes American racial divisions come across as much easier to resolve.

Tony Blair Goal To Unite Faiths

Former British prime minister Tony Blair is launching his new Faith Foundation whose aim is to increase dialogue and interaction between people of different religions. Blair was an Anglican and shortly after leaving office converted to the Catholic religion. He mentioned that as a political leader he relied upon religion during difficult times. “The worst thing in politics is when you’re so scared of losing spport that you don’t do wha tyou think is the right thing.” That is why he turned to faith which he claims gives a person “a certain strength and give you a support in doing a job as difficult as leading a country and gives you that strength and support.”

The Blair Foundation will bring together people of various faiths to work on joint projects such as dealing with disease in order to demonstrate what comes when people of different religions cooperate.

An individual’s faith is a personal matter, but it is sad Tony Blair during the past several months has not done very much to bring together Jews and Muslims in the Middle East. He has refused to speak out against Israel policies in Gaza and has failed to work towards genuine compromise in which each side would have to surrender some of their goals. He has come across as an ineffectual leaders who lacks vision and is unable to project a concern for Muslims. Perhaps, the image that emerges is incorrect and Blair has a genuine desire to come across as impartial, but he must accept some responsibility for failure of his Middle East mission.

If Tony Blair seeks to gain respect, he must begn with an honest evaluation of his mistake in proceeding with American plans to invade Iraq. Unless, he is honest, how can he expect others to surrender their incorrect beliefs?

Michael Chertoff-It’s Liberals Who Allow Terrorism

Homeland Security chief, Michael Chertoff told a conference in Jerusalem the United States was making progress in the fight to win the hearts of Muslims but the effort was being underminded by “sources of cynicism in our society that cannot distinguish between our actions and the actions of terrorists, that treat everything as equivalent, that view appeasement as the best course of dealing with the enemy.” He believes Muslim communities “have seen their religion highjacked by a group of ideologues,” but hopefully Muslims are finally understanding the Bush policies are on the right track and that Israel does not make mistakes. Israel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni complained the international community must stop making moral equivalences between civilians killed by suicide bombers and civilians killed during operations against terrorists.

There have been few suicide bombers killing Israelis during the past several months but there has been the killing of dozens of Gaza civilians by Israel armed forces during their operations against militants. A Gaza mother or father whose child has been killed obtains scant comfort from knowledge the “good guys” had to kill them to avoid being killed by the “bad guys.” There have been numerous opportunities offered by Hamas and Egyptian mediators to implement a cease fire in Gaza but the Olmert government has refused to take the first step. Of course, a first step offers risks, but doing nothing can be equally as dangerous.

The new book by Scott McClellan offers ample evidence the Bush administration has lied to the American people and to the world. The Bush administration currently is negotiating with terrorist North Korea, has backed Israel negotiation with terrorist Syria, is negotiating with the terrorist regime of President Mugabe in Zimbabwe, and certainly has relations with Communist China, but Chertoff insists anyone who seeks to negotiate with terrorism is guilt of appeasement. Does this include the Bush administration?

Hezbollah Gains Power In Lebanon

President Bush and the Israeli government insist their policy of non-negotiation with terrorist groups like Hezbollah is working and will prove productive in bringing democracy to the Middle East. During the past few weeks, Hezbollah faced down opponents in Lebanon, including the army, and showed the world it controlled Beirut and could decide if the nation had a functioning government. There are UN peacekeeping vessels off the Lebanese coast supposedly to prevent the influx of arms, but Hezbollah is militarily stronger than ever and ready to take on the Israel army. Hezbollah and its allies, the Shiite Amal Party and the Free Patriotic Movement of Christian General Michel Aoun, will control 11 seats in the new coalition Cabinet and be able to block any legislation.

Intelligence sources believe Hezbollah now has about 27,000 medium range misiles, some of which could even teach Tel Aviv. The group has received extensive funding from Iran and Syria which has enabled the purchase of anti-tank weapons and rocket launchers. Ironically, the main hope of Israel is reaching an agreement with Syria in which that nation ceased arming Hezbollah.

If Israel and the United States had initiated negotiations with Syria or Iran years ago, Hezbollah would be a minor player in the drama of the Middle East. But, Bush thought a get tough policy would work as did Israel. They now are living with the fruits of their mistakes.