Monthly Archives: August 2008

Breakaway Regions Claim A “Kosovo.”

The Georgia breakaway region of Abkhazia is seeking recognition from the European Union for its decision to end relations with Georgia and become an independent state. Deputy Foreign Minister Maxim Gunjia emphasized: “we want the European Union to recognize our independence. This is a very positive moment for the EU.” In a sense, South Ossetia and Abhhazia have placed the European Union and the United States in a rather awkward situation since those bodies strongly supported the right of Kosovo to break away from Serbia and declare its independence. Gunjia pointed out to the European Union in no uncertain terms, “we use the same arguments as those used by the West with regard to Kosovo. There was no possible way to reconcile with Georgia. this is purely a continuation of the Kosovo precedent.”

Russia most probably would like to create disunion within the EU over this issue. For example, Slovakia was hesitant about recognizing Kosovo as independent and there may be nations within the EU which are torn between anger at Russian behavior and the right of people to be independent. Ironically, China has expressed displeasure at the prospect of the two regions becoming independent because of fears similar demands would be made by ethnic groups within China.

President George Bush has never been the swiftest thinking person in the world and most probably never recognized that by supporting Georgia he opened the door to the two regions declaring independence.

Norway Urges– Let’s Talk With Osama bin Laden!

Raymond Johansen, Norway’s Foreign Minister, has urged his nation to explore the possibility of entering into a dialogue with Osama bin Laden. “You don’t make peace with your friends, but with your enemies.” he noted. He pointed out that President Karzai of Afghanistan had also called for reconciliation among various groups fighting in his nation. Johansen emphasized that negotiation are not a sign of weakness but of strength. His comments came in the wake of a visit to Afghanistan by Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey who is advocating discussions with Taliban leaders. The Swiss Foreign Minister noted that her nation does not have any troops fighting in Afghanistan which makes it logical for it to raise the issue of negotiation.

Despite being willing to have discussions with Osama bin Laden, the Norwegian Foreign Minister has no illusions they would ever occur because the terrorist leader would “prefer rather to take the lives of infidels.” Johansen most probably is correct, but, then again, there is nothing to lose by trying to have discussions.

Death Of Iraq Detainees Confirmed

It has often been said that war brings out the best and worse of human behavior. The writer of this blog recognizes that combat situations frequently leave an individual soldier with a moment in which to make decisions of life or death. However, killing unarmed prisoners has nothing to do with combat decisions. A former Marine sergeant told jurors on Tuesday he saw dread on teh faces of two detainees after the apparent shooting death of another detainees during some of the fiercest fighting of the Iraq war. “It is something I wouldn’t forget, that face, that dread,” said Cory Carlisle. He was testifying about the deaths of four detainees who were killed. Former squad leader Jose Luis Nazario, has pleaded not guilty to the charge of voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of the four men. The case came to light in 2006 when Sgt. Ryan Weemer volunteered details to a U.S. Secret Service job interview when a lie detector screening indicated he had not spoken the truth about the most serious crime he had ever committed.

Carlisle testified he saw Weemer and Nazario kill the men who definitely were unarmed and had their arms in the air. The heat of battle makes decent people do indecent things, but to shoot four men who had their arms in the air and had no connection to the violence occurring in the situation violates human decency.

Anti-Christian Riots Hit India

Attacks on Christians and their churches continued in Orissa leaving at least nine people dead. Pope Benedict XVI in an address at the Vatican spoke of his “deep sadness.” The Pope appealed to “religious leaders and civil authorities to work together” to bring people of diverse religions to end the violence. There are reports of Christians being dowsed with kerosene and burned to death by angry mobs. Violence also spread to new areas when a mob set afire a church and a missionary hostel. It appears mobs are upset about alleged efforts by Christian missionaries were making progress in converting poor Indians to their religion.

Poverty in India is among the highest in the world and some estimates are that one out of three poor people in the world now live in India. Christians are expected by fundamentalist Hindus to remain quiet and behave themselves and avoid attempts to reach out to the poor. These brutal attacks speak more of the poverty among Hindus of dealing with poverty than any mistake on the part of Christians.

Canada Extends Jurisdiction In Arctic Area

Canada has decided to extend its jurisdiction in the Arctic area by doubling the range at which Canadian environmental laws and shipping regulations from 100 nautical miles offshore to 200. “Whether is is the thawing of the Northwest Passage or the suspected resource riches under the Arctic seabed, more countries are taking an interest in the waterways of the Canadian Arctic,” said Prime Minister Harper. He emphasized the need for Canada to send a clear message to the world that it will make decisions regarding environmental issues regardless of what other nations may believe about that decision. “If you are in Canada’s Arctic, you will be playing by Canada’s rules.”

The Canadian statement raises many issues– will the world now witness a mad dash by nations to claim this or that claim to land that is now frozen. Perhaps, it is time to place these areas under jurisdiction of the United Nations.

Obama Nomination– An Historic Moment In History

In May, 1954, I was a student in the class of Dr. Kenneth Clark, among the first Negro professors at CCNY, and the author of the NAACP psychological brief in the case of Brown vs Board of Education. We had class the day when the US Supreme Court declared segregation to be unconstitutional. As Dr. Clark entered the class, we rose, some crying, all joyous, and showed him our deep admiration for his work. That day, he talked with us about the future. Among the main points he made was it would take about fifty years before the real impact of segregation was over. I wish he was alive today to see the results of his work for human rights and social justice.

There are those who will shrug off the impact of the Obama nomination and point out examples of prejudice in American society. There are those whose heads are always turned backward and can never see changes that occur literally every day in this nation. So many fought the good fight for confronting racism, individuals like A. Philip Randolph, Paul Robeson, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Jackie Robinson, and the thousands of black, Asian, and whites who fought to create conditions under which an African American could be nominated for the presidency of this nation.

I was fortunate to be raised in among the most liberal congressional districts in America where many of us connected prejudice in America toward black skinned people to the prejudice our parents had experienced in Poland and Russia. My mother attended an elementary school where Jewish children sat in the back of the room. My uneducated parents were not fighters for social justice, but they did not use expressions or talk about other people in derogatory ways. In the army, I stumbled one day into the task of working on the desegregation plan of the US Seventh Army in Germany. I was a 21 year old boy with no knowledge of how to end discrimination and my friends and I some how learned to make fewer mistakes as we went about the task of ending segregation. In the end, segregation ended, and even some of the southern born sergeants accepted their new Negro fellow sergeants. The experience taught me Americans would undertake change and accept it.

My first teaching job was at an all black boys junior high school in Harlem where I was assigned to teach the 8th grade discipline problem boys. I discovered they were street bright but easily grew bored and restless unless I could make lessons interesting. I found little evidence parents did not care because literally every parent I contacted gave me complete cooperation. It never entered my mind, these boys were “different” or unable to learn. They were street kids like myself.

In the 1960s, I initiated the first college education program for Vietnam war veterans that trained those returning from combat to become teachers. I insisted one-third of those in the program must be Negroes. We were rather successful. The experience taught me that whites and blacks who had fought together could work together in civilian life and myths of about IQ scores made scant sense when one was dealing with a young Negro soldier who had risked his life for America. The entrance exam consisted of one question: “Do you want to go to college?” Of the 25 we accepted, 15 got their degrees.

I admired the work of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X but, frankly, felt emotionally closer to Malcolm X than to King. The death of these two outstanding leaders definitely hurt the cause of ending prejudice. I have never felt the fight for equality was only about the rights of black people because anyone living in this nation impacts the lives of all living in America. If a black child lives in a segregated world, I, also live in one. If a black child is denied equal rights, I also am denied equal rights.

Many will point to the tasks undone, I believe to deal with the tasks undone, one must understand the tasks that have been done. Obama’s nomination means never again will a black or Asian or Hispanic candidate have to deal with the whispers and subtle ways in which people have relied on racism to fight his nomination. That tactic will not work the second time around.

The good fight has a thousand ancestors whose names are too numerous to be listed. As Dr. Kenneth Clark told us that day in May, 1954, it will be a long, difficult road, but it is the only road we can use if hatred and bigotry and prejudice is to end in this nation. I am so glad to be alive in this historic moment. I only wish people like Dr. Kenneth Clark who fought so hard and long could also be with us in this moment in history.

Were French Soldiers Betrayed In Afghanistan?

The deaths of ten French soldiers and wounding of twenty in Afghanistan last week has raised questions concerning how a group of soldiers belonging to a crack military unit wandered into a trap. The French weekly paper, Le Carnard enchaine claimed yesterday, the wereabouts of the French troops who were caught in a deadly ambush near Kabul on 18 August were passed on to their attackers either by their interpreter or by Afghanistan police or soldiers. A French parliamentary committee is currently investigating the incident. According to the French newspaper, the interpreter who was assisting the French troops somehow disappeared a few hours before they set out on the operation. Claude Angeli, who wrote the story, notes, “common sense should have led his superiors to fear that he had warned the insurgents of the arrival of the patrol.” He also claims four French soldiers were captured during the initial ambush and then executed by Taliban insurgents.

A debate is emerging within the French government regarding what exactly is happening in Afghanistan. French Defense Minister Herve Morin told a parliamentary committee the situation in Afghanistan is not really a war, but Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner insists military clashes are “the same as war.”

The situation in Afghanistan is not a war in the conventional usage of the word nor is it exactly a guerrilla war in the classic definition of that expression. In some respects it resembles aspects of the Vietnam War when within South Vietnam there existed a considerable portion of the population that was sympathetic to the North Vietnamese communists. At times US and South Vietnam troops did not know exactly who they were fighting since their opponents often were warned by local population about the location of enemy forces. The only solution in such situations is for the government to win over people by being effective, free of corruption and offering vision of the future that is accepted by most people.

Iraq War Veterans At Democratic Convention

Iraqi war veterans are playing important roles at the Democratic party convention here they’ve marched, staged mock foot patrols on downtown Denver sidewalks and met with the former first lady to discuss health care issues for those who served in fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The war has really changed this generation,” said David Bellavia, an Iraq veteran who helped form the group Vets for Freedom which advocates against an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Matthis Chiroux, of Iraq Veterans Against the War, walked around in military fatigues trying to get across what has happened to young men and women who served in combat. Two former members of the military, Rep. Patrick Murphy and Rep. Tammie Duckworth have been noticeable by their fight in Congress against the war.

The generation that is fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan will not remain silent but intends to play a role in shifting their nation from a commitment to war towards one in which war is the last, not the first resort to a crisis. John McCain may have been a member of the military but he has lost contact with what those who have fought in Baghdad experienced in Iraq.

I Run Zimbabwe Declares Robert Mugabe

Under his benign rule, the nation of Zimbabwe has declined from a vibrant economy into one that is wracked by a Twelve Million percent inflation rate and 80% of the people living in poverty, but Robert Mugabe has absolutely no intention of giving up power. He ignored agreements to hold off opening Parliament before a power sharing agreement could be hammered out with Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change. After being heckled and booed in Parliament by MDC members, the determined president told his nation, “we shall be setting up a government. The MDC does not want to come in apparently.”

Mugabe is right on one point, the MDC does not wish to become part of a government in which the thugs who surround the president continue with their policies of looting the nation and beating up and torturing members of the opposition. They do not wish to become part of a supposed “power-sharing” agreement in which Mugabe continues wielding all the power and Tsvangirai is a show case placed in a powerless position. They do not wish to become part of a government which arrested three members of the MDC on trumped up charges.

Medvedev Seeks Allies In The East

The negative reaction from Western powers to Russia’s lightening strike against Georgia has caused President Medvedev to turn eastward seeking support from friendly nations like China and former members of the Soviet Union. A spokesperson with the Foreign Ministry said: “We are hoping that our efforts in resolving the conflict in Georgia will be acknowledged.” Nations like Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are being contacted in order to establish a new coalition in south Asia. However, about the only nation to actually express support for Russian action has come from Belarussian president Alexander Lukashenko.

The Georgia crisis has resulted in some interesting changes in a Russia which finds itself diplomatically isolated from most nations of the world. President Medvedev has also emerged from his quiet place in the back of the room and is asserting leadership within his nation. Ironically, the Georgia crisis may have resulted in a new conflict between Prime Minister Putin and the president over issues of power.