..THE CENTER FOR WAR, PEACE AND NEWS MEDIA, AUGUST 22-29, 2005


A WEEKLY SELECTION OF NEWS STORIES FROM AFRICA AND THE DEVELOPING WORLD....

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BROOKINGS: IRAQ INDEX

BLOGGING THE ELECTIONS IN IRAN
Open Democracy.org
aggregates web opinion on where Iran is headed.

INDEX OF RECENT TORTURE DOCUMENTS

 

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TIPPING POINT?

A cargo plane filled with wounded American soldiers prepares to take off from Baghdad's airport . The red light signals combat conditions and is intended to keep insurgent snipers and mortars from targeting the plane before it takes off.
The U.S. cuts aid to 24 countries for refusing to exempt Americans from prosecution by the
International court of Criminal justice (click on image for larger graphic)

THE PENTAGON VS. THE INTERNATIONAL COURT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The uniqueness of the International Court of Criminal Justice stems from the fact that it holds individuals, rather than countries, responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Pentagon has fought the basic idea of the court for decades, arguing that its officials might be charged with war crimes for political reasons. Until recently, the arguments seemed a bit Quixotic. No one seriously imagined that the U.S. could be credibly charged with war crimes or glaring violations of international law. Besides the International Court already exempts countries who prosecute their own war crimes, such as the My Lai massacre. In the wake of "extraordinary renditions," the U.S. denial of basic rights to captives at Guantanamo, and the administration's reluctance to hold senior officials responsible for acts of torture and depravity, international confidence in the American sense of justice has been severely shaken. But even more than a lack of confidence in America's commitment to justice, there is a feeling that while the U.S. talks about democracy and rule of law, it maintains a double standard, exempting itself from the rules that it tries to promote for other countries. In the end, nearly two dozen countries preferred to forego American aid, rather than give the U.S. a blank check , exempting it in advance from criminal prosecution for serious crimes against humanity. Juan Ferero reports on the reactions from some countries who have been seriously hurt by the cuts. (Juan Ferero, New York Times, August 19, 2005)
EXTRAORDINARY RENDITION: GETTING SOMEONE ELSE TO DO THE JOB
Writing in FindLaw.com, Joanne Mariner looks at the case of two Egyptians. The men were handed over to U.S. operatives at Bromma Airport in Stockholm; hooded, shackled, and drugged; placed aboard a U.S. government-leased plane; and transported to Cairo. They were held in incommunicado detention for a full five weeks before the Swedish ambassador to Egypt visited them. The men have credibly alleged that they were tortured and ill-treated in those five weeks and that the abusive treatment continued even after Swedish diplomats began monitoring them. A classified Swedish government report from January 2002 indicated that the men told the Swedish authorities about this abuse, but the Swedish government took no action and in fact omitted these allegations from its public reporting on the cases. (Joanne Mariner, Findlaw.com, August 17, 2005)

THE SAME ARGUMENTS FOR WAR, BUT NOW THE PUBLIC IS BEGINNING TO ASK QUESTIONS
Michael Scherer, writing in Salon, notes that while the president seems undisturbed by criticisms of the war in Iraq, cracks are beginning to appear in the facade. "The political message of the war has gone off track," says David Gergen, a Harvard professor who served as a White House advisor to Ronald Reagan, "I think a full and frank acknowledgement of some of the problems would be helpful politically."But Scherer sees a different White House plan. A long-running White House strategy lies behind the message, one that casts opponents of the war as weak or cowardly or unpatriotic. In the last presidential election, the strategy was a clear success...Now, it may be leading the Bush administration and its supporters into a public-opinion quagmire. While last fall a majority of Americans thought the nation was winning the war on terror, today only 38 percent believe we are winning. (Michael Scherer, Salon, August 23, 2005)
--The War That No One Sees
Gary Kamiya writes about a photogallery presentation in Salon: "This is a war the Bush administration does not want Americans to see. From the beginning, the U.S. government has attempted to censor information about the Iraq war, prohibiting photographs of the coffins of U.S. troops returning home and refusing as a matter of policy to keep track of the number of Iraqis who have been killed. President Bush has yet to attend a single funeral of a soldier killed in Iraq... "(Gary Kamiya, Salon, August 23, 2005)
-TomDispatch on Vietnam, Iraq and the Heartland Experience

SUNNIS THREATEN CIVIL WAR IN IRAQ
Shia and Kurdish leaders had agreed to a draft constitution laying out plans for a federal system that would transform the Iraqi state into a loose federation of regions with a weak central government. Sunni leaders reacted with fury at the proposition, claiming that it would inflame the insurgency and trigger civil war and vowed to defeat the charter at a national referendum later this year unless demands for federalism were dropped (Catherine Philip, Times of London, August 23, 2005).
-BEIRUT'S DAILY STAR ON WHY THE SUNNIS ARE UPSET
-Al Jazeera on Sunni reasoning

TONY KARON ON HOW THE ADMINISTRATION PLANTED THE SEEDS FOR THE CURRENT CRISIS
The Bush administration only has itself to blame for any sense of disappointment or setback that may follow the failure of Iraq’s parliament to approve a new constitution by the August 15 deadline. After all, it was the administration itself that created not only the deadline, and also worked hard to raise expectation that the delivery of a draft constitution on August 15 would signal “political momentum” that would — more than a little improbably pull the plug on the insurgency.(Tony Karon, The Rootless Cosmopolitan, August 15, 2005)

A LEGAL COUP OF SORTS IN BAGHDAD
Juan Cole points out that the delays in negotiating a new constitution for Iraq have made it necessary to ignore the wording in the interim constitution.  The intention is well enough and the legal objections appear minor, but the action effectively means that Iraq’s president and prime minister are now making up the rules on their own as they go along. That sets a precedent for simply overriding or ignoring inconvenient sections of the permanent constitution when it, too, runs into practical difficulties. (Juan Cole, informed Comment, August 23, 2005)

THE LAST DAYS OF STEPHEN VINCENT
Freelancer Dave Enders describes the atmosphere in Basra shortly before art-writer-turned-war-correspondent, Stephen Vincent was kidnapped by insurgents and shot. "The city seems much as it did when Iraq was invaded more than two years ago," saays Enders, "Local residents look to the government to provide better services, but a mixture of alleged corruption and complaints of a lack of support from the central government have left efforts largely stymied. Near the Marbed Hotel, the most expensive in the city and the one where most of the parachute-in–parachute-out foreign press corps stays, the garbage also lies piled up. Walk a block from the hotel through an unpaved alley, and you’re at the exchange shop where Steven Vincent, was abducted before being killed." A translator tells Enders: “Three weeks ago I was stopped here by the police. A policeman who said he was with the Sadr movement said he was going to shoot me, and then some British troops nearby came over. They were going to shoot me...” (Dave Enders, LA Weekly, August 12, 2005)

RUMSFELD TRIES TO COUNTER WORSENING DESTABILIZATION IN LATIN AMERICA
Washington's primary concern is the escalating support for Evo Morales, the charismatic leader whose base among Bolivia's northern coca growers whose Movement Toward Socialism, falls in line with the cooperativist ideology of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, and now commands the most significant bloc in the Bolivian Congress...Washington, which has accused Caracas and Havana of lending support to Morales, fears that populist movements opposed to its strategic aims now have a genuine chance to come to power in the Andean states and institute socialist economic models in place of neo-liberal capitalist free trade, thereby excluding U.S. influence in the region.
(Michael Weinstein, Power and Interest News Report, August 23, 2005)

THE PENTAGON WAS WARNED ABOUT IRAQ
Newly declassified documents outline warnings delivered to the Pentagon’s Centcom about the danger of going into Iraq unprepared.  Unfortunately the warnings came at a time when Donald Rumsfeld was building an empire and strongly implying that the then Secretary of State Colin Powell, the only member of Bush’s cabinet with combat experience,  didn’t understand the intricacies of modern warfare. The documents indicate that Bush began preparing an overthrow of the Iraqi government in October 2001—weeks after the world trade center bombing, which was not connected to Iraq.  (The National Security Archives, August 17, 2005)

LEARNING THE RULES OF COUNTERINSURGENCY TOO LATE
Jason vest observes in the current issue of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that "It isn't just that the Pentagon's civilian ideologues and acquiescent brass failed to entertain even the possibility of an insurgency. And it's not merely because the civilian leadership has demonstrated a profound and deadly ignorance of insurgency's historical lessons. It's also because, despite a plethora of writing from soldier-scholars and the informal attempts at innovation by a handful of junior officers, no formal organizational strategy exists that allows the army to rapidly and effectively adapt... " Jason Vest, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July August 2005)

ENERGY AND INFLUENCE IN CENTRAL ASIA
Russia plans a new strategy for dealing with waning influence in its former Central Asian republics. The strategy, whcih will be announced at a C.I.S. summit later this week, will likely cut subsidized energy to former republics who are now tilting towards the west. As the Kremlin now puts it: Russia will not tolerate an arrangement in which it does not receive economic nor political benefits for selling oil and gas at a discount.
While an unnamed official makes it clear that Russia is specifically intent on scrapping discounts to Western-leaning countries, he sought to blame the planned change on recipients, which he said have in the past failed to use the discounts to further social and economic development at home.
"Russia cannot put up with a situation in which it delivers energy resources at loss-making prices -- effectively subsidizing the economies of those countries -- but the people there remain hungry," he said. "It is such a situation that creates fertile ground for orange revolutions, after which little changes for the people, while the new rulers, at least some of them, receive salaries from the Americans either directly or covertly."(Simon Saradzhyan, Moscow Times, August 24, 2005)

UNSTABLE PAKISTAN IS STILL THE BIGGEST THREAT
If Washington continues to accept Musharraf’s episodic “reform” steps with the justification that the alternative is worse, it may lead to a day when a US President is once again forced to present Islamabad with an ultimatum in the aftermath of a precipitating event such as a mass casualty terrorist attack that is traced back to Pakistan or perhaps a near nuclear crisis with India triggered by the actions of a Pakistani jihadist group. (Kaushik Kapisthalam, In The National Interest, August 23, 2005)

PAKISTAN'S DANGER IS NOT THE MADRASAS; IT'S GUERRILLA TRAINING CAMPS
Husain Haqqani writes in The Indian Express: The Pakistani government's decision to bar 1,400 foreigners from studying at the country's madrasas is not the solution to terrorism. None of the terrorists involved in international attacks linked to Pakistan , even tenuously, over the last several years have been regular foreign madrasa students. Pakistan 's real problem is the training camps established by Jihad ist groups in the country, which were tolerated by the Pakistani state for strategic reasons. Some of these camps operated under the cover of madrasas. By focusing on madrasas, and then only on foreigners within the madrasas, Pakistani officials are again missing the opportunity to move forward with a complete roll back of Jihad ism.(Husain Haqqani, The Indian Express, August 3, 2005)


George Bush takes time out from his 5-week summer vacation to insist that the war will go on.

GETTING ON WITH HIS LIFE
The irrepressible Maureen Dowd notes in the New York Times that: "As W.'s neighbors get in scraps with the antiwar forces coalescing around the ranch; as the Pentagon tries to rustle up updated armor for our soldiers, who are still sitting ducks in the third year of the war; as the Iraqi police we train keep getting blown up by terrorists, who come right back every time U.S. troops beat them up; as Shiites working on the Iraqi constitution conspire with Iran about turning Iraq into an Islamic state that represses women; and as Iraq hurtles toward a possible civil war, W. seems far more oblivious than his father was with his Persian Gulf crisis.
This president is in a truly scary place in Iraq. Americans can't get out, or they risk turning the country into a terrorist haven that will make the old Afghanistan look like Cipriani's. Yet his war, which has not accomplished any of its purposes, swallows ever more American lives and inflames ever more Muslim hearts as W. reads a book about the history of salt and looks forward to his biking date with Lance Armstrong on Saturday..." (MaureenDowd, The New York Times, August 17, 2005)

DUCKING THE ANTI-WAR CROWD AT THE TAMARACK
Channel 11, KCBD-TV, Lubbock, Texas, reports that Tamarack Resort received official confirmation today that "President George W. Bush will be at the Idaho mountain resort Aug. 22-24. Tamarack is located in the Payette River Valley, 100 miles North of Boise in Valley County, Idaho.During the President's visit, access to the resort will be limited to Tamarack Resort homeowners, Club members, lodging guests and season pass holders. However, there will be no planned public appearances by the President and some areas of the resort may be restricted. For more information regarding President Bush's visit to the resort, please call 877-TAM-RESORT or 208-325-1000 or visit www.tamarackidaho.com."

The Idaho Statesman on how much the President's vacation costs.
Taxpayers are footing the bill for Bush's vacation because his speeches in Salt Lake City and Nampa are considered official business.

NO TIME OFF ON LATE-NIGHT TV
Not surprisingly, Jay Leno and David Letterman have been having a field day. Jimmy Kimmel observes drily: "The president jumped on a plane to start a five-week vacation. This will be the longest presidential vacation in 36 years. This means President Bush has now been on vacation for 27% of his presidency. That means the country could be 27% more screwed up than it already is." --Jimmy Kimmel (Dan Kurtzman's Guide to Political Humour, August 22, 2005)

LOONEY TOONS-PAT ROBERTSON VS. HUGO CHAVEZ
MediaMatters.com carries an online video clip of the embarrassing comments by the "Christian" televangelist suggesting that the administration "take out" the president of Venezuela. The Financial Times carries Venezuela's equally intemperate ripost. Robertson has since tempered his previous position, explaining that "taking some one out" can mean simply kidnapping and doesn't necessarily have to refer to murder.
Robertson apologizes for remarks (Reuters, August 24, 2005)
Robertson on 700 Club
video-online seems hardly repentent ("Christian Broadcast Network," August 24, 2005)

MESS-O-POTAMIA
The Daily Show's Jon Stewart on Pat Robertson's suggestion that assassination "is a whole lot cheaper than starting a war..."