Thursday, September 20, 2007
Yesterday, Hillary Clinton referred to Dick Cheney as Darth Vader. While this is a mere reflection of the rampant political immaturity that exists amongst American politicians, I would like to, for the sake of satire, continue Hillary's silly metaphor. I'd say Hillary's the garbage squid Luke Skywalker encountered in the garbage chute of the Death Star during Episode IV. Hillary is always letting her opportunistic eye surface from the sludge of her self-centered politics when looking to take advantage of a given situation. Interestingly enough, when things go awry, Hillary quickly disappears just as Luke's slippery tentacle-eyed squid foe. Point in case, during the aftermath of 9/11 Hillary's opportunistic eye and rhetoric only surfaced at locations where cameras and media coverage was present. At one such surfacing, New Yorkers, sensing her ingenuity and obduratism, promptly booed her off the stage. She, like her tentacled-eyed squid counterpart, quickly vanished never to been seen talking to fear-suffering New Yorkers during the 9/11 aftermath.
Post Script: Hillary's comment on Dick Cheney though true in its reflection of a dearth of moral character, does not do justice to Darth Vader's infamy. Perhaps, something a bit more sad, loathing, and physically cowardly would be a more astute metaphor. Any ideas?
Friday, September 07, 2007
To those that are unaware, cluster bombs are projectiles containing a thousand or so bomblets that scatter in mid-descent over a wide area much similar to a shotgun. Anywhere between ten to twenty-five percent of these bomblets fail to detonate, thus waiting to release a deadly explosion accompanied by shrapnel capable of piercing tank armour up to seven inches deep! These unexploded bomblets present a grave danger to refugees seeking to re-inhabit their previously war ravaged lands. In such situations these unexploded bomblets are incapable of discriminating between a soldiers fighting in the battlefield today, and a civilian herding his sheep months later.
This danger of unexploded cluster bomb bomblets constitutes both moral and legal dilemmas, and despite a formal ban, they violate the principle purpose of two international treaties: the Geneva Convention and the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. Cluster bombs are incapable of discriminating between combatants and civilians. This incapability is a direct violation of the Geneva Convention which outlaws indiscriminate attacks. Specifically, the treaty outlaws attacks that "employ a method or means of combat the effects of which cannot be limited" and thus "strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction" (Geneva Convention Protocol I, article 51.4.C).
In addition to violating the Geneva Convention, cluster bombs also violate the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). The CCW outlaws the use of "any mine, booby trap or other device which is designed or of nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering" (CCW, Protocol 2, Article 3.3). A cluster bomb's bomblets that fail to detonate are no different than the CCW's definition of landmines. Furthermore, these munitions certainly fall under the CCW's ban of "devices that cause superfluous injury."
Despite these palpable violations of both the Geneva Convention and the CCW, cluster bombs are still used, stockpiled, and sold by a many states, the US and Europe being the primary culprits. It’s sad that full fledged and long established democracies, often argued as the peaceful polities, have to take cues on how to engage in humane warfare. Hopefully, the Costa Rican convention will lead to a cluster bomb free zone (Brazil is holding out), providing an example towards which the US and Europe can aspire.
- Cluster Bombs have been produced, sold, stockpiled, and used by a number of countries.
- Some notable users are the US, Britain, France, Israel, Russia, the Netherlands, and Saudi Arabia.
- Over half of the European Union member states produce cluster bombs
- Six of the eight G8 nations produce cluster bombs. Other notable producers include India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, South Africa, Brazil, and Argentina.
- 75 countries stockpile cluster bombs
- 24 areas of the world have been affected by cluster bombs. Among the worst are Vietnam, Cambodia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon.
- Vietnam still averages 300 civilian deaths because of unexploded cluster bombs.
- Lebanon has experienced over 150 civilian casualties due to cluster bombs.
- The Oslo Process, launched in February 2007, is an international attempt to ban cluster bombs. 75 countries have stated a goal to do so, but results are yet to surface. The US has not signed
- Belgium is the only country to completely ban cluster bombs from production, stockpiling, exportation, and use. I used to live in Belgium..Yay Brussels!
- A cluster munitions amendment was voted on in the House and the Senate in the Fall of 2006. The amendment would prohibit any funding from going to cluster munitions unless it could be proven that they would not be used near civilian populations.
- The vote passed through the House 407-19, but failed in the Senate 30-70.
- No Republican voted in favor of the amendments adoption.
- Amongst notable Democrats opposed were Senators Clinton, Biden, and Dodd.
The scalding hot conditions on the Hill promise to get hotter with General Petraeus’ soon to be complete report on
Saturday, August 25, 2007
"It's a horrible prospect to ask yourself, 'What if? What if?' But if certain things happen between now and the election, particularly with respect to terrorism, that will automatically give the Republicans an advantage again, no matter how badly they have mishandled it, no matter how much more dangerous they have made the world."
Simply stunning. Another 9/11 and not a mention of victims, fear, massive infrastructural damage, further urban sprawl, economic upheaval!? Nope. But Hillary does see how damaging that would be to the Democratic party's popularity, and her own presidential aspirations. How sympathetic. When confronted with the large scale death and destruction of harmless victims, Hillary's thoughts are drawn inward to political jockeying rather than outward to psychologically distraught Americans.
At first I thought this must have been a miscommunication, but then I remembered Hillary's refusal to speak anywhere without a camera during the aftermath of 9/11 leaving terrorized New Yorkers with a bitter taste of her truly obdurate opportunism. To Hillary, events even as horrific as 9/11 are best seen as ways to advance her interests. She of course is not the only one guilty of swimming to such shallow ends. Karl Rove's fear mongering regarding 9/11 during the '04 election is just as deplorable. Nonetheless, Rove's equality in guilt is in no way redemptive of Hillary.
The point Hillary was trying to make was that she is better and stronger than Republicans on matters of national security and the war on terrorism. Why not just say that rather than reducing something as horrific as 9/11 to a purely political tool, and letting slip where her true concerns with terrorism lie: how it affects her, not fatherless children, widowed women, and jobless men. She along with Karl Rove are talking mockeries of the term "public servants" whose first, second, and third thoughts are all self-serving. You know the old idiom, somethings are better left unsaid. Well here's a new one: Somepeople are better left not to serve, and most assuredly not to be voted for.
Also worth looking at is an op/ed piece in the USA today that calls out Hollywood for addressing terrorism by, despite ample evidence of contemporary and unabashed strands of Islamic fundamentalism, traveling back to the 1800's to disparage Mormonism. The reasoning is obvious enough: Mormonism is an easy target as it rarely sees the friendly side of political correctness' double standards. Fortunately, many in the community of film critics have provided a pleasant contrast to such skewed standards.
Monday, August 06, 2007
Even more significant, Iraqi's are taking what seems to be a definitive side in the propaganda war I referred to earlier, the one between the US and sectarian forces like Al Qaeda. Much of Iraqi locals have chosen to seek security and stability with US troops and local militias rather than rolling the dice with Al Qaeda and Sharia Law. This in my view is the real victory as it represents a conscious choice for democracy over authoritarianism.
While this report is certainly encouraging, I remain convinced that partitioning the country into autonomous regions is the best solution, and tidbits from Pollack's article vindicate that point. The Times article points out that national aspects of Iraq remain mired in corruption, apathy, and inefficiency. As a result, towns have turned to local police forces which are far less sectarian. Additionally, the article also paints the national government as one being full of self-interested politicians jockeying for political power rather than seeking to secure the greater good. This seems to bolster the argument for devolution increasing autonomy to regional authorities who have acted responsibly, completely bypassing self-interested elitists.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
The clear crux of the problem is the inability of ethnic groups to get along in any form or fashion, and
In my view, the only sensible voice I've heard on the Iraqi matter is Joe Biden. He supports a middle ground position, that being partition (option e). Furthermore, he has a good record on foreign policy (he was crying foul long before Milosevic really got going in the Balkans), and he, unlike his fellow democratic presidential candidates, did not leave American Soldiers out to dry by denying them the funding requisite for their support and protection (a major peek into the moral hypocrisy of many of the democratic candidates). He alone has pursued a fresh, viable, and middle ground policy. Indeed, he's neither a hawk nor a dove, but rather something in between.
Anyhow, these are my thoughts on both
(a) Continue the current policy in hopes that stability is obtained.
(b) Begin withdrawing now, and hope for the best.
(c) Institute Marshall Law. Use very stern means to quell dissent. Allow the government to mature.
(d) Pick a side, Sunni or Shi'ite, support their dominance over the other ethnic groups, deal with this privilege group a la the house of Saud.
(e) Split Iraq into three autonomous regions loosely governed by a central body, its purpose being to secure the borders and distribute oil revenues.
(f) Split the country into three entirely independent countries.
(g) Involve the international community in the peacemaking and keeping process, i.e. UN,
The two most widely held views are (a) and (b), embodied respectively by the Republican and Democratic candidates. (b) isn't plausible for obvious reasons. Leaving
Option (a) is far more preferable from my standpoint; however, judging from the fact that it hasn't improved the situation and the government continues to act incapably, it will likely produce no results other than what we have to day, chaos.
Option (c) is perhaps the only plausible military solution. In a way, it’s providing the stability that Saddam did by suppressing ethnic dissent through very invasive government control. However, it’s hawkish, and will provide terrorist and other sectarian groups with an advantage in recruiting. Terrorism thrives off propaganda. If it can make the State (in this case, the
Option (d) isn't plausible since it would recognize the failure of democracy as an institution and even more importantly, equality as a governing principle. Five hundred years ago this would have been the de facto policy. Today, it’s an unmentionable idea.
Option (f) is certainly in the right direction. The easy solution to the ever difficult task of creating stability in a fractious multi-ethnic climate is partition. However, there are three fundamental problems which renders this option implausible. (1) The Sunni's will never peacefully accept the Shi'ites possession of what Sunni's considered to be their oil resources. (2) A Kurdish state would destroy US-Turkish relations, and incite Kurdish secessionist movements in
Option (g) is far too dovish to be realistic. The UN is has proven itself incapable of effectively resolving armed conflicts, i.e. anywhere in
Option (e) seems to be the only viable option. It separates conflicting groups while avoiding the pitfalls of border security, (provided by a central, triparite government), and oil revenues (which are evenly distributed by the same central government). Otherwise, the regions would be completely autonomous from each other. This is by no means an ideal solution. Afterall, none exist. But, it’s by far the most likely to succeed.