Archive for the ‘International Community’ Category

New Climate, My Arse!

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

Imagine my surprise when, this past Friday, it was announced that President Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize. And $1.4 million. According to the Nobel site,

According to Nobel’s will, the Peace Prize is to go to whoever “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”.

It appears that, per Nobel’s will, Obama has done exactly nothing. But he has thought good thoughts and his intentions are pure. Obama doesn’t exactly belong in the same company as, say, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Lech Walesa, Mandella and de Klerk. On the other hand, more lately the Prize has not seemed to mean much. After all, Jimmy Carter, Kofi Anan (and the UN itself) and Yasser Arafat were recipients. But those dirtbags at least had a track record. Obama doesn’t have a track record; he has a track wish.

Obama would have done well to reject the prize outright. But I suppose his acceptance speech was good enough.

I am firmly in the camp that believes that the prize is a mixed blessing. Possibly very mixed. The award is nicely juxtaposed with the administration’s equivocation over its Afghanistan strategy. If the administration essentially rejects General McChrystal’s request, it would not be surprising if McChrystal resigned and it seems to me that the administration opens itself up to the easy-to-make charge that there is some sort of quid pro quo. That the administration has been swayed by the action of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. If the American people come to believe that European bed-wetters have somehow affected the foreign policy of the United States, I will predict an even more rapid demise of the Obama revolution.  The Afghanistan question is the subject of current debate, but Iran looms and there, too, I expect that the NNC believes that they have some how inoculated Iran from further harassment from the West. I’m sure Israel is taking notes.

The Gambia Witch Doctor Gambit

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

Rather than waste time wringing its hands over whether the US tortured the man (?) that murdered Daniel Pearl, I wish the international community would turn its attention to the witch hunts in Gambia. No, really, witches. According to Reuters India in Up to 1,000 detained in Gambia witch hunt

Witch doctors and security forces in Gambia have detained up to 1,000 people on suspicion of being witches, Amnesty International said on Wednesday. Police in the African country dismissed the reports as lies.

Victims have been held in secret detention camps for up to five days and forced to drink hallucinogenic substances which have killed at least two people through kidney failure, the London-based human rights organization said in a statement.

And

Around 300 men and women were forced on to buses at gunpoint and taken to President Yahya Jammeh’s home area of Kanilai, Amnesty quoted the witness as saying.

“Once there, they were stripped and forced to drink ‘dirty water’ from herbs and were also bathed with these dirty herbs. A lot of these people who were forced to drink these poisonous herbs developed instant diarrhoea and vomiting whilst they lay helpless,” the witness added.

Gambia’s inspector general of police, Essa Badjie, rejected the reports as lies.

And here comes the motivation for those lies

“I think they are neglecting what is happening in Afghanistan. They are lying,” he told Reuters by telephone.

“Tell them they are lying. See what is happening in Palestine and Iraq… The Gambia is a peaceful country,” he said.

If I get Badjie’s drift, because of troubles in Afghanistan, Palestine, and Iraq, we have to divert attention to a place that, frankly, most Geography majors have never heard of. Quite right. I think maybe the IG has been sampling the hallucinogenic “dirty water”.

Amnesty said eyewitnesses and victims said the people seeking witches, themselves known as witch doctors, had come from nearby Guinea, but were accompanied on their raids by Gambian police and army and national intelligence agents, along with members of Jammeh’s personal guard, known as “green boys.”

The “green boys” are apparently a violent group.

Green Boys

Green Boys

According to the Washington Post article on the same subject

In 2007, Jammeh declared he had discovered a cure for AIDS and began treating patients inside the presidential palace, using herbs and incantations. His dictatorial regime has cracked down harshly on critics, especially the press.

According to this article in the Gambia Echo Online Newspaper

I couldn’t and never would understand how a 21st Century Head of state can claim to have supernatural knowledge empowering him to be hearing voices from the Quran that revealed the secrets of the cure for Aids, cancer, diabetics and the like.

As I learn more and more about Gambia and its witch doctors, it’s comforting to know that The Gambia has the same vote at the US in the United Nations.

Which Doctor?

Which Doctor?

Keep Swinging Folks!

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

If we really wanted to cut back on some unnecessary expenses, perhaps the best place to start would be the funding that the US gives to the United Nations. Rarely has there been a more effete group of do-nothings. So I was actually pleased when I read U.S. Rebukes U.N. Official for Sharp Words in today’s Washington Post.

The Obama administration scolded the president of the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, saying that his frequent public attacks against the United States and Israel are undercutting the standing of the world’s most representative body.

The rebuke comes one day after Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann lashed out at the United States during a visit to Tehran, where he met with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other senior Iranian officials. The leftist Nicaraguan priest and diplomat defended Iran’s nuclear program as peaceful and said the United States has not cooperated with other countries at the United Nations, according to Iranian news reports.

And

Last week, d’Escoto also criticized the U.S. imprisonment of five Cuban agents convicted on espionage charges in 2001, and he urged the United Nations’ Geneva-based Human Rights Council to look into alleged human rights abuses by U.S.-led forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, charging that “there are over 1 million civilian deaths in Iraq as a direct result of the U.S.-led aggression and occupation.”

Ah, yes, the old 1 million civilian deaths figure. It never gets old. And it never verges on reality, either. The one million plus deaths fallacy refers to the Opinion Research Business survey, in which about 1720 Iraqi adults were surveyed. On the flip side, there is the Iraq Body Count Project, which used the following sources to develop counts.

  • 8,913 Mortuaries
  • 4,846 Medics
  • 4,376 Iraqi officials
  • 3,794 Eyewitnesses
  • 3,588 Police
  • 2,780 Relatives
  • 2,423 US-Coalition
  • 1,976 Journalists
  • 732 NGOs
  • 596 Friends/Associates
  • 196 Other

The IBC has a more diverse and more authoritative base of data with which to work. The IBC suggests a number of between 83,000 and 91,000 total deaths so far. I’m not celebrating innocent casualties, but 91,000 is much better than 1 million.

So d’Escoto is nothing more than a mouthpiece for human detritus.

Mark Kornblau, a U.S. spokesman, challenged d’Escoto’s claims on the number of dead civilians in Iraq, saying the former Sandinista foreign minister “has his facts wrong and seems like he is lost in some kind of time warp.”

Alejandro Wolff, the second-ranking U.S. diplomat at the United Nations, said D’Escoto “has repeatedly abused his position to pursue his personal agenda, and in doing so he diminishes the office and harms the General Assembly. He is doing the United Nations a disservice by dividing the membership at a time when he should be a unifying force.”

It’s like folks are lining up to take a swing at this Sandanista douche nozzle. Keep swinging folks. When a US diplomat straps on the president of the UN General Assembly, you know that the target is reprehensible.

[d’Escoto] said the United States and its Western allies know that Iran has no intention of developing nuclear weapons.

Sure Miguel.

d'Douche Nozzle

Freeloading On The Back Of U.S. Military Security

Friday, February 6th, 2009

If we’re honest… we know that sometimes, on both sides of the Atlantic, we have drifted apart and forgotten our shared destiny.

So said then-candidate Obama in Berlin this past summer. The crowds in Europe adored Obama as much as the crowds in the United States. That right there should have been enough for any discriminating individual to vote for McCain.

But the past is the past, and now we have Afghanistan Appeal May Temper European Allies’ Ardor for Obama in today’s Washington Post, which begins

MUNICH, Feb. 5 — European leaders cheered when Barack Obama was elected president in November. They cheered again when he proclaimed during his inaugural address that America was “ready to lead once more” in the world, and yet again when he pledged to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

But when Obama sends his vice president and other top emissaries to an international security conference here this weekend to seek help with the war in Afghanistan, NATO allies are unlikely to be as enthusiastic, European defense officials and analysts said in interviews.

The Obama administration is expected to announce plans to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, where the United States and its allies fear they are losing ground in the war against the Taliban. Although European leaders say they are eager to curry favor with the new U.S. president, they are proving just as reluctant to contribute more soldiers or money to the NATO-led operation as they were during President George W. Bush’s last years in the White House.

French Defense Minister Hervé Morin said last month that “there is no question, for now, of considering extra reinforcements” from Paris. Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said his country would start drawing down its 1,770 troops in Afghanistan next year. German officials have also ruled out sending more soldiers beyond a parliamentary decision last year to expand the force to 4,500.

I’ll be sure to send my thanks to France, Holland, and Germany. I mean, we are talking about Afghanistan here, right? This isn’t Iraq. The fantasy continues

Some European defense officials, however, have warned that a perceived lack of support for the Afghan mission will damage the political credibility of NATO members who otherwise want to be taken more seriously in Washington.

Who are these bed wetting European defense officials? What makes them think the US merely “perceived” lack of support? What credibility? If they want to be “taken more seriously”, they should stand up and deliver.

“If Europeans expect that the United States will close Guantanamo, sign up to climate-change treaties, accept European Union leadership on key issues — but provide nothing more in return, for example in Afghanistan, than encouragement — they should think again,” NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said in a Jan. 26 speech in Brussels, where NATO has its headquarters. “It simply won’t work like that.”

John Hutton, Britain’s defense secretary, last month chided unnamed European members of NATO for “freeloading on the back of U.S. military security” and said they had a “limited appetite” for the Afghanistan campaign.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and John Hutton actually get it. John Hutton especially stands out for reading supine Europeans the riot act. The UN, NATO, Europe, and Japan have been “freeloading on the back of U.S. military security for more than half a century. We should charge them their fair share.

There was a time when the United States had a representative to the United Nations that was as blunt and plain-spoken as John Hutton. His name was John R. Bolton but he was considered too blunt. We wouldn’t want to offend the sensibilities of a bunch of kleptocratic jihad-apologists.

John Hutton - Not an EU Panzie

John Hutton - Not an EU Pansy

Dramatic Action + Resolve = Results

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Regular readers of the Washington Post are treated to a recurring column by Shankar Vedantam. Always headlined Department of Human Behavior, Vedantam’s columns present interesting, and often counter-intuitive, results from social science and neuroscience experiments designed to yield insight into, what else, human behavior. I have found Vedantam’s columns to be superbly written.

Today’s column is sub-titled Mass Suffering and Why We Look the Other Way. Vedantam observes

[Obama’s foreign policy team] of Obama, Clinton and Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. have all called for aggressive American action against humanitarian crises and genocide. Susan E. Rice, Obama’s nominee for U.N. ambassador, has said that if a Rwanda-style genocide began again, she “would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required.” Samantha Power, a leading proponent for an interventionist American policy in humanitarian crises, was a senior Obama adviser during the presidential campaign.

Vedantam then introduces Paul Slovic, a professor at the University of Oregon, who has conducted experiments to shed light on why the United States frequently fails to intervene in humanitarian crises and why this failure is likely to continue, even with Obama’s team in place.

Slovic’s research suggests that the central reason the United States has not responded forcefully — and quickly — to crises ranging from the Holocaust to the Rwandan genocide, from the ethnic cleaning that occurred in the 1990s Balkan conflict to the present-day crisis in Sudan’s Darfur region, is not that presidents are uncaring, or that Americans only value American lives, but that the human mind has been unintentionally designed to respond in perverse ways to large-scale suffering.

In a rational world, we should care twice as much about a tragedy affecting 100 people as about one affecting 50. We ought to care 80,000 times as much when a tragedy involves 4 million lives rather than 50. But Slovic has proved in experiments that this is not how the mind works.

When a tragedy claims many lives, we often care less than if a tragedy claims only a few lives. When there are many victims, we find it easier to look the other way.

Virtually by definition, the central feature of humanitarian disasters and genocide is that there are a large number of victims.

“The first life lost is very precious, but we don’t react very much to the difference between 88 deaths and 87 deaths,” Slovic said in an interview. “You don’t feel worse about 88 than you do about 87.”

Vedantam describes one of of Slovic’s experiments

Slovic asked people to imagine they were disbursing money on behalf of a large foundation: They could give $10 million to fight a disease that claimed 20,000 lives a year — and save 10,000 of those lives. But they could also devote the $10 million to fight a disease that claimed 290,000 lives a year — and this investment would save 20,000 lives.

Slovic found that people preferred to spend the money saving the 10,000 lives in the first scenario rather than the 20,000 lives in the second scenario: “People were responding not to the number of lives saved but the percentage of lives saved,” he said. In the one case, their investment could save half the victims; in the case of the more deadly disease, it could save 7 percent of the victims.

The mathematical side of our brain could tell us the absolute number of victims saved is more important than the percentage of survivors, but our analytical side isn’t usually in charge.

Well, in my case, being trained in operations research, the analytical side of my brain is usually in charge, and so I found the conclusions by Slovic to be counter-intuitive.

I think that there are other forces at work here. For example, I think many recent instances of genocide and ethnic-cleansing have occurred in places that are not particularly strategically important to the United States. And many of these recent instances have been perpetrated by, and against, people that – sorry to say – don’t look like the majority of Americans. And, the perpetrators and the victims are often called warring or tribal peoples; sort of savages. I wonder if we view these conflicts as “a way of life”.

The United States has done some heavy lifting in places like Kuwait, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and so maybe there is a weariness. So why can’t the international community step up to the plate? The United Nations is, of course, a feckless partner when addressing the security concerns of the United States and many of our allies. But why can’t the UN be responsible otherwise? For example, more concerned about European sensibilities regarding conflict on the continent than about mediating and containing a war, the United Nations and the United Nations Security Council’s arms embargo of the former Yugoslavia in 1991 effectively tied one arm of Bosnia and Herzegovina behind its back. Deplorable.

We couldn’t all agree on the threat posed by Sadam or the consequences. But maybe, just maybe, the United Nations can muster the forces needed to combat genocide? Can’t everyone (except maybe a few African governments) agree on the genocide in Darfur, Sudan; that it is bad; and that strong action must be taken? Um, maybe not. In 1994, after the deaths of ten Belgian soldiers in Rwanda, the entire international community pulled out of that country, leaving Tutsi and Hutu moderates to fend for themselves against revenge-minded Hutus. The UN and the US refused to use the term “genocide”. Had they done so, it would have necessitated some type of action. Again, deplorable.

I know where Ms. Rice is coming from. I support Ms. Rice and the tough talk of “dramatic action”. But I disagree that the US should “go down in flames” if necessary. Resolve will see that we do not.

Darfur Poster

Darfur Poster