Thursday, January 27, 2005

"Never Again"

As we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, let us not forget that the promises of “Never Again” are not being fulfilled. As the movie Hotel Rwanda portrays what happens when the world turns a blind eye to GENOCIDE. I had an opportunity to attend a press briefing this morning where a non-partisan delegation from the House of Representatives including actor Don Cheadle gave their account of the horrors they witnessed and urged the international community to apply pressure on the Sudanese government to halt its atrocities in Darfur. From the NY Times: “People saw the film and said, `Wow that's terrible. What happened? Wish I had known.' Now you know,'' said Cheadle, The delegation leader, Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., called on the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions. “This is not a problem for Africans alone to solve. The whole world must be engaged,'' said Royce, chairman of the International Relations subcommittee on Africa. He said the main obstacles have been Russia and China, which have business interests in Sudan. Both nations have veto power on the U.N. Security Council. Royce also called for expanding the size and mission of the African Union peacekeeping force, now monitoring an agreement aimed at ending a separate conflict in southern Sudan. Lawmakers spoke of seeing refugees with missing limbs, shattered ear drums, or suffering from mental illnesses. ``I've seen a lot of things in my life but nothing prepares you for what we saw in this rather rapid trip through Chad and Sudan,'' said Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash. Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif., spoke of ``250,000 souls sitting there'' on the Chad-Sudan border ``with blank stares in their eyes, still traumatized.'' She described pictures drawn by children of machetes cutting off arms and planes dropping bombs on villages. The Sudanese government has usually denied using its air force against civilians, but Watson said ``the children have not learned not to tell the truth.'' Watson and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said they discussed Darfur with President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when a black congressional delegation met with them Wednesday.” I loved it when Cheadle said we don’t want to have to make another movie called “Hotel Rwanda 2” and how he expressed his amazement that the young children in Darfur had still not lost the joy in their eyes that many teenagers had.

John Kerry will be interviewed on NBC’s Meet the Press for the first time after the election on Sunday, so check it out! He is also sponsoring the Kids Come First Act regarding health care for children that you can co-sign:
-1/4 of children are not fully up to date on their basic immunizations.
-1/3 with chronic asthma do not get a prescription for medications they need. -
-1/2 of uninsured children have not had a well child visit in the past year.
-1 in 6 has delayed or unmet medical needs.
-1 in 5 has trouble accessing health care.
-1 in 4 does not see a dentist annually.
-1 in 3 had no health insurance during 2002 and 2003

Seymond Hersh – the well-known journalist for his recent disclosure of the Abu Ghraib scandal & more recently US intent on Iran comes under attack in this article from the LA Times: “But how good is Hersh's word? His record doesn't inspire confidence. In 1986 he published a book suggesting that the Soviets shot down a South Korean airliner because they mistook it for a U.S. spy plane — a claim debunked by the opening of Soviet archives. In 1997 he published a book full of nasty allegations about John F. Kennedy that was widely panned. As part of that project he tried to peddle a documentary based on forged documents. Few facts in Hersh's stories are checkable by an outsider, but, of those that are, a number turn out to be false. In November 2001, he claimed that 16 AC-130 gunships participated in a raid (a "near disaster") on Mullah Mohammed Omar's compound in Afghanistan. There were only nine AC-130s in the entire region, and they are never used more than one or two at a time. In a story in October 2001, he claimed that Predator drones cost $40 million; the actual price tag is $2.5 million. In the latest article, he says two Pentagon policy officials would be in the "chain of command" for covert operations; the actual chain of command runs from the secretary of Defense to military commanders in the field. OK, anyone can make a mistake, but all of Hersh's errors run in one direction: toward making the U.S. government look bad. His November 2001 article included a quote, hilarious in retrospect, from "one officer" who claimed, "This is no war for Special Operations." That ran a month before special operators toppled the Taliban. The April 7, 2001, issue of the New Yorker contained his article quoting a "former intelligence official" who said of the invasion of Iraq, "It's a stalemate now." Two days later, Baghdad fell. Even his celebrated Abu Ghraib stories were marred by unsubstantiated claims that Rumsfeld had "encouraged" the "sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners." How does this square with the fact that the Abu Ghraib scandal — like the My Lai massacre — was uncovered first not by Hersh but by Army investigators? It's hard to know why anyone would take seriously a "reporter" whose writings are so full of, in Ted Kennedy's words, "maliciousness and innuendo." That Hersh remains a revered figure in American journalism suggests that the media have yet to recover from the paranoid style of the 1960s.”

Also check out this really interesting article in the Christian Science Monitor about Russia’s role in the Middle East: “Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is currently on a four-day trip to Moscow, where the Russian government agreed to write off more than $9 billion worth of Syria's debt. The Russian newspaper Izvestia had earlier reported that Syria had also planned to sign a deal to buy "sophisticated Russian missile systems" (ground-to-ground SS-26 Iskander-E and shoulder-fired SA-18 Igla missiles), a report denied by Assad…India Daily writes, however, that Assad wants more than missiles – he is actually looking for a "full-fledged security guarantee" that Russia will intervene against the US or the Israelis if they attack Syria. No one knows what Russia will do. Russian President Putin even probably does not know what to do. Is it worth a military confrontation with America over Syria? Russians will be answering that question to themselves in the secrecy of Kremlin in the next few days. Meanwhile, as Assad was in Moscow, the Russian news service Itar-Tass reports that Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak was in Tehran for "strategic stability consultations." On Tuesday Iranian news site reported Mr. Kislyak told reporters that these talks, particularly about key nuclear issues, were "very useful." Russia has been supportive of Britain's, Germany's and France's position on using diplomacy to solve the issue of Iran's nuclear program, a position at odds with its ally the US. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a comment on the situation last week that "settlement of the Iran’s nuclear problem should be accomplished with political and diplomatic methods." …Israeli officials were also outraged when a group of Russian members of parliament (almost all representing 'nationalist' parties or organizations), called for a ban on all Jewish groups in Russia. Although the MPs later retracted their demand, Israel's Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said his country would take diplomatic actions against the MPs. "We will not let any organization or country live calmly with such facts," the minister said. Finally, the Daily Star of Lebanon argues that the whole "bruhaha" about Russian moves in the Middle East are little more than a tempest in a teapot. "In reality," the paper writes, "Assad's call for greater Russian involvement in the Middle East peace process is the last thing Premier Putin wants to hear, and as such is likely to fall on deaf ears."