Monday, November 10, 2008

Weekend ponderings

News from the weekend worth highlighting:

Amnesty bemused by Australia's double standard on death penalty

Amnesty International has warned that the Australian Government's silence on the executions of the three Bali bombers will put Australians on death row abroad at risk.

Australia regularly intervenes in foreign cases to save its citizens from death row in South East Asian countries where capital punishment is accepted. Three Australians are currently on death row in Indonesia for drug smuggling, the country which carried out the executions of the Bali bombers on the weekend.

I have always considered capital punishment to be an abhorrent form of justice. Capital punishment is an admission of failure by state and society. It gives credence to the argument that humans are inherently evil and incapable of rehabilitation and redemption. Ignorance led the three Bali bombers to commit an atrocious massacre. Ignorance breeds hate, but it is a symptom of a failed society.

The three Islamists, Amrozi, Mukhlas and Imam Samudra, go to their graves proud and honoured of their committed crime. They leave this life unaware of the severity of their crime, unaware that it was wrong. Indonesia, Australia and the entire world would have achieved much more if they were able to show these three men, through education and rehabilitation, that their actions were completely immoral and inhumane. Such an achievement would have been a significant victory against terrorism.

The death penalty invokes revenge, not justice.

Terrorists are not incapable of redemption. To admit that, as has been done by these executions, is a sad reflection on humanity.

Australia votes against Israel at UN

Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has risked an angry backlash from the country's pro-Israel Jewish lobby after voting against Israel at the UN General Assembly.

Sydney Morning Herald:

'The move signals to the incoming Obama administration that the Rudd Government plans to take a different approach to the Howard government on the international stage.

In the weekend vote in New York, Australia supported a resolution calling on Israel to stop establishing settlements in the Palestinian territories and a resolution calling for the Geneva Conventions to apply in the Palestinian territories.

The resolutions on the Middle East peace process are held annually and the [previous] Howard government had backed both from 1996 to 2002 but in 2003 began to vote against or abstain. It was a move that aligned Australia with only the US, Israel, the US Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau and Micronesia and put the country at odds with Britain, Canada, New Zealand and France.

Australian officials told the UN the Government had changed its position because it supported a two-state resolution of the conflict to deliver a secure Israel living beside a viable Palestinian state and that Australia believed both sides should abide by their obligations under the Road Map for Peace.

Australia said it was concerned activity in the disputed settlements undermined confidence in the negotiations. It was among 161 countries that supported both resolutions, with two abstaining and six against.'

[Antoun] The move will not only increase pressure on Israel to co-operate on peace talks with the Arabs, but will push Obama to begin taking a tougher stance on the Jewish state.

Australia's decision to abandon the unpopular position at the United Nations leaves the US as the only Western nation to back Israel in the UN vote.

Israel is losing friends in its stubborn fight to retain Apartheid policies in Palestine. Israel's hawkish policies have gone hand-in-hand with the deeply despised Bush administration. If Israel wishes to escape the negativity and resentment surrounding Bush's Middle Eastern policies, it must start co-operating on peace. Regardless of the might of AIPAC and other pro-Israel lobbies in Western capitals, I doubt that Western public opinion will stomach another 20 or 50 years of Middle Eastern conflict.

As it stands, the world views Israel as the obstacle to peace in the Middle East. The longer Israel remains stubbornly opposed to a fair peace - that includes a Palestinian state with either a shared or divided Jersualem, economic integration, removal of settlements on the West Bank, the right for Palestinian refugees to return, and the free movement of Israelis and Palestinians within the Holy Land - the more friends it will lose.

AIPAC is simply holding back the impatience felt in world capitals towards Israel's policies. It can't hold it back forever.

However, Kevin Rudd didn't go the full mile as Australia continued to back Israel on six other UN resolutions, including one criticising the Jewish state on Palestinian human rights.

Nevertheless, two votes are better than none.

Obama refuses to commit to controversial missile plan

The refusal came amid a public misunderstanding between the US president-elect and Polish president Lech Kaczynski.

Obama spokesman Denis McDonough stated:

"President Kaczynski raised missile defense but President-elect Obama made no commitment on it. His position is as it was throughout the campaign — that he supports deploying a missile-defense system when the technology is proved to be workable."

The Washington Times reports:

'Mr. Obama was skeptical of the missile shield during the campaign, saying it would require much more rigorous testing to ensure it would work and justify its cost.

Defense Department analysts say more interceptor testing is required, which could delay the program for years.'

[Antoun] Meanwhile, the Russian president is set to meet Obama in the coming days.

Any permanent delay of the missile plan will be welcomed by Western Europe, particularly France and Germany, which seek to soothe frosty relations with energy rich Russia.

Whether it will be a win for Russia is dependent on which direction Russia is heading in. Recent US belligerence towards Russia (Central Asia, Kosovo, missile system, Georgia, Ukraine) has given Moscow valid reason to respond with similar belligerence. It has validated Russia's energy bullying of Europe, and its invasion of Georgia, all the while boosting Putin's ratings at home as he portrays Russia as under siege by the evil Americans. Removing the Eastern European missile shield will perhaps remove Putin's incentive to retain a nationalistic, hardline stance.

The Poles and Czechs are deluding themselves if they believe a US missile system will protect them from Russia. To the contrary, it is only endangering them. Refusing the proposed shield and encouraging US-Russia and Europe-Russia co-operation will create an atmosphere of partnership, help include Russia (instead of excluding it) into the Western fold, and ultimately ensuring the security of Poland and Czech Republic.

But Obama needs to be delicate with this. Scrapping the missile system entirely will be seen, at home and abroad, as a victory for Moscow in face of a cowarding America, and will incite Russia to test the US even further. A 'long-term delay', however, might be the diplomatic escape Obama might use to unweave the US out of a horror policy, whilst keeping face.

Rebels committing war crimes in Congo says UN

From the Telegraph:

'The rebel forces of Laurent Nkunda, the renegade Tutsi general, went from house to house in the eastern town of Kiwanja, killing as many as 200 people, according to a Red Cross estimate. The UN counted 11 gravesites containing 26 people, but added that witnesses said there were many more.

Yesterday David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, said British forces would not be sent to boost peacekeeping efforts, a decision which is likely to anger aid agencies who cannot deliver food or medicine to tens of thousands of civilians who have fled a surge in fighting between the rebels and the national army.'

[Antoun] Time after time, Africa descends into the same spiral of bloodshed. Time after time, the world sits on the sidelines.

Britain has traditionally backed the Tutsis, while the Hutus have been favoured by the French.

In a previous article on this blog, I commented on the Rwandan report that implicated late French President Mitterand in the Rwandan Genocide of Tutsis. One of the main concerns, which led to France facilitating the genocide, was that the French feared the Tutsis would take Rwanda into the 'Anglophone sphere of Africa'.

So it comes as no surprise that Britain this weekend refused to send troops to Congo, as it will more and less involve combating the Tutsi rebel militia it backs, led by the notorious Laurent Nkunda.

Another case is Australia's increasing role in Africa, as an accomplice to mother Britain. In the Australian, British and New Zealand press, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has been a notable feature for some years now. It is true that he has destroyed Zimbabwe, committed atrocities, and ruined its economy. But that isn't the reason why he is so prominent in our media, for if news in Australia was truly based upon human rights, then our entire news bulletin would be covered with atrocities in Africa.

His defection from 'British Africa', his treason to the 'Anglophone sphere of Africa' is what has infuriated the British and Australians. Little do we hear of Paul Kagame, the Tutsi president of Rwanda, who has committed countless atrocities against Hutus in Rwanda and Congo, where his forces still play a leading role in the support of Nkunda's rebels. The French, however, are aware of this man, whom they tried to have pinned for human rights abuses in the Rwandan war.

It's funny how selective we are when it comes to Africa. When they don't serve our interests, we begin waving the human rights stick.

Of course, the support is never genuine. The French arm one side, the British arm the other, Africans kill each other with the promise of power, but the gold still ends up in Paris and London.

Anyone who thought the Western exploited Tutsi-Hutu conflict ended with the horrors of Rwanda in the 1990s were fooling themselves. The world powers will continue playing death chess with Africa until not a single ounce of its natural resources remains.

I wonder what difference an African American president in the White House will make to this never-ending exploitation of Africa.

Will Obama save the day for Africa? Will he restrain the British and French? Will he send troops to Congo? Will he equip the African Union and bolster it to take decisive action?

Will Britain be complicit in its current support for the Tutsi rebels in Congo, just as the French were publicly ashamed for their supportive role of Hutus in Rwanda?

Will Miliband and Brown stand trial alongside Nkunda at The Hague a decade from now when the French push the UN to launch a war crime tribunal for Congo?

Christians brawl at Jerusalem Holy Sepulchre

Armenian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox clergymen entered the ring (again) over the weekend during an annual ceremony at the traditional site of Jesus' crucifixion.

Such brawls happen regularly between the six various Christian sects who manage different quarters of Christian holy sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

The fighting stems from the belief by each church that they are the one and only true church on earth, and all others are false believers.

Whatever the reason, the constant bickering is becoming boring and repetitive. My proposal would be to evict all sects from the Christian holy sites, and place it under UN control until they begin to demonstrate some actual representation of Christianity. It appears all six sects have conveniently skipped the Biblical line "love thy neighbour".

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