Monday, February 27, 2006

Please, just ten more minutes?

Europe has told Serbia it has one more month before bedtime they must turn over Ratko Mladic or they risk talks to enter the European Union. The original deadline was set for tomorrow, but since it hadn't been met, they went ahead and gave them an extension. Why do I think Ratko will be summering on the Adriatic?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

And will you be offering troops?

Hilary Benn, Britain's International Development Secretary, has said that the U.N. should take over peacekeeping duties in Darfur. This is all very nice, but I don't hear anything about British troops to back up this effort. After three years, if the world is going to offer a serious effort and not just concerned talk, this is going to require real commitment, not just extra money.

I think perhaps Mr. Benn needs to climb into the magic change room and come out as a contigent of blue helmets (Bitter Lime will get that. For the rest of you: that's what Google is for!).

Sure he's a crazy bigot, but he had a point

With all the talk of capturing Ratko Mladic this week (see, this is why you read me, I'm cutting edge), I feel the need to point out that this isn't the first time we've pretended we couldn't find Serbian war criminals. Below is a copy of a letter Jesse Helms sent to Madeleine Albright back in 2000 when it was not just Mladic and Karadzic on the loose, but Milosevic too (the clock's ticking Radovan, in a few years, they'll be coming for you too!).

The Honorable Madeleine Albright Secretary of State U.S. Department of State Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Madam Secretary:

I am fascinated by the "wanted" poster that the Department of State is placing in public buildings in Bosnia, Serbia, and other parts of Europe. The poster states that up to $5,000,000 will be paid for information leading to the transfer to, or conviction by, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia of Slobodan Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic, or Ratko Mladic.

I have the information that you are looking for.

Mr. Milosevic and Mr. Mladic both are residing in Belgrade. Mr. Milosevic recently laid a wreath at the Grave of the Unknown Soldier on Mount Avala (to mark the first anniversary of the NATO bombing of Serbia). His address is: Presidential Palace, 15 Uzicka Street, Dedinje district, Belgrade.

Mr. Mladic is apparently unaware that he should be in hiding - he took a leisurely afternoon stroll down Knez Mihailova Street on Friday, March 24, waving at Belgraders as he walked along, and was spotted just this weekend at the Belgrade stadium taking in a soccer match.

Mr. Karadzic remains in the Pale area of Bosnia - living in the midst of thousands of NATO peacekeepers - where he has been seen regularly in public in recent months.

Reward payment should be made to Rev. Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse, a well-known and highly respected charitable organization in North Carolina. (Franklin is Billy Graham's son).

Kindest regards.


____________________ JESSE HELMS

cc: The Honorable Lawrence Summers U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Rewards for Justice Diplomatic Security Service U.S. Department of State

(You'll note the "cc" makes it particularly timely, everything old is new again.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Somebody (else) should do something!

Suddenly everyone cares about Darfur! And by cares about it, I mean are willing to pay it lip service. Not, you know, do anything about it. The U.S. has been pressuring the U.N. to take more action and encouraging increased NATO involvement. This all sounds very good, unless you listen close enough to understand that nobody is talking about a serious military commitment that could actually stop the genocide.

The French, predictably, have been urging caution in using NATO troops outside Europe. French Defense Minister Michelle Alliot-Marie said recently, "Let us make sure we do not spread ourselves too much in areas where the competence of other organizations is more obvious" (for those of you that don't speak French, that roughly translates as, "why should France care if black people are being murdered?"). Exactly which organization has obvious competence in this situation -- in which the world's incompentence is second only to its lack of concern -- I am not sure. As tempting as it is to point fingers at France, none of NATO's other member states (including Canada) seem desperate to help either.

I applaud the Americans for using their presidency of the Security Council to bring attention to the situation in Darfur. But it is too little too late. NATO providing increased support to the African Union is not going to help Darfur. This conversation should have occurred three years ago, before tens of thousands of people were killed and millions left homeless. If we are not going to act seriously, there is no point in spending any more money supporting African Union forces that don't have the power to improve the situation.

Mladic Still Free (and probably in Belgrade... check the pub)

Despite rumours in the Serbian press yesterday, everyone's favourite genocidaire is still on the loose.

“The news about Ratko Mladic is not correct,” Srdjan Djuric, the government spokesman in Belgrade, said. “This is a manipulation that undermines the Serbian Government’s efforts to complete co-operation with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.”
It would seem to me that their failure to capture Mladic is what undermines their co-operation with the war crimes tribunal, rather than rumours that they have. I don't buy claims that this is somehow going to hurt their efforts to catch him, because I don't believe that they're really trying very hard.

Serbia has been warned by Europe that if they don't arrest him by next week, negotiations for Serbia to enter the EU could be at risk. A threat from Europe... I'm willing to bet that Mladic will still be free next week. But I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Why are you eating at McDonald's?!

Yet another lawsuit against McDonald's because they failed to disclose the ingredients of their fries. It seems that they contain wheat and dairy. For the people with strange food allergies, I guess all I can really say is that if your allergies are so severe that traces of wheat products make you sick, maybe you should just avoid fast food.

But my real problem is with the vegan who is suing. Why are vegans eating at McDonald's? I haven't eaten there in a decade, and I don't even claim an ethical basis for my vegetarianism (really I just find eating flesh to be kinda creepy and backwards). If you are “opposed to eating any meat, fish or dairy products or by-products” then McDonald's is probably not the place for you. First of all, why would you be supporting a corporation that makes billions from the slaughter of animals? Secondly, can you really trust that in a place where food is being prepared so quickly by high school students/dropouts, that your vegan treat hasn't come into contact with meat? But more than anything, given that there have been so many stories in the past about McDonald's fries turning out to contain meat by-products, why would you trust them in the first place?

Can you also be imprisoned for saying 2+2=5?

David Irving has been sentenced to three years in jail in Austria for denying the holocaust while he was there in 1989. Beside Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who does this help? It is true that the only people who deny the holocaust are antisemites, but treating this historical event differently than any other event just fuels their fire. The state prosecuter claims that Irving has been treated as a martyr by right-wing extremist groups. Well, maybe if the state dismissed him as the nutcase that he is, then these people wouldn't have any grounds on which to do this.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Suicide in Rwanda

I'm not quite sure how to respond to this article today's Washington Post that talks about suicides among people accused of commiting acts of genocide in Rwanda. For those who are falsely accused and cannot live with community pressure, this is a real tragedy. But if one is to suppose that otherwise normal people were caught up in a genocidal frenzy that caused them to act in ways that were contrary to the person that they really are, how can they not feel driven to kill themselves? How does a person live with the knowledge that they hacked a person to death?

Human justice will never be sufficient to punish the crimes of 1994. Just as it was not sufficient to punish the Nazis. When an entire society goes mad, we really don't have the means to cope with it. In Rwanda, where many of the guilty have still not come to trial, and perpetrators and victims see each other every day, the genocide remains an open wound. I sympathize deeply with those who feel that they are being denied justice because the person who raped them, or murdered their family members kills themself; but the implication that these people killing themselves is making things worse suggests that there is a good way to cope with it.

Rwandans deserve a full reckoning of what occured over those hundred days, but nothing is ever going to fix what happened. Perhaps it is wrong to take your own life no matter what you are guilty of, but there is part of me that can't help but think it is the most rational response.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Get a job Tony!

Among the many names put forward as possible contenders for Liberal leadership in today's Globe and Mail is none other than my favourite ex-MP Tony Ianno. Apparently he has been "burning up the caucus phone lines" in an effort to get himself in the running.

Okay Tony, this is just sad. It's time to get yourself a real job. You got to play MP for 13 years, but now it's time to get out there in the world. It's not going to be easy for you, there's not a huge job market for people whose only experience is Minister of State for Families and Caregivers (with the portfolio for puppy dogs), but everyone has to grow up eventually..... I hear Starbucks is hiring.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

You're never going to believe this

But the Sudanese government still doesn't want U.N. forces in Darfur. I'm starting to think maybe they don't have the best interests of their citizens at heart.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Slow and steady wins the race.... or allows the genocidaires to get on with their business.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a motion to send U.N. troops into Darfur yesterday. Of course, at this point in time the Sudanese government has not yet agreed to the presence of non-African forces, so we will have to wait and see whether this will come to anything. As much as I would like to think that this will lead the way for a robust peacekeeping force in Darfur, I tend to doubt anything that so easily gains the support of Sudan's best-buddy China. Even if everything falls into place, it will likely be a year before U.N. troops would arrive.

Meanwhile this week, an entire town of 55,000 people fled a Janjaweed attack. But you can't rush the U.N. they need to take the time to calmly consider their next step. Remember Kofi's advice to the U.N. just before the Rwandan genocide: the international community shouldn't act rashly, you never know what the consequences will be. Is three years really enough time to decide how to respond?

Closer to home

A Toronto grocer is boycotting Danish goods to show solidarity with people who burn embassies and threaten to slit people's throats. We live in a free society and that is his right. I will assume he also boycotts Saudi products due to their lack of protection for rights of religious minorities. After all, he is a man of principle.

Now Do You See Why You Are Wrong Denmark?

A Jordanian editor, who was fired after publishing three of the cartoons depicting Muhammad, has been arrested. The cartoons ran beside commentary suggesting that Islamist terrorism is likely the cause of more anti-Islamic sentiment than a few pictures. See, if Denmark had only taken this path, all of the violence could have been avoided.

In an effort to show that the cartoonists were wrong and spread the message that Islam is a peaceful and loving religion, Syrians have set fire to the Danish and Norwegian embassies.

And Iran has said that they are considering abandoing trade deals with any country in which the cartoons have been published. Perhaps Iran has just decided to go the route of pre-emptively sanctioning itself, before the rest of the world gets around to it.

Meanwhile, the cartoonists who drew the cartoons have gone into hiding (link via Damian Penny). I can't for the life of me think why.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

U.N. To Act in Darfur?

I'll believe it when I see it.

Did they also lend him an invisibility cloak?

An investigation has found that retired members of the Serbian military helped to hide Ratko Mladic. I know what you're thinking, I was shocked too.

Can somebody please tell me why none of these articles ever mention that he has been out in public since he went into 'hiding'? I bore myself with how often I repeat it. But seriously, he's not very good at hiding. Nor does he need to be, it seems.

Some days, I feel like catching a flight to Belgrade and finding him myself. I don't speak the language or have particular genocidaire-catching skills. But I feel pretty confident that his whereabouts are an open enough secret that the tiniest bit of effort would find him before the week was out.

Denmark, listen up! The Saudis have some suggestions for you.

An editorial in today's Arab News calls the apology published in Jyllands-Posten 'disingenuous' and offers a solution to Denmark's problems of free speech: "if it does go against the law, the answer is simple: Change the law". And if you're allowing women to walk around like sluts, showing off their ankles in public, then change that law too! The editorial goes on to argue that Denmark should restrict free speech when it comes to issues of religion, similar to the legislation that was proposed in Britain. But of course, the restrictive anti-speech bill that they are speaking about was defeated in British parliament yesterday, when the government failed to gather the votes to overturn amendments made by the House of Lords. The defeat of the bill means that you will actually have to be found to be inciting violence, not just hurting religous people's feelings, in order to be charged.

Meanwhile, newspapers across Europe have been reprinting the cartoon images of Muhammad originally published in Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. I gotta say, I expected them all to start pandering to the anti-free speech crowd. Good on ya Europe! (I just typed those words and the sky didn't fall. Who knew?!) Turns out that those of us who don't live in theocracies kind of value our freedoms after all.

Arab governments and their apologists have managed to find plenty of rage for a few pictures that they deem offensive, but seem to be unable to find any anger at all for the Sudanese government that is busy slaughtering Muslims in Darfur. You know how I hate to judge, but maybe they need to learn how to prioritize.