Submissions

a peace proposal for Israel/Palestine

Hello all! Hope all is well!

Here is a submission by a reader: a suggestion for a peace proposal for Israel and Palestine. Please check it out and be sure to leave your feedback in the commentary or find them on http://apeaceproposal.wordpress.com.

Thanks for the submission reader.

Peace!

Rebecca

This is draft peace plan for Israel and Palestine. The peace plan can work in practice, now or in the future, but implementation is a challenge. The proposal can be improved but the main points must remain. Details should be left to the two parties and to the international community; to work out suitable arrangements.

All well-meaning suggestions, questions and comments are welcome at apeaceproposal@mail.com

 

 

  • Two states

There will be two independent states. The 1967 borders will be basis for the final agreement but territory swaps will be possible. Eastern Jerusalem will have special, exterritorial status under international rule for five years; if the peace holds it will become part of Palestine. The rest of the city will be in Israel.

The two states should recognise each other and eventually establish full diplomatic relations. Palestine will recognise Israel as the Jewish state.

 

 

  • International presence in Palestine

There will be large-scale international presence in Palestine; military, police and civilians. It will be indefinite until further arrangement. The international presence will provide security for Israel and Palestine and help Palestinians reconstruct and develop their country.

The bulk of the international personnel should be from the majority-Muslim countries that enjoy diplomatic relations with Israel (at the moment the role of Turkey is unlikely but in future it could be important). Other troops should be led by the UN.

There will be a ‘special representative’ in Palestine, appointed by the UN Security Council and approved by Palestine and Israel. This person will be in charge of the international mission. The special representative will be a good negotiator, respected by the two sides and someone who favours compromise. The special representative will coordinate international presence with the Palestinian government and will also be regularly in contact with the Israeli government; in a manner which will be agreed with the Palestinian government.

 

 

  • Courts

As part of the international presence, foreign judges will operate in Palestinian courts in cooperation with their Palestinian colleagues; in order to help, or oversee and train.

 

 

  • Policing

There will be mixed police patrols, Palestinian and international, operating in Palestine, including Eastern Jerusalem. The international police will have the same rights as the local force. The mixed patrols will do regular policing and, in addition, focus their efforts on preventing rocket attacks on Israel.

 

 

  • Refugees

Refugees will to an extent be able to chose where they want to live, as envisaged by the Geneva Accord of 2003.

 

 

  • The settlers

The settlers in Palestine will be allowed to stay. They will enjoy special status for three years and will be allowed to carry light weapons for protection. During this period they will be looked after by international troops.

The settlers will be entitled to a dual citizenship or permanent residence in Palestine, according to their preference. After three years, they will be able to decide where they want to live.

 

 

  • The sea blockade

The international military and civilian structures will be in charge of Palestinian territorial waters. The sea blockade will be lifted when Israel is safe; to be decided in agreement with Israel.

 

 

  • Link between West Bank and Gaza strip

The Palestinians will have a road link between West Bank and Gaza Strip. The two sides will work out mutually convenient arrangement.

 

  • New constitution in Palestine

The Palestinian politicians and people will decide what sort of constitution they want but it is vital that Palestine is a democratic country, where all minorities will enjoy full rights and representation. Foreign legal experts will offer any help.

 

 

  • EU membership / special partnership

If the two countries are at peace with each other for at least ten years and if they want to, the EU will offer them full membership status or special partnership. Citizens of Israel and Palestine will be able to live and work in the EU and vice versa. If violence returns, the scheme will end; the EU will decide when.

This peace proposal is a beginning; long-term it is up to the two states to work out mutually convenient arrangements. .

 

 

  • Referendum

There should be a referendum in Israel and Palestine where the people will decide whether to approve the deal.

 

 

In addition, the leaders of the two countries should be in permanent contact.

 

 

The international community must treat the Israel/Palestine crisis as an absolute priority.

Arms deals in Africa

Hello, hope all is well!

The wonderful Peter Dorrie has written this thoughtful guest post on the new SIPRI report on arms deals in Sub-Saharan Africa. Please be sure to check out Peter’s work at:

blog/homepage: www.peter-doerrie.de
twitter: @peterdoerrie
Thanks Peter!
Rebecca

 

SIPRI just published a new report on arms deals and weapons flows in sub-saharan Africa (SSA). The report offers little news for those who are familiar with the weapons market in SSA, but this actually makes it only more important. I don’t want to summarize the whole report here (it has a good two page summary included), but discuss some issues in more detail that I think are crucial to the arms transfers debate in Africa.

Transparency of arms transfers

This is a main point of the report and with good reason. The SIPRI is considered the best source on arms transfers and deals which is accessible to the public, but even they can only estimate the amount and types of weapons which flow into SSA each year. The reason for this is simple: neither the delivering countries, nor the recipients have a great interest in making their transfers public.

While the report stresses that some arms transfers are legitimate and actually have the potential to improve the security situation, I think it is safe to say that most arms flows in SSA are ambiguous at best and outright dangerous at worst. The report confirms that it is common for African countries to meddle in each others affairs by delivering arms to the government or rebel groups. Western and Eastern nations frequently use preferential arms deals as a means to gain political favors. And while the total value of the African arms market is little (only 1.5% of the global market), it remains a lucrative business to deliver arms to those places where they are actually used: the 20 or so African states that experienced conflict over the last five years.

The lack of information about arms transfers is also contributing to a lack of knowledge on how exactly fresh arms influence security in volatile regions. This makes targeted political actions close to impossible, if one tries to influence conflicts through providing or limiting arms supply. So from a policy perspective, the most important step would be to have the principle exporters (China, Russia and Ukraine) and ideally the African states sign up to a weapons transfer database. But as even the EU has difficulties providing timely data on arms deals, I have little hope that we will see progress in this quarter soon.

Effectiveness of arms control regimes

Sometimes, the UN security council actually gets its act together and issues an arms embargo against a state or individuals. This is great in theory, but these embargoes (and other arms control regimes) are often beset with so many problems, that one has to ask oneself if they are worth the paper they are written on.

Take the arms embargo against the region of Darfur for example. The SIPRI report details that it had little practical effect, as the government in Khartoum was still allowed to receive arms transfers as long as it guaranteed the sender that these arms would not be used in Darfur. I imagine this looks something like this:

Chinese/Russian/Ukrainian arms dealer: Thanks very much for your order Mr. Bashir. We will be happy to provide you with the AK-74s/MIG bombers/tanks you requested. Just one last formality; We will need some form of guarantee that you won’t be using these weapons in Darfur.

Mr. Bashir: Oh no problem. I’ll give you my word that we will only use these shiny new killing machines when parading around in our baracks and in case Egypt tries to invade us!

Arms dealer: Great! That’s settled then.

The deadliest of all good-will gifts

While a huge motivation for arms transfers is still monetary gain, the SIPRI report also points out to the frequent practice of using preferential arms deals as political gifts. This is common for the main arms exporters (think China’s interest in Sudanese oil) as well as for African states (who frequently support one party of a conflict for ideological/political reasons).

Western powers are not above using arms as a political tool as well. This is showcased by the recent support of the (former) rebels in Libya (though not SSA), as well as by the acceptance of western allies Ethiopia and Kenya arming militias in Somalia in their fight against islamists.

This aspect is probably one of the most worrying issues. The current situation in Syria shows that political patronage (in this case by Russia) can have disastrous effects on the possibility to resolve conflicts. African countries are no strangers to political maneuvering by foreign powers and African elites have repeatedly shown that staying in power through the use of guns is an option they will gladly consider, if it is made available to them.

Conclusion

Especially when it comes to small arms and light weapons (SALW, like AK-74s), decades-old thinking needs to be revised. We finally need a political push – probably on UN level – for a comprehensive treaty on transparency in arms transfers. This would be the first step towards more effective arms control regimes, which could reign in the use of weapons as political gifts.

For this to succeed, western nations would have to push this topic onto the international agenda. It remains to be seen if the recent experiences of the Arab Spring (where western sourced weapons were used to fire on peaceful demonstrators) provide sufficient reason for policy makers to rethink stance on arms exports. Only if the West manages to agree on ethical standarts and tight control of their arms exports, getting others to sign up to such rules will be realistic. For Africa, it would be a good development.

For those of you who want to dive deeper into the details of arms deals in Africa, you can find the main report here and various other reports, detailing the role of South Africa, Ukraine, Israel, Somalia and Zimbabwe here. If you can read German, you can find an interesting article on the German weapons company Heckler&Koch and its shady business here.

PTSD and reporting on violence.

Hello all! Hope all is well!

I came across this post and was moved by it, so I thought since I’m not up to writing just yet, I’d share it with you! If you haven’t already checked out this blog, I suggest you bookmark it, because it’s top-notch! Thanks for letting me re-post it Amanda.

Peace!

Rebecca

Originally posted at http://wrongingrights.blogspot.com/2011/07/on-mac-mcclellands-tale-of-reporting.html

 

On Mac McClelland’s Tale of Reporting, Rough Sex, and PTSD

(Posts on Hamdan and DSK will hopefully be coming soon, but first I’m going to discuss what turned out to be the favored write-in candidate for my next post: many of you emailed me asking for my reaction to reporter Mac McClelland’s article about her own struggle with PTSD.)

McClelland, who writes about human rights and foreign affairs for Mother Jones, developed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after a series of difficult reporting assignments in Haiti, during which she interviewed rape victims and was also herself the object of predatory sexual behavior. She has written a number of pieces about her healing process, including several that chronicled the self-defense classes she took at the behest of her editor. And then, a little over a week ago, she wrote an article for GOOD magazine in which she chronicled her PTSD in more detail, and described how having violent-but-consensual sex with someone she trusted helped her to overcome her trauma:

“And just like that, I’d lost. It’s what I was looking for, of course. But my body—my hard-fighting, adrenaline-drenched body—reacted by exploding into terrible panic. The comforting but debilitating blanket of tension that’d for weeks been wrapped around my chest solidified into a brick. Then the weight of his body, and of the inevitability of my defeat, descended on my ribcage. My worn-out muscles went so taut that they ached. I stopped breathing.

I did not enjoy it in the way a person getting screwed normally would. But as it became clear that I could endure it, I started to take deeper breaths. And my mind stayed there, stayed present even when it became painful, even when he suddenly smothered me with a pillow, not to asphyxiate me but so that he didn’t break my jaw when he drew his elbow back and slammed his fist into my face. Two, three, four times. My body felt devastated but relieved; I’d lost, but survived. After he climbed off me, he gathered me up in his arms. I broke into a thousand pieces on his chest, sobbing so hard that my ribs felt like they were coming loose.”

Her essay has been greeted with derision, vitriol, and worse – especially from her fellow journalists. Marjorie Valbrun, writing for Slate’s XX factor blog, called it “offensive,” “shockingly narcissistic,” and “intellectually dishonest.” Reporter Damian Cave tweeted that she was a “geisha to the NGO republic.” And 36 female reporters and Haiti researchers signed an open letter to GOOD, claiming that “the way she uses Haiti as a backdrop for this narrative is sensationalist and irresponsible,” and that

“[McClelland] paints Haiti as a heart-of-darkness dystopia, which serves only to highlight her own personal bravery for having gone there in the first place. She makes use of stereotypes about Haiti that would be better left in an earlier century: the savage men consumed by their own lust, the omnipresent violence and chaos, the danger encoded in a black republic’s DNA.”

The various critiques fall into three rough categories:

  1. PTSD isn’t real, it’s just San Francisco therapy-speak for “having a bad day,” so McClelland must have been a self-obsessed narcissist to write about it as if it’s something to be taken seriously;
  2. PTSD is real, but McClelland either had no right to develop it or was faking it, because reporting about other people’s trauma doesn’t seem like it should be that hard; or
  3. McClelland was allowed to get PTSD, but isn’t allowed to write about it being triggered by reporting from Haiti, because that might give people the impression that bad things can happen in Haiti, and that is clearly racist and colonialist.

I find these reactions confusing. The piece in question is a personal essay about her own struggle with PTSD. It wasn’t reportage on Haiti, or anything else for that matter. So why all the snarls and slashing claws?

In the interest of lighting candles instead of cursing darkness and all that, I figure I’ll address each of the arguments in turn.

PTSD = Not Really That Real?

In fairness, none of the responses I read came right out and specifically said that they think PTSD is fake. However, I have to believe that many of them think that. Because why else would they call McClelland “narcissistic” for developing it? I assume that when they hear that a person has caught malaria, their response isn’t “That self-obsessed bitch! Doesn’t she know that other people have been bitten by way more mosquitoes, and never had a problem?”

Flashbacks and vivid nightmares might be less obvious than 104-degree fevers, but that doesn’t mean they’re made up. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – it’s totes real, y’all! Not a fake thing that people like to claim they have, just because the stigma of mental illness is so super fun!

Perhaps the easiest way to conceptualize PTSD, if you’ve never experienced or encountered it yourself, is as an emotional allergic reaction. With physical allergies, your immune system becomes over sensitized to a physical substance, and will react so strongly when it encounters, say, a peanut, that the result can be serious injury or even death. PTSD can be thought of as the emotional version of that: the body’s emotional system won’t stop fighting, even when it’s no longer necessary. It’s a severe, involuntary over-reaction of of the brain’s normal responses to trauma, and the results can be devastating – the mental equivalent of anaphylactic shock.

The behavior that results from this “mental allergic reaction” can be bizarre and disturbing. One of the first clients I ever worked with was a middle-aged man who was seeking asylum, who also had a severe case of PTSD. As a result, he would do almost anything to avoid discussing his trauma. Because I needed to know what had happened to him in order to file the claim, this was a big problem for our working relationship. He lied to me repeatedly, and often became explosively angry at seemingly random moments. Working on the case made him crushingly fatigued, no matter how much coffee he drank. On one memorable occasion, he fell asleep while talking to me – literally dozed off in the middle of his own sentence.

Another time, I was interviewing a woman about sexual assaults she had suffered as an adult, and she began to impersonate her six-year-old self, who couldn’t be questioned about the assaults because they didn’t happen until she grew up. I’ve had other clients who were initially too traumatized to tell me what happened to them at all, forcing me to suspend work on their cases until after they received treatment from a therapist. It bears repeating that these were asylum cases – winning them was potentially life-saving, so these people had every incentive to cooperate, but their PTSD was so severe that they literally couldn’t.

The thing to draw from these stories, (other than “become an asylum lawyer! Meet vulnerable people, and make them re-live their past traumas for fun and profit!”) is that the symptoms of PTSD can, in many cases, be almost indistinguishable from the symptoms of being an asshole. But there’s a key difference: assholes act that way because they don’t think you deserve respect, while PTSD sufferers act that way because their brains mistakenly think that something is trying to kill them. I don’t know about you, but I think that a person engaged in the activity of “trying not to die” deserves to be cut a bit more slack than a person engaged in the activity of “trying to annoy you.”

Yeah, But McClelland Didn’t Go Through Anything That Bad, Did She? She Must Be Faking, Right?

Nor do I have much sympathy for all the be-internetted mutterings about how ridiculous it was for McClelland to claim PTSD after “only” interviewing a rape victim and not being actually raped herself, or after “only” one trip to Haiti, or “only” whatever else.

For one thing, that’s an unnecessarily restrictive reading of her story, which mentions a number of traumatic situations, including: two trips to Haiti, during which she reported on a brutal sexual assault and mutilation; being the object of sexually predatory behavior by her driver in Haiti, who “cornered her,” an “upstanding member of the Haitian elite,” who stalked her, and a group of convicted ex-felons in Oklahoma who “got handsy” and suggested that she’d be “pretty fun to pass around for lively intercourse;” and the difficulty of reporting on the Deepwater Horizon spill in New Orleans a few months earlier, which had brought back memories of living in that city during Katrina. That doesn’t sound like “only” anything to me.

But even if it were really true McClelland was traumatized by her reporting on the story of Haitian rape victim “Sybille,” that wouldn’t matter. Because not only is PTSD totes real (see above), it also isn’t something that people can control. It’s not like you get to say “sure, this seems bad, but far worse things are happening to other people elsewhere, so I think I will actually not develop PTSD today.”

Again, that’s a courtesy that we extend automatically to people who suffer physical injuries or diseases. If someone loses a leg in a car accident, we don’t dismiss their pain on the grounds that other people lose their legs fighting in wars.

Although I have never had PTSD myself, my personal experience is still enough for me to know that you never know which events are going to leave you traumatized. In my case, my closest actual brush with death – getting run over by a car at age 17 – left me physically bashed up, but emotionally fine. But sometimes exposure to other people’s trauma, through some of the cases I’ve worked on, has on occasion left me a jangly-nerved wreck. For me, those symptoms have tended to manifest in the form of hackneyed-metaphor nightmares (example: I’m in a school that’s bright and sunny, but then I go downstairs and the basement is full of mangled corpses – I get it, subconscious, I get it), and a complete inability to watch torture scenes in movies. Casino Royale left me shaking in my seat, holding my head between my knees and trying not to pass out or throw up.

Luckily, for me, such problems always went away quickly, on their own. I’ve never needed to go to a trauma therapist, or to have someone punch me in the face during sex. But that’s just good luck. It wasn’t strong moral fiber on my part, any more than it was weakness for me to be affected by my clients’ stories in the first place. Just as it wasn’t any more impressive for me not to develop PTSD after getting hit by a car while walking to class one sunny morning than it was for me not to develop an allergy to peanuts. Just as it wasn’t weakness for McClelland to develop PTSD, or to get over it the way that she did. (As treatment plans go, “have the violent sex you crave with a person you can trust” is quite niche, but I’m glad it worked for her.)

And I’m glad that she wrote about it, partly because her prose is vivid and engaging, but partly because I think there is value in embracing the weirdness that mental illness causes, and the weirdness that can be encountered when overcoming it.

There is also value in writing an article that tells other people that healing is possible, but that the road might be peculiar. I couldn’t put it better than commenter Goodspices, who left this comment on Mac’s article:

“Reading this article is an awakening that the feelings I’ve experienced as a victim of PTSD aren’t wrong, happen to others, and most importantly, can be worked through with help. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for everyone but if it worked together for the good, why should we feel the need for judging her?”

If that’s not a good reason for her to have written and published this article, I don’t know what is.

McClelland Shouldn’t Have Written That Her Trip To Haiti Triggered Her PTSD, Because That Is Clearly Racist And Colonialist

I almost feel like I shouldn’t even address this argument, because I think it is so stupid. Those of you who read this blog know that I have basically zero tolerance for the “land of rape and lions” brand of reporting on developing countries, so I feel pretty comfortable with my ability to tell the difference between that, and a personal essay that includes relevant facts. McClelland’s piece is the latter: she was writing about her own experience of Haiti, and that experience included interviewing rape victims, being stalked and harassed by men who felt entitled to have sex with her, and observing an awful lot of guns. I struggle to see how having those experiences, or writing about them, constitutes racism.

When it comes to the Gang of 36’s arguments, I find myself in agreement with Conor Friedersdorf:

This is what a hit piece reads like when it’s cloaked in liberal arts school vernacular. If you scoffed when Pres. Obama was smeared as having a Kenyan anti-colonial mindset, witness the other side’s answer to Dinesh D’Souza: in their telling, we’re to understand the writer by presuming that she has a colonial mindset. How dare someone travel to refugee camps plagued by an epidemic of gang rape, get cornered by her driver, develop PTSD, and focus an essay about her ailment on “ugly chaos”?

Their tactics are especially galling because McClelland never mentions race in her piece, but that doesn’t stop the signatories from using loaded terms to imply that she is racially unenlightened (a “heart of darkness” dystopia with “savage” men). It’s easy to make a writer look bad when you impute to her ugly sentiments she never actually expresses.

And Una Moore:

That 36 well-respected women working as journalists, aid workers and researchers deemed it necessary to endorse a letter that shames a reporter grappling with PTSD for things she did not even write is evidence of just how widespread support for self-censorship is among a network that, were it to live up to its ideals, would encourage bold self-expression, but instead mobilizes to stamp it out and sow fear of independent thought.

To sum up:

  • I liked the article;
  • PTSD = totally a thing; and
  • People should stop being such jerks about it.

More Canadian involvement in conflict minerals: Violent Attack on Peaceful Protesters Near the Marlin Mine

Hello all! Hope all is well!

My friend Rachel (who authors the fabulous blog under-mining Guatemala about mining abuses within the country) just posted the following blog post, which I had to share with you. Check out her fabulous blog if you get a chance.

Peace!

Rebecca


I received the following letter from Rights Action today concerning an attack on peaceful campesinos protesting the lack of compliance with a May 2010 order from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to suspend Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine, in Guatemala.

Below it, I have included 2 letters I drafted quickly in response. Feel free to copy-paste the first, and send it to Goldcorp (addresses included). Then forward it to the government and, if you like, include the second letter I include below.

URGENT CONCERN FOR SAFETY OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS OF SAN MIGUEL IXTAHUACÁN FOLLOWING PEACEFUL PROTESTS
We denounce the human rights violations and abuses committed today against peaceful protesters in San Miguel Ixtahuacán, Guatemala.  The protest, demanding compliance with precautionary measures ordered by the Interamerican Commission for Human Rights regarding the Marlin mine, took place without incident during the day.  In late afternoon, participants returning from the peaceful roadblocks were reportedly confronted and attacked by community development council (COCODE) members and mine workers in San José Ixcaniche.
According to participants in the protest, Miguel Angel Bámaca and Aniseto López were beaten and threatened with lynching; one bus including approximately 40 men and women have been illegally detained and some beaten in the community of San José Ixcaniche.  As this alert is being written, they remain detained.  We are deeply concerned that the lives of human rights defenders are at risk.
Contact has been established with the local Human Rights Procurator’s (PDH) office, the local Presidential Commission for Defense of Human Rights (COPREDEH) and police, as well as national and international organizations to report these acts.
We ask you to stay alert and be ready to respond when more information and action requests are available from local organizations supporting communities resisting unjust mining in Guatemala.
In solidarity,

Francois Guindon – pancho@nisgua.org – +502 4014 7804
The Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala, USA
Cynthia Benoist – collectifguatemala3@gmail.com Collectif Guatemala,
France Jackie McVicar – jmcvicar@gmail.com Breaking the Silence, Canada
Grahame Russell – info@rightsaction.org  – +502 4955 3634
Rights Action, Canada/USA

Here are two letters I drafted quickly in response. Feel free to copy-paste the first, and send it to Goldcorp (addresses included). Then forward it to the government and, if you like, include the second letter I include below.

Send to Goldcorp CEO: Chuck.Jeannes@goldcorp.com

CC: Kim.Keras@goldcorp.com,
Tim.Miller@montana.com.gt,
Dina.Aloi@goldcorp.com,
david.deisley@goldcorp.com,
Jeff.Wilhoit@goldcorp.com,
Directors@goldcorp.com,
jamess@montana.com.gt,
lisa.wade@montana.com.gt

Dear Mr. Jeannes,

I am very concerned with the events I’ve just heard of, that occurred today near the site of your Marlin Mine, in Guatemala.

I understand that an outbreak of violence occurred this afternoon against a group of primarily Mayan-Man campesinos, peacefully protesting the fact that neither your company nor the government of Guatemala has yet complied with a May 2010 order from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to suspend Goldcorp’s mining operation.

Miguel Angel Bámaca and Aniseto López were beaten and threatened with lynching; one bus including approximately 40 men and women have been illegally detained and some beaten in the community of San José Ixcaniche.  I am deeply concerned that the lives of these individuals who remain detained are at enormous risk.

Whether or not your mining operation is directly linked to this latest bout of violence, the indirect link is clear, and I await your response on how you are mitigating this violent situation. Further, I am joining the chorus of voices within Guatemala and international who are calling for a suspension of the Marlin Mine.

Forward the above letter to Leeann McKechnie, Canada’s ambassador to Guatemala, who can be reached at:

karin.reinecke@international.gc.ca,
jennifer.chacon@international.gc.ca,
gtmla@international.gc.ca

CC:

info@gg.ca,
DMousseau@gg.ca,
HarpeS@parl.gc.ca,
cannol@parl.gc.ca,
kent.p@parl.gc.ca,
ducepg@parl.gc.ca,
laytoj@parl.gc.ca,
emaytowin@greenparty.ca,
ignatm@parl.gc.ca,
RaeB@parl.gc.ca,
LalonF@parl.gc.ca,
DewarP@parl.gc.ca,
bagnell.l@parl.gc.ca,
days@parl.gc.ca,
julian.p@parl.gc.ca,
SorenK@parl.gc.ca,
Allison.D@parl.gc.ca,
Marketa.Evans@international.gc.ca

Dear Ambassador Leeann McKechnie,

Please find below the email I have sent to Goldcorp, expressing my concern over the violence a number of peaceful protesters near the Marlin Mine faced this afternoon. They were protesting the fact that neither the company nor the government of Guatemala has yet complied with a May 2010 order from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to suspend Goldcorp’s mining operation.

Immediately following their peaceful protest, Miguel Angel Bámaca and Aniseto López were beaten and threatened with lynching; and one bus including approximately 40 men and women was illegally detained in the community of San José Ixcaniche.  I am deeply concerned that the lives of these individuals who remain detained are at enormous risk.

In addition to my concern for these individuals’ personal safety, I am shocked and dismayed by the failure of your embassy, and of the Canadian government at large to urge this Canadian company to comply with the May 2010 order from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.

I await your response on how you are working to ensure the safety of these  peaceful campesinos. Further, I ask that you join the chorus of voices both within Guatemala and internationally who are calling for a suspension of the Marlin Mine.

Sincerely,

Women, Peace and Security

Hello all!

Reader Tim Symonds sent the following interesting information regarding women’s peace and security issues that I’d like to share with you! Thank you Tim for your contributions!

Peace!

Rebecca

A new post-conflict/peacebuilding Routledge publication

Of particular interest to students and researchers of peacebuilding for the second decade of UNSCR1325, particularly Gender/post-conflict studies, UN Agencies, International Donors, Foreign Offices, Parliamentarians, Departments of International Development/Stabilisation Units, Defence Departments, Humanitarian Agencies,  international security and International Relations specialists.

Women, Peace and Security: Translating Policy into Practice

Edited by  ‘Funmi Olonisakin, Director of Conflict, Security & Development Group, King’s College London, and Karen Barnes and Eka Ikpe

Case Studies include

Nepal and the implementation of UNSCR1325, by Lesley Abdela

Lost In Translation? UNAMSIL, UNSCR1325 and women building peace in Sierra Leone, by Karen Barnes

Nigeria and the implementation of UNSCR1325, by Eka Ikpe

At the start of the second decade of UNSCR1325, Women, Peace and Security draws together the findings from eight countries (Nepal, Kosovo, Liberia, Rwanda, Timor-Leste, Nigeria, Sudan, Sierra Leone) and four regional contexts (ECOWAS, European Union, African Union, SADC) to provide guidance on how the impact of this pioneering Resolution can be measured, and how peacekeeping operations could improve their capacity to engender security.

  • ISBN: 978-0-415-58797-6 (hbk)
  • Pages: 246 pages
  • first published 2011

Also, Tim sent this CARE report which discusses women’s meaningful participation in peacebuilding and governance.

CARE Report Nepal

Executive Summary

CARE Nepal has been working on 1325 with the poorest and most marginalised
women from the grassroots up. When poor, vulnerable and socially excluded
women are empowered and given the opportunity, they show themselves ready
and able to begin untangling the knots of politics, Gender- and Caste-based
prejudice to work out their own solutions. In Nepal an immense gap exists
between the Capital and the people who live in the rest of Nepal, especially
the millions outside the Kathmandu Valley. Hierarchies in various forms
prevent women’s meaningful participation, especially PVSE women. There are
parallel universes with the women mostly in one universe, the men in
another.

Save the arts, cut the war.

My friend, and fellow peacenik Richard Garvey has written this beautiful song of peace and I thought I would share it with my readers. I hope you will enjoy it! Please check out Richard’s work and support those who would work for peace instead of war.

 

Save the arts, cut the war

Written and performed by Richard Garvey

Save the arts, cut the war by Richard Garvey

CHILD RIGHTS PROTECTION AND THE DISCIPLINE DILEMMA

Submitted by Mshilla Hellen Mghoi

At the height of the deadly Lords Resistance Army (LRA) war with the government of Uganda, back in 2002, the little Peter (not his real name) had no one to turn to for food, shelter, or protection or even sympathy when he got hurt or injured or when he unintentionally made mistakes and got into trouble with angry strangers or adults who cared least of the protection of the right of the child.

Early in the morning as each child returned home to their parents and guardians, Peter was back in the wild world of abandoned children on the streets of Gulu Town to fend of his life.

‘He was an abandoned child with nowhere to call home. His early life was on the streets. He slept in the streets and accompanied night commuting children who shared him some food for survival. When others returned home in the morning, he remained in the streets of Gulu without any care from anyone…That’s how he lived. Now his home is here.’ explains Mama Lilly, his caregiver now at SOS Village Gulu.

A good Samaritan spotted the boy on the streets and took him to SOS Village some four years ago. At first, Mama Lilly explains, the boy’s behavior was extremely difficult to handle.

‘He fought very often, stole and even escaped from the home very every now and then often’  she adds.

But Peter is now totally changed. When this writer talked to him on Monday 11th May 2010 at his SOS village home in Gulu, he was beaming with boy.

‘I like playing basketball and cooking.’  He said.

Asked what he really likes at SOS Gulu his quick answer was ‘Fruits and food’.

In the real world where people went about their busy day to day schedules, not many if any adults would give Peter a fruit let alone a meal. The kind of behavior he had before would force people to beat him up and hate him, increasing the psycho social problem the boy already had.

It took the understanding and skill of the SOS Village Gulu  Director Charles Kiyimba to rescue the boy.

‘When we reviewed his case we realized that he could not survive in a normal family setting because his hyperactive character would result to being abused again and again. …We chose to keep the boy here and see how to assist him.’ He says.

Kiyimba believes that it is possible to discipline children with hyperactive behaviors like that Peter had earlier without necessarily violating their rights, like beating them up as most people would do.

” There are special institutions where such children can be assisted because they demand too much attention.’ He says.

He explains that usually such schools will hold about ten children per class to give enough time for the teacher to meet each child’s high demand of attention. This way it becomes very practical to bring up the children in a loving and caring manner without beating them up or using any form of violent discipline.

That is why a decision was made to take the young boy to a special institution away from SOS Village. Peter comes back to his ‘home’ SOS Village Gulu only during vacations.

Like many children would say, Peter  hates when people beat him up even when he is on the wrong. ‘ I feel very bad when I am beaten up’.

Nancy (not her real name)  has been in SOS Village Gulu since 2002  when she was in p2. She says talking to children who do wrong is better than beating them up. She remembers a time when she refused to mop the house.

‘I was so scared. I thought I was going to be beaten. I felt so nice when instead of being beaten my mother (child care giver) talked to me. From that time I mop the house happily’.|

Nancy likes housework such as cooking, and playing netball. She wants to be a nurse when she grows up. She hates when teachers cane students at school.

Her happiest moment is the day when she was brought to live at SOS village Gulu.

‘I was very happy because they gave me everything… she recalls.’

Nancy  and Peter  are among the close to 120 children who were under the care of SOS Village Gulu when this writer visited them.  They were only lucky. In Gulu alone, a lot of children continue to be subjected to child abuse even after the end of the LRA war some four years ago.

Like in many indigenous cultures across the world cultural practices of the Acholi people embrace violent methods of enforcing child discipline both physical and emotional.  The degree to which the beating is done varies from one culture to another.  In some cases a child is beaten up, pinched and spanked even at the tender age of 0ne year. In such cultures, in the course of being taught manners, a child is beaten shy and ‘humble’ at the prime of their age.

Because of these deeply rooted cultural backgrounds the question of whether to beat up or not to beat up a child with behavioural problems or deny him/her some essential rights like food or shelter, freedom of movement and association or not, remains a very controversial.

Some of the caregivers I talked to agreed that much as it is a regulation not to beat children but rather use positive correction approaches to shape their character, it is difficult to bring up children without ‘a spank, a pinch or even a serious beating at one time or other during their lifetime’. Obeying the rule is one thing but the reality of their belief system stands clearly apart. Beating up a child to discipline them is kind of a given.

Many other people agree to this view. Culturally, sayings such as ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ are taken as lifetime rules to be adhered to religiously.

It is common to hear people make such comments as ‘ I am like this because my parents beat me to correct me’. This goes on beside the fact that more and more cases of child abuse  continue to be reported in the media.

Although there are some negative repercussions on the children who grow under institutional child care, what happy children like Nancy and Peter would have gone through outside these institutions of Child care is obviously a harsh environment. While such institutions strive to uphold protection of the rights of the child the society out there continuously resists them.

In  many schools corporal punishment has been taken as the means to yield high grades come end of year exams. In an open day at one of the leading schools in Central Uganda, parents were informed that ‘here we beat children who break the rules. If you do not want your child to be beaten, please take the child elsewhere’.

As the message was driven across, many parents at the meeting clapped and applauded.

Thirteen year old Caroline (not her real name) was a leading student in her primary school and landed in that school. But her first week was the most miserable. A teacher, angry with some noise makers in her class went on the rampage beating up each of them seriously. Her right hand was injured and she bled profusely. Although she had to go to the clinic for treatment, beyond that nothing was done to hold the teacher accountable for his criminal action of infringing bodily harm to the innocent child.

‘I could not write with my right hand for the whole week. I feel so bad because I was not even making any noise but the teacher just beat all of us like that. In our school, beating is the norm.’ she adds.

Too often in such schools innocent children are subjected to crude methods of humiliating collective punishment. Some are ordered to lie on the floor face down and they are whipped many times until their buttocks swell.  Others are made to kneel with hands up under the scotching sun, while others are suspended or even expelled from school for mistakes done by one of them or for allegations that cannot be proven. As a result, to survive in such schools many children learn to be ‘smart’ in telling lies and doing a lot of wrong things in hiding including colluding to kill or harm their own leaders, teachers or even burn property and even the school.  Cases of schools going on strike and burning dormitories, laboratories and classes have been on the media for long.

UNICEF  defines violent disciplines as “… actions taken by a parent or caregiver that are intended to cause a child physical pain or emotional distress as a way to correct behavior and act as a deterrent . It can take psychological aggression and physical, or corporal punishment”.

Although UNICEF and government organs responsible for the rights of the child agree that violent  discipline on any child is an abuse of their right that is punishable by law, far and wide the rules remain on paper far and wide. On the other hand, not much is easily available to parents and caregivers outside institutions of child care that gives the alternative positive correction methods to raise children.

The rules and laws that  challenge bad cultural practices related to child care exist but the antedote to these are scarce if not unknown to the majority of the parents guardians and caregivers. In the case where the alternative methods are known, the environment to effectively put them in practice is not available. For example to give a child full attention needs ample time to each individual child but even in schools in Africa today like in Gulu it has long been the norm to have over 50 children per teacher in class at a time. In cases of war, some classes have hit a record of 130 pupils per teacher.

Perhaps this may be one of the reasons that data on the United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) website reveal that in a  recent study done in thirty Seven (37) countries across the world, eighty-six percent (86%) of children aged two (2) to four (4) years experience violent discipline. Of these, two(2) out of three (3) children are subject to physical punishment.

Far and wide parents, caregivers, and teachers are faced with the challenging demand to raise children into responsible adults without use of any form of violence, are faced with a dilemma as to whether to follow the international guidelines that forbid violent discipline or follow the common traditional and at times religious methods that embrace violent discipline.

Much as it can be extremely emotionally demanding on all who at some point in life must take care of children, there is a milestone that the human race must struggle and reach. This is to bring up children in a humane way devoid of abuse of their rights. By so doing there shall arise a generation of people that have a firm foundation of peace and will have no problem perpetuating the same.

The matter is especially importance given the many wars peace builders across the world must have to handle. But just how to ensure that this is done is understandably harsh to imagine at the moment. UNICEF and other Civil Society organizations doing child rights advocacy work are doing a lot to spread the message across about the protection of child rights. However on the ground are the challenges mentioned above. Admittedly even many of those working for the rights of child will ultimately abuse the right of a child somewhere in life.

The fact is child abusers cut across all carriers and disciplines. Something urgently needs to be done to change the mindset of the society to an extent that they accept and internalize and put into practice these rights.

One approach is to introduce in schools examinable non violent social practices including positive methods of instilling discipline among both students and teachers. These practices would be rewarded in a manner that makes the students want to be part of the winners, while their teachers and schools are also honored for the same. This could also be extended at a later stage to a greater collection of schools for example by district or by region.

Even as we wait for this or any other approach to be adopted, the question of just who is to blame for the violence among adults across the globe is prime?  If cultures and religions alike encourage violence for corrective purposes upto today, how much more of violence and wars do we have ahead of the future?

The fact is that human beings  tend to condone violent approaches to conflict at one point in  life because almost each one of them was treated violently when he/she played into some conflict or the other, however minimal, during his/her upbringing. But who just is ready to take up the burden of eliminating child abuse once and for all or how long it shall take to achieve this important goal remains the big puzzle every responsible citizen of the world faces?

Whereas the answers to these questions may not be concrete, the seriousness of the problem of abuse of child rights, especially in today’s society where even lawmakers go to parliament to defend corporal punishment in schools, remains an issue that should take the lead in all forums of decision making right from the village grassroots to the international arena. It is a matter of urgency.

Just how urgently and effectively this matter is addressed is a strong determinant factor to the success of the peace in the world for future generations.

Our Christmas Vacation Under Occupation

By Laura Ashfield and Hannah Carter.

This past December and January, we travelled to Egypt, Israel and Palestine on behalf of the Canadian Friends of Sabeel to participate in the Gaza Freedom March, organized by Code Pink. Each of us had participated in the International Young Friends of Sabeel Conference (Laura in 2008 and Hannah in 2009) and had been deeply affected by our time in the Middle East. As part of our ongoing commitment towards justice and peace in Palestine and Israel, we decided to be a part of the Gaza Freedom March; a ‘historic initiative to break the siege that has imprisoned the 1.5 million people who live in Gaza.’

The Plan

We planned to arrive in Cairo on December 26th to meet with 1,361 other internationals from 43 different countries. Then on December 27th we would enter Gaza through the Rafah border with humanitarian aid such as school materials, medicine, water purification systems, and other much needed supplies. On the morning of the 31st, we hoped to join about 50,000 Palestinians in a peaceful march from one end of Gaza to the other. The purpose of the Gaza Freedom March was to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Israel’s invasion on Gaza, call worldwide attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis, and show the residents of Gaza that the international community has not forgotten them. Through this effort, we had hoped to ‘break the seige’ and encourage the leaders of our governments to urge Israel and Egypt to open the borders surrounding Gaza.

The Setback

Unfortunately, the Freedom March did not go as planned. We were actually delayed in Germany for a few days due to health complications, but our fellow marchers in Cairo did not have any more luck than we did. Although Code Pink had obtained permits for the delegation, the Egyptian authorities informed them that they were not going to be allowed through the Rafah border afterall. The Egyptian government also cancelled the buses to Al Arish and Rafah, and took away their permits to have large group meetings; basically making it impossible to carry out anything as planned. The freedom marchers were stuck in Cairo with not much hope of getting into Gaza.

The ‘March to Gaza’

The day before we arrived in Cairo, the Egyptian Government allowed 100 people into Gaza in order to bring humanitarian aid in and visit some of the organizations we had hoped to connect with. While a handful of the marchers were in Gaza, the rest of the group was making their presence known in Cairo! We arrived in Cairo on the night of the 30th and were quickly swept into the action. On December 31st – the day of the planned Gaza Freedom March – we symbolically marched to Gaza by walking peacefully in the streets of downtown Cairo. Because there was an official ban on public demonstrations, the organizers used the ‘flash mob’ technique. Basically, all the Gaza Freedom Marchers were told to walk around the Egyptian Museum area and look like tourists. At 10:00am sharp, two women leaders held up Palestinian flags, we all swarmed into the busy streets of Cairo. It worked well, and we quickly took over one of the main streets downtown. However, within minutes we were surrounded by hundreds of riot police. The police were very rough and sometimes violent with the marchers in order to get us off the road.

Eventually we were confined to a 500-square meter area of sidewalk across from the Egyptian Museum. Many people had banners and Palestinian flags and we chanted and cheered and made as much noise as we could. It was inspiring to see how passionate everyone was. There were young people, students, adults, and elderly gathered from all over the world and all there for the same reason – freedom for Gaza. Although we were somewhat silenced and trapped by the Egyptian officials and police, this protest was a sign of our anger and outrage at Israel and Egypt for not allowing us into Gaza, for the continuing blockade and siege on Gaza, and for our own governments’ silence. This protest was our opportunity to get our message heard in Cairo and hopefully the rest of the world.

Conclusions

We were extremely disappointed that we did not get into Gaza. In addition to all that had been planned with the official march, we had hoped to meet with the Middle East Council of Churches and learn about how the invasion and continuing siege is affecting the people of Gaza. Laura was in Gaza two summers ago and met with the MECC. She visited refugee camps, hospitals, schools, education centres, and churches where she met the most gracious, warm, and resilient people. We were really looking forward to reconnecting with them, learning from them, and offering solidarity. We had brought with us, two suitcases full of school supplies for children in Gaza. One of the local high schools in Kitchener-Waterloo collected school supplies specifically for Gaza and were hoping we would deliver them. In the end, we left the school supplies in Jerusalem with the family we stayed with – who said they would try their best to get them to Gaza. We’re sure they will be put to good use, wherever they end up.

Although the Gaza Freedom March did not go as planned, our determination and hope did not get defeated. Of course all of the Gaza Freedom March participants were upset that our plans were hijacked, but many people tried to see the positive side of things. Some argued that perhaps there was more media attention because we were not allowed into Gaza, and ended up having to protest. I’m not sure if this is the case, but either way, we felt that this was an important initiative to be a part of, whether in Gaza or in Cairo. The Gaza Freedom March brought thousands of internationals together in one place, in solidarity for the people of Gaza.

Our time in the West Bank

After participating in the Gaza Freedom March, we travelled to Israel and the West Bank, in order to meet with Sabeel in Jerusalem. We were also able to spend time with friends we had made during the Sabeel Conference and visit organizations working for peace. Since we were in the Holy Land over the Christmas/Epiphany season we also attended services in Bethlehem with our host family. It was wonderful to celebrate the birth of Jesus at his actual birthplace! We were pleased that we were also able to spend a few days in Hebron with the Christian Peacemaker Team. We walked with them during their daily patrols and spoke with the people living under occupation, learning more about the serious problems that are particular to the situation in Hebron. We used our time in the West Bank to learn as much as we could, to connect again with Sabeel, to listen, and to gain experiences.

We would like to thank you all for the many ways in which you supported us in our participation in the Gaza Freedom March and our travels to the West Bank and Israel. We are eager to present about our experiences traveling in the Middle East. If you would like to hear more, we would be happy to share more stories with you! In fact, we will be speaking at Knox Presbyterian Church in Waterloo on May 2nd at 12:15pm and you are more than welcome to attend.

Peace (in the Middle East)

Laura Ashfield and Hannah Carter

Children selling us fairtrade items in Hebron

The Least-Worst Option: Statebuilding in Afghanistan via Transforming the Narcotics Industry

By Graham Engel

“But war’s a game, which, were their subjects wise, Kings would not play at.” - William Cowper, The Task, V, The Winter Morning Walk, line 187.

While Canadian troops have been present in Afghanistan since at least 2001, present conditions suggest Canada will not be there much longer. Our current Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is calling for an exit strategy1 while still assuring the US that we will support them in their latest troop-surge, which gives the impression that Canada’s decision to stay in Afghanistan is not one made in Ottawa. This is reemphasized by John Foster, who reminds us that “as part of the International Security Assistance Forces and the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom, Canada has supported US interests in Afghanistan (2)” and will likely do so until told otherwise. The amalgamation of forces are in Afghanistan to address the failed state that it is, and hope to institute a stable and productive apparatus so that Western forces can leave, and the habitual relations between nations can resume; in Afghanistan’s case, habitual relations refer to transport in trade goods and a stable foothold for NATO allies in that region of the world. Building the state of Afghanistan is plagued with enough obstacles to make our stay there ambiguously protracted, and a stay of questionable worth. Yet, this paper will argue not only for prolonged Canadian presence in Afghanistan, but will argue that transforming the drug economy should be their central preoccupation, as it may be the linchpin to a sustaining Afghan state.

Ideally, Canada would need not stay in Afghanistan. The Bonn agreements have established a globally-recognized government, the people have voted their representatives into power, and the task of rebuilding has begun. In the words of Captain Nichola Goddard, whom died on our behalf in Afghanistan, these governments are a reflection of the desires of the people.

    “The Afghan people have chosen who will lead them. Their new government is striving to make Afghanistan a better place. I had never truly appreciated the awesome power of a democratic government before. We are here to assist the legitimate and democratically elected government (Outside the Wire, 57).”

Yet, despite Western attestations that the Afghan people have self-selected leadership, real Afghani’s describe the situation in other words. Malalai Joya is an outspoken female politician from Afghanistan, a feat rare enough in itself, but also compounded by her outspoken critique of those who hold power in her country. According to Joya, “…80% of the members of the Afghan parliament are warlords, drug lords, and criminals. The drug lords are ministers, governors, commanders, MPs, and ambassadors; [President] Karzai continues to put these criminals in high official posts and the Afghan people are hostages in their hands (230).” Not only are corruption (Kreutzmann 2007; Berdal 2009), entrenched criminality (Cornell 2007), and political violence (Aras and Toktas 2008) the foundation of the state of Afghanistan, but the international community is complicit in it, accepting its current composition as long as this government is serving Western interests. These individuals are power-holders in the country, those whom fought with the ISAF to defeat the Taliban, and are not really products of a functioning democratic system, but rewards for assistance.

A shuffling of powers such as this is not new in Afghanistan. Indeed, as a country which has been exploited as part of the ‘Great Game’ since it was first recognized, contemporary global history has seen Britain, the US, Russia/USSR, and Pakistan all in some way seek influence on the state. Furthermore, para-state actors in the form of al-Qaeda and now the deposed-Taliban seek to exert their influence on the governance structure of this former Durrani2 state. Operating from the North West Frontier Provinces (NWFP) of Pakistan, a region which is violently opposed to external governance structures (and have been historically unmanageable; Omranj 2009; Spencer 2009), extremists are destabilizing not only Afghanistan, but Pakistan as well. This spawns fears of a Talibanized Pakistan (Spencer 2009), as that states incumbent government has neglected to persecute them in their NWFP’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), leaving the possibility open that they may be able to spread all the way to Islamabad.

The issue of a failing Pakistan, a tenuous Afghanistan, and the criminality and corruption which plagues them become compounded by narcotics production and sale. The difficulty of this situation is how entrenched the narco-economy has become, which is likely a direct result of decades of war and degrading infrastructure. Where “more than 70% of the people live below the poverty line” (Aras and Toktas, 7), those who are able to cultivate opium in Afghanistan do. The industry is estimated to be worth US 2.7$ B., and is roughly 52% of the Afghan GDP (Kreutzmann 2009), involving an estimated 3.3 million Afghani’s directly (Berdal 2009). Farmers profit from producing a cash crop which nets $90/kg, substantially better than many of the other alternatives provided3, though it should be said that it is at least suspected that many farmers are forced into opium production. Kreutzmann says “the farmers are often compelled to cultivate poppy and receive only a nominal share of the profits” (6), yet according to Maloney, tribal leaders become involved in negotiations for the wider area, needing to “take a cut of the action to permit the cultivation to be done” (9), as it is a profitable enterprise not to be turned down lightly by any community. While this may represent a “possibility of rising from their abject poverty” (Van Ham, and Kamminga, 2), this seductive enterprise comes with the associated risks of an illicit economy, that being corruption, conflict, and entrenched interests who would seek to maintain this social order.

Domestically in Afghanistan, ties to the Drug Trade extend as far up as the President’s brother, and can realistically be found in many of the state institutions. Berdal states that poppy-growing districts are exposed to endemic corruption, with police posts being “awarded through bidding process[es], with prices reaching as high as $100,000 for a six-month appointment to a position with a monthly salary of $60 (6)”. This is because turning a blind eye to the growth, processing, and transport of opium is highly lucrative due to the bribery that befalls one at that station. Not only is regional governance compromised, but international governance too. The processing and transport phases of opium production, where the real profits are to be made, are not based in Afghanistan, but are “…variably and inextricably linked at multiple levels to the political and economic processes and people that constitute the nation-state of Pakistan – and have been for some decades (Maloney 11).” In the uncontrolled and volatile NWFP’s, the drug processing occurs, and from there are shipped to many regional, and international, clients. These networks “have been players in that scene for decades – far longer than Al Qaeda and the Taliban have existed as organizations (ibid.)”, with these inter-linkages extending as high as the Pakistani Army’s National Logistics Cell (ibid.). Beyond lining pockets and providing incomes for those who need it, illicit trades are notorious for providing armaments to para-state organizations (Aras and Toktas; Kreutzmann). Thus we see in Afghanistan “a power struggle… in which regional warlords challenge the central authority, in which rebels, guerrilla fighters and/or Mujaheddin finance their wars against the center with capital returns from poppy cultivation (Kreutzmann 5).”

Kreutzmann says that “the drug-economy…enables regional leaders to execute semi-independent rule and to establish quasi-autonomous territories under their jurisdiction and economic control (7)”, which is exacerbated by regional interests in this social structure. Drug-moneys undermine faith in the government, corrupt legal authority, enable sub-state social structuring, and yet are absolutely necessary for many Afghani’s to live upon. Further, a historical legacy of turmoil leads to a tribal predisposition to resolving conflicts via violence and usurpation, targeting enemies and praising allies, of acting as their own law instead of following a central governments (Cornell 2007; Omrani 2009). Making it more difficult still are international sanctions against involvement in drug economies, which will force the hand of any internationally recognized government, ultimately driving producers to groups such as the Taliban (Van Ham, Kamminga, 5). Western domestic policy also causes a narrow range of actions to be taken, as permissiveness (of cultivation so as not to alienate rural Afghani’s), transformation, or anything that is not explicitly eradication is met with incredulity and political sanction at home. Dissolving this knot is the key element to Afghan stability.

The only means of eliminating the lucrative narcotics market would be full-out legalization, yet this is not likely to happen, leaving the next best solution to lie in transforming the Afghan opium crop into a legitimate medical morphine industry. While it is nowhere near as lucrative as the illicit trade, growers will find themselves offered a chance to earn a good livelihood and to embrace a peace-economy. Afghanistan possesses the appropriate expertise and infrastructure to begin licensed poppy-growing for morphine and codeine, creating “a humanitarian brand of Afghan morphine and codeine…marketed in developing countries that have a serious shortage of those medicines.” (Van Ham, and Kamminga 6). Christopher Hitchens agrees with this idea, by saying that “the revenue that now goes to drug lords and terrorists could be applied straight to Afghanistan’s reconstruction, while weakening those who benefit from an artificially created monopoly (Foreign Policy, “Legalize It”, May/June 2007).”

Not only would opium be transformed, but the marijuana industry could transfigure into a hemp food and textiles economy. Afghanistan is a prime source of the worlds hashish supply (as seen in Cpl. Pagnacco’s Afghan photos), an industry not as lucrative as opium, but surely profitable. If the conditions are right to grow cannabis for smoking, then the conditions are certainly capable of growing hemp for sustenance. Hemp’s high-nutritive value (Kylstra 2009; Callaway 2004) can be used to ensure a higher quality of life for those whom are brought into the fold of the centralized Afghani state, as marijuana growers would become the food supply for the burgeoning state. When processed, the fibrous material could be used to provide a subsidized source of fabric for all state uniforms – making those uniforms creates labor which could be done by any one in need of a job.

Following the path of transformation offers minimal change for the average Afghani, an opportunity to join a legal enterprise, and the opportunity for local stake-holders to integrate into the central state. Those who are profiting the most from the shadow-economy could be incorporated as a part of this apparatus, as plantation managers or members of the ministry of Medical Morphine or Textiles (becoming no more corrupt than Western politicians); those whom are using it to fund insurgencies would refuse this peace-building option, thus extricating themselves from the legitimacy they experienced as protector of their locales livelihood. Then the state, with its enforcement apparatus, has reason to push them out. Johnathan Goodhand calls this ‘the border effect’, where “through a process of either co-opting or crushing rural outlaws in frontier regions, states…strengthened their capacities (3)” by becoming a force capable of instituting rule of law. These ‘brigands’ would still attempt to coerce communities into funding them through opium cultivation, but “the solution to the dilemma of security and stability lies in the fact that the majority of people in Afghanistan do not want the Taliban regime to return (Aras, and Toktas 10).” If the Afghani people want an established, legal state, then they will stand up to adversity for one. This, coupled with the transit revenue that will be generated by the Turkmenistan pipeline (US$160m./year – Foster 2008), may see the Afghan state in a position to grow and improve the lot of its people.

Critiques say that such a proposal would never work, as no control mechanism exists to ensure only licit poppy/cannabis production is occurring (Berdal), to which it should be said that Afghanistan is a state which is rebuilding and subsequently lacks many mechanisms – just because it fails to have an appropriate domestic monitoring apparatus is no reason to turn down a transformative opportunity that may win many Afghani’s over to the side of the central government. A more dangerous critique will be those disenfranchised regional operant’s whom have been profiting from lawless Afghanistan ‘forever’. Concerted resistance from outside Afghanistan’s borders could see the beginning of interstate conflict with Pakistan, or with peoples of the FATA’s of Pakistan’s NWFP. Another legitimate concern is whether this is approvable by Muslim law, yet Van Ham and Kamminga say “the cultivation of opium [is allowed] when it does not harm but rather benefits society” (10), and in a case such as this, it does.

Transforming drug economies in order to preserve livelihoods while creating new national industries which are enforceable through a legitimate state-coercive apparatus is an exercise in political imagination. The underlying theme of contemplating the Afghanistan state is that, since 1839, the West has been projecting their norms and value-structures onto an area which has resisted them from their inception. While strategies can be suggested, it is like asking “how can we make this work?” when instead we should be asking “what has been work in Afghanistan?” Every interventionist strategy since the British Colonial era has been self-serving and has created blowback which has haunted the West to this day, and Canada’s current involvement is no exception. While this paper has suggested a means by which a state could be built, it has been suggested with the understanding that the strategies being discussed in the popular media involve a troop-surge, an aspiration that Afghanistan will work on its own, and then a retreat by Western forces. Canada should not even be there, as it is not our place to tell the world what to do, but since we are there, the least-worst option would be to build something that could be legitimately sustainable. To do otherwise would be akin to playing a game one intended to lose.

Works Cited

    Aras, Bulent, and Toktas, Sule. “Afghanistan’s Security: Political Process, State-Building and Narcotics”. Middle East Policy, Vol. 15, No. 2, Summer 2008.
    Berdal, Mats. ‘Chapter Three: The Opium Trade.’ Building Peace after War. Routledge Publishing. London, UK. 2009.
    Callaway, J.C. “Hempseed as a Nutritional Resource: An Overview”. Euphytica. Vol. 140, 65-72. 2004. Kluwer Academic Publishers. The Netherlands.
    Cornell, Svante E.’Narcotics and Armed Conflict: Interaction and Implications’, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 30: 3, 207 — 227. 2007. Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group.
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    Foster, John. “A Pipeline Through a Troubled Land: Afghanistan, Canada, and the New Great Energy Game”. Foreign Policy Series, Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives. Vol. 3, No. 1. June 19, 2008.
    Goodhand, Jonathan ‘Corrupting or Consolidating the Peace? The Drugs Economy and Post-conflict Peacebuilding in Afghanistan’, International Peacekeeping, International Peacekeeping, Vol.15, No.3, June 2008
    Hitchens, Christopher. “Legalize It.” Foreign Policy. No. 160, May June 2007.
    Ismi, A. “An Interview with Afghan MP Malalai Joya” from Afghanistan and Canada (eds. L. Kowaluk and S. Staples). Black Rose Books, 2009.
    Kreutzmann, Hermann “Afghanistan and the Opium World Market: Poppy Production and Trade”. Iranian Studies, 40 : 5, 605-621. December 2007.
    Kylstra, Carolyn. “6 stealth Health Foods”. Men’s Health. Vol. 24, no. 6. Ag. 2009.
    Maloney, Sean M.’On a pale horse? Conceptualizing narcotics production in southern Afghanistan and its relationship to the Narcoterror Nexus’, Small Wars & Insurgencies, 20: 1, 203 — 214. March 2009.
    Omrani, Bijan (2009) ‘THE DURAND LINE: HISTORY AND PROBLEMS OF THE AFGHAN/PAKISTAN BORDER’, Asian Affairs, 40: 2, 177 — 195 July 2009.
    Patterson, J & K. Warren, “Selections from Outside the Wire: The War in Afghanistan in the Words of its Participants” from Outside the Wire: The War in Afghanistan in the Words of its Participants. (Eds. J. Patterson, and K. Warren), Vintage Books, 2007.
    Spencer, Metta. “Afpak 101”  Peace Magazine. Apr-Jun 2009. Vol 25, Iss. 2. Published by the Canadian Disarmament Information Service. Toronto, Ont.
    Van Ham, Peter, and Kamminga, Jorrit. “Poppies for Peace: Reforming Afghanistan’s Opium Industry”. The Washington Quarterly Volume 30, Issue 1. Winter 2006-07.
    Zakaria, Fareed. ‘Interview with Stephen Harper’. “Fareed Zakaria GPS”, March 1 2009. CNN.

20 Years After the Fall

On November 9, the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall was celebrated around the world.  Many world leaders including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were present at Brandenburg Gate, the former site of the “Iron Curtain” that separated West Germany from East Germany.

Supported by Communist Soviet Union, East Germany began building the Berlin Wall without warning, in August of 1961 to stop the hoards of East Germans who were fleeing to West Berlin.  What began as a makeshift barbed wire fence soon became a 156 kilometre long concrete wall that surrounded West Berlin and was guarded heavily against attempted escapes from East Germans.  In its twenty-eight year existence, more than 130 people are said to have been killed at the “Iron Curtain”.

On November 9, 1989, after weeks of civil unrest amongst Eastern Germans, it was announced on late night news (in a moment of confusion by a spokesperson of the government) that effective immediately, the Eastern German border was open to everyone.  Residents quickly lined up at the Brandenburg Gate, and the overwhelmed guards simply let them through without using lethal force.  East met West on the other side of the Berlin Wall, and citizens from both sides of the concrete barrier began to celebrate their freedom.

While the celebration that took place this year to commemorate this great event in history was a spectacle with all the bells and whistles, including giant coloured dominoes set up in queue along a 1.5 kilometre stretch where the Berlin Wall used to stand, it did little to take away from the reality that those living in Eastern Germany still suffer poverty and unemployment at much higher levels than their Western counterparts, and that basic freedoms and rights still escape millions of citizens of the world.

We should take the time to look at an event like the fall of the Berlin Wall and the great impact that the citizens of Eastern Germany had on putting into motion a stream of events that led to the reunification of Germany.  What a great example of how individuals can rise together to make a difference, and how easily governing bodies can turn these moments of freedom and celebration into legacies of poverty.  Perhaps the money that went into the lavish celebration of the 20th anniversary could have been better spent in rebuilding the Eastern states that are still struggling two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall?  Just one girl’s thought…

by Heather Wilhelm

The State of the World

Here is a submission by a childhood friend of mine. I saw this post of his and had to re-print it here:

Sometimes they say “Look at the world today!” and they mean that it’s a mess. Or they say “What’s wrong with people?” and mean that they’re sick; people do sick things, they treat each other like dirt, they steal and rape and kill. They wage war. They consume recklessly and spare little thought for the state of the world, the true state, the damage caused by their actions: the landfills, the mass graves, the extinct species, the genocide.

Sometimes they ask “Why?”

It hit me today that the reason is me. Not all of it, and in fact far from most of it. But I go through my life and in my wake there is negativity and anger and the ripples of those things produce more ripples, and those still more.

I like to think I’m a good person. Most of us do. And in some ways I am. I don’t kill people and I don’t steal. I’m honest. I make sure to recycle and I take public transit. I try to keep in touch with my friends and family, and let them know how much they mean to me. But now I’m thinking that it isn’t enough. I’m thinking of the damage I leave behind me; I went across India and I got into shouting matches with a half dozen people. I told myself it was ok because I was depressed and alone and exhausted, but all I gave those men was the image of an angry foreigner, an angry white person, an angry tourist, and how is that going to carry forward with them? I don’t know why that example came to me instead of a hundred others, instead of something more personal, or darker, but when I look back on that it cuts me. It’s exactly the behaviour I do without thinking that can have the worst consequences, the feelings I’ve hurt without wanting to, the useless products I’ve bought, the packages I’ve thrown away.

I move through the world and because of its nature, the nature of my way of life, the nature of my selfishness and the fact that I am a member of a society dependent on oil and consumption, because of my fucked up psychology, my angst and guilt, my ignorance and stupidity, because of all of these things I leave damage in my wake. Negativity. And it spreads – mine fosters yours. Yours fosters mine. It spreads, ripples on a pond, and the pond is the world and the ripples are history and this has been going on forever.

So fucking of COURSE the world is like this. Of course murder happens. Of course war. They produce themselves. I produce them. You do.

By: Chad Inglis

reprinted by RS

A Look at the My Lai Massacre

Written by Heather Wilhelm

Being a Global Studies and History major has allowed me an interesting perspective on the history of war.  One war that I have studied quite a bit was the Vietnam War and more specifically the My Lai massacre that occurred in March of 1968.  I had heard a few years ago that Oliver Stone was planning to bring the horrors of this historical event to the big screen in another one of his epic political films, but recently learned that the production of “Pinkville” (what the My Lai massacre is more commonly referred to) had been halted.  Now whether or not there is any political posturing behind this production delay, I felt that I would bring the story of My Lai to you in writing and allow you to understand not only what happened on that fateful March 16, but also how the American government and their treatment of soldiers led to this horrific event.

The My Lai massacre was one of the greatest war tragedies of all time.  Hundreds of lives were lost in that small village in March of 1968, and along with them, the souls of countless soldiers went missing that day.  While the American public struggled to figure out why and how this could happen, the soldiers who were involved were asking themselves the same question.  It was a question that would never be answered.  There were many theories as to how such a catastrophic event could occur under American leadership.  Racism was a reoccurring speculation, as many of the soldiers had been trained since day one to hate the Vietnamese.  “The many hours the men spent during combat training listening to their instructors referring to the Vietnamese as ‘gooks’ and ‘slants’.[1] Another explanation explored was the language barrier.  The army felt that because their soldiers and the Vietnamese could not communicate, there had been a misunderstanding at My Lai.[2] This theory was quickly quashed by the testimony of the soldiers who had been present that day in the village.  Drugs and alcohol were another possible “reason” for the massacre.  The troops had been drinking the night before the massacre[3], but again the testimony of Charlie Company proved that theory wrong.  It is still hard to say exactly what caused all those soldiers to react the way they did in Vietnam that day, and throughout the rest of the war, but it is safe to say that there are some factors that contributed more than others.  Through conscription and a lack of training of soldiers, as well as jungle warfare involving an invisible enemy, and the need for revenge by the soldiers fighting the war, the My Lai massacre was able to occur, and it became a direct reflection of the Vietnam War in general.

The Vietnam War was America’s longest and most unresolved military conflict.[4] As a result, hundreds of thousands of young American men were forced to join the army through conscription, and were provided very little training as soldiers with regard to the Law of Land Warfare and the Geneva Conventions.[5] While American involvement in the Vietnam War was getting deeper and deeper, the government began to rush to find men to fight the war overseas.  They used conscription as a means to accomplish this feat, and were consequently left with thousands of men who were well below military standards.  “…what came to be called McNamara’s 100,000, the Project 100,000 men well below the Army average in terms of aptitude and intelligence and deemed unlikely to met peacetime entry qualifications.”[6] The standards for acceptable soldiers in Vietnam were so low, that it was not unimaginable that the My Lai massacre could happen.  Many of these men did not have the capacity to differentiate between right and wrong, and were therefore unable to protest what was ordered at My Lai.  Another problem with conscription was that many young men were forced into fighting the war.  “‘I was scared.  I didn’t want to go, but I had to,’ remembers Bergthold.  ‘Because if I didn’t I’d probably get court-martialed.’”[7] Unwilling young men across America were drafted into the army, and they could not protest without being put in jail.  When given these two bleak options, most men chose to fight the war, although they never truly accepted that they had to.  They felt trapped and in most cases, did not care about the war at all.[8] They wanted to go home, and this meant providing the government with high body counts.  “In a war that did not offer territory as a reward, body count became the index of success and failure in the whole war.  Officers who did not achieve satisfactory body counts were replaced; units who performed well were rewarded with leave.  The body count was the key statistic after each firefight and the pressure to produce high figures was enormous.”[9] These soldiers knew that if high body counts were provided they could go home, and they soon stopped caring about who they were killing.  The Vietnam War had an astronomical amount of civilian casualties and this was due, in large part to soldiers who did not care about or understand the war they were fighting.

This lack of regard for noncombatants in Vietnam was a direct result of the lack of training that was provided to soldiers before deployment.[10] While rushing to deploy young soldiers, the armed forces relaxed their training methods with regard to the rules of engagement.  This meant that most soldiers received less than one hour of training on the proper treatment of noncombatants in foreign countries.  “On paper, all soldiers received at least one hour’s instruction on the Law of Land Warfare and the Geneva Conventions.  In practice, it made little, if any, impression on men who were spending hundreds of hours being trained to follow orders and learning how to kill.”[11] So few hours were spent teaching these men how to deal with the Vietnamese civilians that there is no wonder they showed them no regard in My Lai.  They were not taught to communicate with them, or to understand their culture, and as a result they saw them as less than human.[12] The soldiers did not have any remorse for killing noncombatants in My Lai, and throughout Vietnam because they were not taught how to treat them as human beings.  “Rules of engagement were designed to limit the risk of civilian casualties.  In theory, they were issued to every serviceman; in practice, they might as well have been written on water.”[13] Rules of engagement was a term that was rarely heard amongst these soldiers.  Such a miniscule amount of time was spent teaching these men how to behave in a war, that they invented their own rules.  In doing so, they forgot to see humans, and instead saw animals when dealing with the Vietnamese.  In My Lai, they did not see innocent civilians, they saw human scum, something to kill, something to desecrate[14].  This was the case all over Vietnam, where blameless peasants were being killed every day due, in part, to a growing frustration within the army companies.  This frustration stemmed from the massive number of American soldiers the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army were killing[15].  They were fighting a war that the United States was unaccustomed to, and therefore soldiers were losing their friends and fellow fighters on a daily basis.

Jungle warfare was a foreign method of war for the Americans, and they were losing many soldiers as a result[16].  After years of fighting against the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army, they were still unable to identify friendly civilians from enemy soldiers.  “In a conventional war, it is clear who are civilians and who are soldiers, but guerillas wear no uniforms or insignia to differentiate themselves from noncombatants.”[17] These silent forces were killing soldiers each day, and there was no way to stop it from happening.  They simply could not tell who was good and who was bad.  “‘How can you distinguish the enemy?  How can you distinguish between the good and the bad?  All of them looked the same.  And that’s why the war was so different.  You know it wasn’t like the Germans over here or the Japanese over there.  They all looked alike, North and the South.  So how can you tell?’”[18] This statement sums up the soldiers’ attitudes towards the Vietnamese.  Their confusion was at an all time high, as they tirelessly plowed through the rice paddies searching for enemies.  They saw old men in fields and young children playing in the villages, and everyone was a threat to their safety.[19] The more unhinged they became, the more dangerous they became.  Being unable to see their enemy led them to fire their weapons haphazardly, to attack without provocation, and to injure the innocent.[20] These seemingly normal young men were becoming killers and this was never more apparent then when they entered My Lai village.

Meanwhile, as the American soldiers grew increasingly frustrated, the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army grew only in power.  “The Viet Cong meanwhile grew in numbers and confidence and learned how to deal with the tactical innovations of the American advisors.  In spite of millions of dollars of US military aid, and the presence of thousands of military advisors, the Viet Cong had grown steadily stronger.”[21] The increase in power and number of the Viet Cong only added to the desperation of the American soldiers.  They grew to hate the Vietnamese more vehemently then ever and displayed this hatred through the destruction of their villages, and the rape of their women.  “‘the VC/NVA apparently lose only one sixth as many weapons as people, suggesting that possibly many of the killed are unarmed porters or by-standers.’”[22] Never was this more apparent than in My Lai village, where hundreds of unarmed women, children and elderly men were murdered.[23] Being unable to distinguish between the enemy and noncombatants led the soldiers to see everyone as a threat, so therefore, everyone in My Lai village had to die.

As the assault on My Lai grew closer there was another change in the American soldiers.  More than just not being able to differentiate between the Viet Cong and the civilians, the soldiers sought revenge against all Vietnamese to avenge the deaths of their fellow soldiers.  “There then took shape a terrible psychological sequence in which there were real deaths in one’s unit, as there had been in C Company before My Lai.  There were two central deaths – one of a much-beloved sergeant who was a kind of father-figure.  There was a fierce sense of anger and grief in the men…”[24] Here lays one of the central reasons for the My Lai massacre.  The soldiers felt such guilt and shame for the deaths of their fellow officers and friends that they began to seek revenge against anyone they could.[25] The Vietnamese were all to blame for the tragedies that befell their troops, and as such, they would all pay.  In My Lai, the soldiers entered a village of noncombatants, but all they saw were enemies, because they had long ago forgotten that there was any good in Vietnam.  These enemies who were killing off their friends one by one with booby traps in the woods, and snipers in the trees had all become a single enemy:  the Vietnamese[26].  Everyone was to blame, so everyone must pay for the deaths within their troops.

Revenge was a key factor throughout the entire Vietnam War; it was not exclusive to the My Lai massacre.  The rape of numerous women in villages throughout Vietnam quickly became a silent problem for the American military.[27] Michael Berhardt was a soldier in C Company and he noticed that the soldiers in his troop had adopted a new code of conduct that permitted the brutal rape of civilians.  When he was questioned about whether rape was a prevalent problem by investigators he stated, “I thought it was, sir.  It was predictable.  In other words, if I saw a woman, I’d say, ‘Well, it won’t be too long.’  That’s how widespread it was.”[28] The soldiers had taken on a new attitude about war.  Instead of protecting the weak and powerless they were exploiting them on a daily basis.  Lieutenant William L. Calley recalled witnessing one of his soldiers raping a civilian and telling him “to get his pants back up and get over to where he was supposed to be.”[29] Instead of reprimanding his subordinate for committing a crime of war, the Lieutenant casually tells him to stop and does not instill any type of punishment.  The soldiers in Vietnam were not being punished for their crimes, and as a result started to believe that their behavior was acceptable.  These blasé attitudes towards civilians were another contributing factor in the massacre.  When the soldiers stopped behaving like civilized humans, the people who paid the ultimate price were the women, children, and elders of My Lai village.

There are few people who would argue that the My Lai massacre was a tragedy of unbelievable proportions, although there are not too many people who know that this tragedy occurred.  There was a large effort made by the American government to minimize what actually happened that day and eventually the ‘massacre’ became an ‘incident’ that was quickly swept under the carpet and forgotten about.[30] The government’s attitude towards the massacre was similar to most of the soldiers of ‘C’ Company who thought they were simply following orders that day.  The lives that were taken that day were not human to them; they were something lower, something inhuman.  This mind frame allowed the soldiers to murder hundreds of souls without a second thought.  Again, this occurred for several reasons.  Racism, language barriers, and drugs and alcohol could all have played a role in the mindset of some of the soldiers, although there are several reasons that play a stronger role.  Conscription and a lack of training of soldiers left the American troops weaker then they had ever been.[31] The young soldiers did not have the mentality or the courage to stand up and refuse to take part in My Lai because they were scared and inexperienced.  The guerilla war that the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army were fighting was something that the American military was not accustomed to.  This resulted in numerous American casualties, which produced vengeful soldiers on a mission to avenge the deaths of their friends and fellow soldiers.[32] That being said, through conscription and a lack of training of soldiers, as well as jungle warfare involving an invisible enemy, and the need for revenge by the soldiers fighting the war, the My Lai massacre was able to occur, and it became a direct reflection of the Vietnam War in general.  Thankfully, since that fateful day in March of 1968 many of the soldiers who fought in My Lai have had the opportunity to reflect on the wrongs that they committed against the human race.  Unfortunately, there are others still who do not understand the consequences of the murders they were a part of, because they were never punished for them.  Hopefully, some lessons were learnt from these past mistakes, and the world will never have to witness another My Lai massacre.

[1] Bilton, M., & Sim, K. (1992). Four hours in my lai. New York: Penguin Group.

[2] Gershen, M. (1971). Destroy or die: the true story of mylai. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House.

[3] Olson, J., & Roberts, R. (1998). My lai: a brief history with documents. Boston: Bedford Books.

[4] Gershen, M. (1971). Destroy or die: the true story of mylai. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House.

[5] Bilton, M., & Sim, K. (1992). Four hours in my lai. New York: Penguin Group.

[6] Bilton, M., & Sim, K. (1992). Four hours in my lai. New York: Penguin Group.

[7] Gershen, M. (1971). Destroy or die: the true story of mylai. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House.

[8] Bilton, M., & Sim, K. (1992). Four hours in my lai. New York: Penguin Group.

[9] Bilton, M., & Sim, K. (1992). Four hours in my lai. New York: Penguin Group.

[10] Bilton, M., & Sim, K. (1992). Four hours in my lai. New York: Penguin Group.

[11] Bilton, M., & Sim, K. (1992). Four hours in my lai. New York: Penguin Group.

[12] Anderson, D. (1998). Facing my lai: moving beyond the massacre. Lawrence, KA: University Press of Kansas.

[13] Bilton, M., & Sim, K. (1992). Four hours in my lai. New York: Penguin Group.

[14] Bilton, M., & Sim, K. (1992). Four hours in my lai. New York: Penguin Group.

[15] Bilton, M., & Sim, K. (1992). Four hours in my lai. New York: Penguin Group.

[16] Bilton, M., & Sim, K. (1992). Four hours in my lai. New York: Penguin Group.

[17] Bilton, M., & Sim, K. (1992). Four hours in my lai. New York: Penguin Group.

[18] Bilton, M., & Sim, K. (1992). Four hours in my lai. New York: Penguin Group.

[19] Anderson, D. (1998). Facing my lai: moving beyond the massacre. Lawrence, KA: University Press of Kansas

[20] Bilton, M., & Sim, K. (1992). Four hours in my lai. New York: Penguin Group.

[21] Bilton, M., & Sim, K. (1992). Four hours in my lai. New York: Penguin Group.

[22] Bilton, M., & Sim, K. (1992). Four hours in my lai. New York: Penguin Group.

[23] Olson, J., & Roberts, R. (1998). My lai: a brief history with documents. Boston: Bedford Books.

[24] Anderson, D. (1998). Facing my lai: moving beyond the massacre. Lawrence, KA: University Press of Kansas.

[25] Bilton, M., & Sim, K. (1992). Four hours in my lai. New York: Penguin Group.

[26] Bilton, M., & Sim, K. (1992). Four hours in my lai. New York: Penguin Group.

[27] Olson, J., & Roberts, R. (1998). My lai: a brief history with documents. Boston: Bedford Books

[28] Olson, J., & Roberts, R. (1998). My lai: a brief history with documents. Boston: Bedford Books.

[29] Olson, J., & Roberts, R. (1998). My lai: a brief history with documents. Boston: Bedford Books.

[31] Olson, J., & Roberts, R. (1998). My lai: a brief history with documents. Boston: Bedford Books.

[32] Bilton, M., & Sim, K. (1992). Four hours in my lai. New York: Penguin Group.

The United Nations Human Development Report 2009: A Very Brief Look

Written by Heather Wilhelm

On Monday, the United Nations (UN) released their Human Development Report (HDR) for 2009, ranking 182 countries into their respective places based on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Human Development Index (HDI) of these countries.  GDP is defined as the total market value of all final goods and services produced in a country in a given year, equal to total consumer, investment and government spending, plus the value of exports, minus the value of imports.  In layman’s terms, it measures a country’s economic performance on a yearly basis.  Since its inception in 1990, the HDR has reached beyond simply looking at a country’s GDP and has created the HDI which measures three dimensions of human development:  life expectancy, literacy and gross enrolment in education, and having a decent standard of living.  While it is easy to argue that these measurements are not an effective way to gauge the success or failure of a country in a numbered ranking system (what of gender, social services, child welfare), for the purpose of this article, let’s just look at the gross difference between those living at the top (Norway, Australia, Iceland and Canada ranked 1 through 4) and the bottom (Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Niger in spots 180-182).

While it should be noted that this Report was created using 2007 statistics before the current economic crisis, it is still very apparent that there are stark disparities between those countries at the top of the list, and those at the bottom.  For instance, the average life expectancy in Niger is 50 years, which is a full 30 years less than the life expectancy in 4th place Canada.  For every dollar earned in Niger, eighty-five (85) dollars is earned in 1st place Norway.  It is believed that more than half the population in the lowest ranking 24 countries are illiterate.  These kinds of statistics put on paper what most students of global studies already know – we do not live in a world of equality and justice.  These yearly reports simply reiterate that while the privileged can expect to enjoy a long life with education and excellent standards of living the poor seem to be destined to remain in a position of poverty, illiteracy and shortened life expectancies.  I’ve provided a very brief background on the UNHDR for you, and I encourage you to click the link that follows and read a bit more on your own…the results will hopefully shock you back into reality – I know it always does for me.

Click here to view the full Human Development Report 2009.

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Cambodia’s Trouble with Landmines – is a Brighter Future Possible?

Written by Heather Wilhelm

For my birthday last week, my boyfriend bought me a beautiful necklace from a great fair trade store called Ten Thousand Villages.  The necklace is called a Peace Dove Bombshell Necklace, and upon reading the literature that came with it, I learned that this piece of jewellery was made in Cambodia by a group of artisans who had formed an organization called Rajana.  Rajana is completely owned and operated by the Khmer people of Cambodia, and offer fair salaries, education, interest-free loans and many other benefits to their workers.  They are working to create beautiful art by turning the ravages of decades of war and tragedy into prosperity for their people.  The Peace Dove Bombshell Necklaces are made from the remains of land mines that litter the land of Cambodia and have led the country to have one of the highest numbers of amputee populations in the world.  This birthday gift – as beautiful as it is – tells the story of a horrific past and the ever-present danger that face the people of Cambodia.

Between 1975 and 1979 the ruling party in Cambodia was a totalitarian government called the Khmer Rouge.  The party was led by Pol Pot and believed in extreme Communist principles including social engineering and agricultural reform.  Their radical social reform process was carried out by deporting all the inhabitants of major cities to the countryside where they combined populations with farmers and were forced into labour in the fields.  Anyone suspected of capitalism (a group that included teachers, professors, urban city dwellers, anyone connected to foreign governments, and even people who simply wore reading glasses) was arbitrarily executed, tortured or detained.  There is a large range of estimated deaths in the four years that the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia, but most estimates but the death toll at 1.5 million people.  This included those executed by the government, as well as those who died of starvation from lack of experience growing food, and those who died of preventable diseases because of the government’s insistence that westernized medicine be kept out of the country.  Money was abolished; schools, hospitals, banks, industrial and service companies were closed; books were burned and as mentioned earlier, almost the entire intellectual population of the country was massacred.  Most notable in the long list of treacherous crimes performed by the Khmer Rouge was the separation of children from their parents (who were believed to be tainted by capitalism) and their subsequent brainwashing (children were often given leadership roles in torture and execution) into this dangerous form of socialism.  While the Khmer Rouge were toppled from government in 1979, the group itself survived as a group into the 1990s, causing death and destruction throughout these decades.

It is estimated that four to six million landmines were laid in Cambodia over the decades of war fought there, and every year hundreds of Cambodians fall victim to the lasting effect of these forgotten weapons.  In a population of approximately 12 million people, it is estimated that more than 40,000 amputees are living, or one in every 290 Cambodians.  These amputees are chastised by their peers and have been forgotten by their government, often having to try and make a living selling merchandise on the streets for small commissions.  There are many active mine removal organizations that work within Cambodia that are trying to clear mines in an effort to make the country safer, but this sizable job is nowhere near completion leaving the citizens of Cambodia in constant danger or death or amputation.

Organizations like Rajana are imperative to the turnaround of countries like Cambodia that are suffering the after effects of decades long war, as they play a role in creating job opportunities and education for its citizens.  By providing fair wages, health care, education and more to their employees Rajana is working to create a different future for Cambodia.  Aside from creating a better social welfare system, it is imperative that the international community become active in the banning of land mines and cluster bombs.  The Ottawa Treaty also known as the Mine Ban Treaty became effective on March 1, 1999, and as of early 2009 had 156 parties to the Treaty.  Once a country has signed, they are required to cease production of anti-personnel mines as well as destroy any stockpile of mines within four years (except for a small number they are allowed to retain for training purposes).  Thirty-seven countries have not signed the Treaty, including the People’s Republic of China, India, Russia and the United States of America, all of whom are some of the largest producers and carry some of the largest stockpile of anti-personnel landmines.  By refusing to sign this Treaty, some of the most powerful countries in the world, namely the United States and China, are perpetuating a problem that has caused countless deaths and produced mass destruction.

The Peace Dove Bombshell Necklace is just one small way that we can make a difference in the eradication of land mines while at the same time allowing us to contribute to the social development of a nation.  A portion from the proceeds of every necklace sold between the International Day of Peace (September 21) and Remembrance Day (November 11) goes to Mines Action Canada while the remainder goes to the artisans making a change through the Rajana organization.  While I hazard to use this site to advertise for companies, Ten Thousand Villages has spent decades providing international communities with a venue to sell fair trade items and I feel their work should be recognized.  If you’re interested in learning more about Ten Thousand Villages and their fair trade items, visit them at www.tenthousandvillages.ca.  To learn more about the work of Mines Action Canada, visit them at www.minesactioncanada.org.  While it is often hard to read about the horrors occurring in other countries, at times I feel our minds can be eased by trying to make any kind of difference, however small or insignificant it may seem.

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The Global Hunger Crisis – Why Haven’t We Made More Progress Towards the Millenium Development Goals?

Written by Heather Wilhelm

It is so easy to forget about the true state of the world when we live our day to day lives just going through the motions.  Here are some statistics to shock you back into reality:

~        1.02 billion people do not have enough to eat – more than the populations of USA, Canada and the European Union;

~        More than 60 percent of chronically hungry people are women;

~        Every six seconds a child dies because of hunger and related causes; and

~        Lack of Vitamin A kills a million infants a year.

When I read statistics like these, I actually find it very hard to believe that they are real.  How is it possible that I’ve lived 28 years never going hungry, and yet somehow during my regular 8 hour work day more than 4,800 children die of hunger-related diseases?  Women and children the world over continue to be the most disenfranchised individuals on the planet, and even the most well-meaning organizations, like the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP), are unable to help effectively.  A recent report from Reuters states that world food aid is at an all-time low despite the fact that the number of hungry people in the world soared to its highest level ever, with more than 1 billion people classified as lacking food.  The WFP has barely enough funding this year to help a fraction of these people, which is made more horrifying by the fact that it would take a mere 0.01% of the global financial crisis bailout package from the United States to solve the hunger crisis.  Priorities need to shift in Washington and in neighbouring developed countries, with the eradication of poverty and starvation not only in “third world” countries, but also right in their own backyards moving to the top of the list.

As per the WFP’s website, one of the possible solutions to the world hunger crisis is the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, which are:

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight goals to be achieved by 2015 that respond to the world’s main development challenges. The MDGs are drawn from the actions and targets contained in the Millennium Declaration that was adopted by 189 nations-and signed by 147 heads of state and governments during the UN Millennium Summit in September 2000.

These eight development goals are:

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education

Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

Goal 4: Reduce child mortality

Goal 5: Improve maternal health

Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability

Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development

The importance of the implementation of the MDG’s cannot be overlooked, but considering we are more than halfway through the fifteen year period that was allotted to make these development goals a reality, how much has really been accomplished?  If the WFP can say that 2009 saw more hungry people than ever before, clearly something is being done wrong.  In an attempt to look into progress reports, I found most sites to be sorely lacking (for instance, the United Nations Development Programme website’s section entitled “Implementation of the MDG’s” last shows an update in 2005), which is beyond discouraging.  The eight goals listed above are so basic, so simple and so easily achieved that is simply doesn’t make sense why there hasn’t been more progress reported.  As a society, we need to hold our government accountable for the commitments they made to the disenfranchised, poverty-stricken people of the world in 2000, and ensure that they are meeting the requirements set out for each country in helping to bring the Millennium Development Goals to fruition by the year 2015.  If you want to make sure they are held accountable, speak up, tell people what you’ve read here and make your voice heard.  Local government representatives aren’t just elected to sit around and look pretty – they are supposed to carry our voices and concerns up to Ottawa and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.  If there’s one country in the world that exemplifies the spirit of helping others, it’s Canada, so let’s make sure when 2015 rolls around, our country has done everything in its power to ensure the full implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.

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