1. On 3 April 2009, the President of the Human Rights Council established the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict with the mandate "to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after."
Friday, October 16, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
The other night PBS Frontline aired a very insightful hour long segment titled, "Obama's War". It was an in depth, on the ground look at and from Afghanistan highlighting America's involvement in what has been coined, "Obama's war". If you did not get a chance to watch it, I suggest you check out the links above and take a close look, it will blow your mind.
I would also suggest you read the latest post by William Wong who sumarizes the segment very nicely and adds what I think is a spot on analysis.
To begin the segment a question is asked...
"Tens of thousands of fresh American troops are now on the move in Afghanistan, led by a new commander and armed with a counterinsurgency plan that builds on the lessons of Iraq. But can U.S. forces succeed in a land long known as the "graveyard of empires"? And can the U.S. stop the Taliban in neighboring Pakistan, where U.S. troops are not allowed and the government is weak?"
The segment then continues to follow Martin Smith across Afghanistan and Pakistan as he details the condition of the eight year war and the many, many, many difficulties facing our troops and our strategy. Ultimately between the top to bottom corrupt Afghanistan government (and people), to an inaccessible neighboring Pakistan, Smith shows how alarmingly incoherent our governments strategy is to the truth about Afghanistan; we are wasting our time, our money, and most importantly, our soldiers lives.
The argument made that we must not leave Afghanistan if we want to continue to gain ground in the war on Al Queda and their allies the Taliban is a valid one and is worth much consideration. Yet, this question also is addressed in the film, if only inadvertantly. Can we alone truly defeat a multi-headed, multi-national, multi-nation financed, elusive tribal force in a brutal land ruled by ancient loyalties and exhaustingly stubborn traditions? If we answer yes, are we fooling ourselves into a war that will take centuries to "win", whatever that means?
By my calculations, and others too, we would need at minimum 600,000 counterinsurgency forces to make significant headway in Afghanistan, currently we are below half that. Additionally, international forces and support would need to be continually infused onto Afghanistan for at least the next 20 years or more, all this after the insurgents are reduced to a minimal level. We are years away from this checkpoint.
I think I could go on for pages and pages about this, but for the sake of space and time I will end with my favorite quote from the segment. It was from a local Afghan in response to an American soldier who was questioning him about the Taliban:
Local Afghan: "You want us to help fight the Taliban? You are the most powerful country in the world. You have guns, bombs, tanks and airplanes and you cannot beat them. We do not even have swords. How can we win?".
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Quoting people often gives an argument legitimacy. I say "often" because it is not always the case--it all depends on whom you are quoting. Right? So let's dive into this one: I just read a really interesting Al Jazeera interview with a spokesman from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In response to a question asking if he would support negotiations with Israel he said:
First of all, we do not believe in negotiations with Israel. We do not recognise Israel as a legitimate entity within this region and see it as an invading body that was cultivated in this area as a representative of Western interests and colonial powers.
Sounds radical. Correct? You never hear anyone in the West talk this way. Ok, maybe a few. But really, very few. Nevertheless, this argument seems to be the only real argument I have heard from Palestinians on the West Bank. (If you are new to this blog I have worked as a journalist on the West Bank on and off for the past 2 years.)
The difference between this way of thinking and of, say, your run of the mill Fatah party member is that many in Fatah seem to be finished with armed resistance. That's right. What I am saying is that even your more "moderate" Palestinian faction likely sees Israel the same way. The difference is that they are not going takeover the Gaza Strip and shoot rockets because of it.
Clearly this was based off my own experience as a journalist and traveler. If anyone disagrees, I'd be very interested to hear about it.
Update: I give our dear friend Thomas L. Friedman a lot of grief on this blog, but his most recent piece on Afghanistan is quite laudable. I mean really, why try population-centric counterinsurgency in Afghanistan if the Karzi government is worthless?
Monday, October 12, 2009
My God. Robert Fisk--you know, that journalist over at the Independent?--has just written one of the brashest pieces of the year. Yes, yes he has. But it isn't your standard "No-Bama." He takes aim at President Obama for a Middle East policy that is "collapsing." How? Why? Just read it.
I am a fan of President Obama. But I also respect the truth; something Fisk gives. This piece may read a bit harsher than something you might find in Newsweek--but keep in mind they know all about pandering to their American readers. So Fisk gives it. The real question is are you ready to take it?
His Middle East policy is collapsing. The Israelis have taunted him by ignoring his demand for an end to settlement-building and by continuing to build their colonies on Arab land. His special envoy is bluntly told by the Israelis that an Arab-Israel peace will take "many years". Now he wants the Palestinians to talk peace to Israel without conditions. He put pressure on the Palestinian leader to throw away the opportunity of international scrutiny of UN Judge Goldstone's damning indictment of Israeli war crimes in Gaza while his Assistant Secretary of State said that the Goldstone report was "seriously flawed". After breaking his pre-election promise to call the 1915 Armenian massacres by Ottoman Turkey a genocide, he has urged the Armenians to sign a treaty with Turkey, again "without pre-conditions". His army is still facing an insurgency in Iraq. He cannot decide how to win "his" war in Afghanistan. I shall not mention Iran.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
(I took this picture in Bourj Hammoud, a suburb of Beirut, Lebanon this summer. Bourj Hammoud was once a refugee camp for Armenians from the 1915 Ottoman genocide. The district is now bustling and alive with Armenian culture. Oh and Sayyed Hassan was born their too.)
This whole thing rubs me the wrong way because Turkey is not really recognizing the first Holocaust of the 20th century. It clearly happened--genocide--and just because the Turks are too proud to admit it shouldn't change the facts of 1915 Anatolia. How could the Jews settle for any less than Germany's fully condolences?
Yet on the other hand, when I was in Armenia two years ago, I saw exactly how devastated the county’s economy was. If I remember correctly, the UN estimates that two thirds of the country lives in what is considered to be "extreme poverty." Simply, an open Armenian-Turkish--not to mention an open Armenian-Azeri--border could significantly help this strangled country.
So at what point do the Armenians--both in Armenia and the diaspora--move on? At what point should they stop fighting for their version of history? I have the memories of my grandmother telling me about how the Turkish army entered her parent’s house and kidnapped her brother and made him fight, never to be seen again. So when does it end? If I understand this treaty correctly, it will put an end to Armenian claims to houses and financial reparations--though it didn’t look like they were going to get it anyway.
When does it, when should it, end? To this I am ignorant.
Update: Robert Fisk wrote an excellent piece on this very issue.
Update II: Russia and the US can agree on one thing... can you guess? Thanks Chase.