Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Americans aren't evil!

Listening this morning to interviews with various Americans and their reaction to their President's speech I was struck by how easy it can be to get a country wrong. Even after Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, Bagram, Falluja, torture and extra rendition it is important to remember that there are in fact very few, what could be considered evil people in America, even within the wider leadership. But, what poured out over the airwaves this morning was a potent mixture of high levels of patriotism matched in equal measure with naivety, a lack of historical, geographical, and ethnographic knowledge of other peoples, and failure to comprehend human physchology. So many Americans just don't get it!

Given the presence of a small kernel of highly aggressive and expansionist leaders, this results in an extremely dangerous, and ultimately highly vulnerable state. Easily led, easily deceived, and with little ability for self-analyses or correction as it ploughes the furrow of a disastrous and self-defeating strategy.

The global dominance of the USA will of course only be temporary as with any other super or imperial power. The writing is already on the wall with the (lets hope) peaceful rise of China and the (painful) growth of the European counterbalance. In the meantime, the massive opportunity given to the world's most powerful democracy is being horrifically squandered and security and environmental threats set in train and foolishly accelerated with truly catastrophic potential.

Four years is seeming like a very long time indeed!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

CIA agents to be sought by Interpol for Kidnapping

In a landmark legal decision, Italy has decided to seek the extradition and trial of 13 CIA agents who are alleged to have been involved in the kidnapping of an Egyptian preacher in Italy in 2003.

The man was subsequently transported to Egypt and reportedly tortured as part of the USAs 'extraordinary rendition' programme. One of the suspects, described as playing a key role, was identified in the judge's 213-page order as the former Milan CIA station chief, Robert Seldon Lady. It said he had been listed as a diplomat, but was retired and living near Turin.

This is indeed a brave and important move by the legal authorities in one of America's closest allies. If successful, this action will set a clear precedent that the CIA and the US government are not above the laws of sovereign states and they can and must be challenged when they infringe.

Extraordinary rendition is an illegal and barbaric practice which strengthens global anti-American sentiment, and aids in radicalising even the most moderate.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Jack Straw, Blackadder, and a Dog called Colin

Well now we know. Jack Straw ia guilty of 'treating', an illegal act under a British law designed to prevent the buying of votes during elections. Jack decided to ignore the law and provided food to potential voters at a rally hosted by the Muslims for Labour movement during the general election campaign earlier this year.

The Representation of the People Act forbids “providing meat, drink, entertainment or provision to any person or the purpose of corruptly influencing them to vote."

Guilty as charged! Only probelm is the police won't prosecute as they consider the offence too trivial.

On the other hand, if you take the case of creating dodgy dossiers to mislead parliment, endorsing torture, initiating illegal wars leading, at the best available estimate, to the deaths of over 100,000 people, and then failing to ensure adherence to the Geneva conventions and Hague regulations during the occupation, the plea of triviality kinda disappears I guess. Hey, what the heck, Jacks alright, he was democratically elected so he can't be guilty of anything really nasty can he....

In any event, Halliburton's KBR (Dick Cheney's old or not so old company) have just got a nice big contract to enlarge the US monument to international justice at Guantanomo Bay. Although Amnesty International don't think this is a very good idea it will certainly give Jack and the other members of the Network for International Rendition and Torture (NIRT) plenty of 0ptions for expansion. Thank goodness, the amount of time and coffee spent in getting the UK executive detention without trial legislation through parliment might all be wasted if the source of torture-based evidence was to dry up. We might actually end up up putting people on trial and scrutinising the evidence under the usual standards of British law and that would never do in a post 9/11 world. Most important of all of course, is that UBL is extremely pleased that his major recruitment gizmo, ...err gitmo, will continue with enhanced profile and prestige.

Dunny-on-the-Wold is a tuppenny-ha’penny place. Population: three rather mangy cows, a dachshund named Colin and a small hen in its late forties.

Friday, June 17, 2005

UN begins enquiry into Uzbekistan massacre

Reuter Alertnet reports that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is begining an enquiry into the massacre in Andijan. The four member team arrived for meetings in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, on Wednesday on the first leg of a 10 day mission to the former Soviet republic before travelling to the Sasyk camp in the southern province of Jalal-abad, where some 460 Uzbek asylum seekers are living.

The team are going to be reporting to the High Commissioner for Human Rights on their findings and recommendations about how to take any investigative work forward.

The OHCHR team's arrival comes one day a group of 50 young men attacked the Sasyk camp on Tuesday afternoon, reportedly threatening the asylum seekers that if they didn't return to Uzbekistan within the next three days, there would be further violence when they returned.

Earlier this week, Carlos Zaccagnini, UNHCR's chief of mission for Kyrgyzstan described what he saw as a concerted effort by Uzbekistan to coerce the asylum seekers to go home, harassing and threatening family members to visit the Sasyk camp and bring their family members back.

Will the Uzbek government now act sensibly and cooperate with the enquiry by giving them access to the sites and people involved? With some small signs that even the US military is now starting to have to make some short-term politically correct noises, this could be one of Karimov's last chances to retain any international credibility outside of Asia.

Rumsfeld tries to block Uzbek enquiry call - Sunshine coalition makes plea to Rice

The Washington Post reports that "defense officials from Russia and the United States last week helped block a new demand for an international probe into the Uzbekistan government's shooting of hundreds of protesters". Rumsfeld's involvement in this appalling piece of politik is seen as divergent from the State Department, as well as the EU and the UK. Whether the two arms of US government can get themselves singing the same tune for very long will be interesting to watch.

At the State Department Rice has said that international involvement in an inquiry into the killings in Andijan is essential, and the Post reports that she has declined an invitation for Washington to send observers to a commission of inquiry controlled by the Uzbek parliament.

Meanwhile, the BBC report a move by a group known as the Sunshine Uzbekistan Coalition who have written to Rice to ask for "forceful intervention" by the US and the world community to affect change or else repressive Uzbek government policies will continue to radicalise the population and increase support for extremists.

Sunshine Uzbekistan is apparently led by Sanjar Umarov, an Uzbek businessman with strong ties to the United States. The coalition was set up by a group of businessmen and human rights workers who say that economic reforms are essential to prevent this Central Asian nation from sinking into poverty and radicalism.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Senator McCain calls for fundamental change in US policy

Writing in the Financial Times, John McCain outlines his position on US policy following the Andijan massacre and the dilema it produced.

"In the wake of a brutal crackdown last month in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan, American policymakers seem to face a dilemma. On the one hand, the US must vigorously protest against the killing of hundreds of unarmed demonstrators and reaffirm that we stand for freedom, not repression. But on the other hand, the US has important military interests in Uzbekistan, including the use of a regional base that assists our efforts in Afghanistan."

"Either the government of Uzbekistan must make immediate, fundamental changes in the way it operates, or America's relations with it must change fundamentally."

Saturday, June 11, 2005

UNHCR shocked at Kyrgyzstan treatment of Andijan refugees

The UN refugee agency issued an urgent appeal to the Kyrgyz government on Friday to cease further deportations of Uzbek asylum seekers until a proper procedure has been carried out to see whether or not they are refugees under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.

UNHCR said it was shocked to discover that four men who fled Uzbekistan in the wake of the explosion of violence in Andijan on 13 May had been returned against their will on Thursday.

Uzbek asylum seekers at Kyrgyzstan's Barash border camp before the recent transfer to Sasyk camp. Faces obscured to protect their identities. © UNHCR/C.Zaccagnini

Friday, June 10, 2005

Kyrgyzstan hands over Andijan refugees to Uzbek security forces

It has been reported today by the Khaleej Times that refugees from the Andijan massacre, who are entitled to protection under international law, have been handed over to special forces from Uzbekistan by the Kyrgyzstan government.

"Kyrgyz special forces arrested 16 men who were refugees from Andijan yesterday afternoon, of whom 12 are being kept in detention in Jalal-Abad province and four have been handed over to Uzbek special forces without the relevant international organisations being informed,” Jerzy Skuratowicz, the UN’s resident coordinator in Kyrgyzstan, told a human rights conference on Friday.

Skuratowicz condemned the extraditions, saying that Kyrgyzstan is a signatory to a refugee convention outlawing such a move.

The 16 were among some 500 refugees who have been living in a tent camp close to the border with Uzbekistan since fleeing the Uzbek city of Andijan, where rights groups say hundreds of people were killed as troops opened fire after rebels seized government buildings.

Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Roza Otunbayeva said earlier this month that none of the refugees would be forcibly deported and that Kyrgyzstan would comply with its international commitments on treatment of refugees.

European and US law makers try and maintain pressure on Uzbek government

On Thurday the EU parliment adopted a joint resolution on Uzbekistan, with MEPs strongly condemning the excessive, brutal and indiscriminate use of force by the Uzbek security forces and urging the Uzbek authorities to bring those responsible for the massacre in Andijan to trial.

"The House deeply regrets the loss of hundreds of lives and expresses its profound sympathy with the people who have suffered as a consequence of the violence used by Uzbekistan’s security forces. Parliament urges the Uzbek authorities to respond immediately to the international calls for an independent international inquiry into the events and to take the necessary steps to make this investigation possible."

On Friday it is reported that a group of six U.S. senators have urged the Bush administration to reconsider its relationship with the authoritarian government in Uzbekistan, saying close association with a nation whose troops fired on demonstrators last month risked undermining the security of the United States. The senators' letter, signed by four Republicans and two Democrats, was sent to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Don't hold your breath...

Monday, June 06, 2005

Bush linked with Enron-Uzbekistan gas pipeline contract!

Click on the image to get a larger version.
If you need a higher resolution version you may want to view here, where a collection of communications between Enron and Bush is archived, or here.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Strategic imperatives - maintaining the reach

Despite the difficult security and political situation in Uzbekistan the United States is negotiating long-term use of a major military base to expand the global reach of American forces. A report from the Boston Globe seems to capture the underlying direction in US policy, which forms the signal beneath the mandatory noise of democracy and human rights rhetoric. Two quotes from Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman define the kernel:

"They've been a very valuable partner
and ally in the global war on terror"

"Access to this airfield is undeniably critical
in supporting our combat operations"

Donald Rumsfeld lands at Camp Stronghold Freedom in Uzbekistan during December

This is not to deny the existence of sincerely concerned individuals within the State Department, or even the White House. But the Bush doctrine of preemptive action combined with continued colonial expansion in oil rich regions leaves little space for such precious ideals.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

US and Israeli staff evacuated from Uzbekistan

Diplomats are being evacuated from Uzbekistan as signs of further instability increase.

EU angered by Uzbek government refusal

Uzbekistan has refused to allow a European Union special envoy for human rights to visit the country, prompting an angry response on Friday from the 25-nation bloc's foreign policy chief Javier Solana. Solana wanted to send his personal representative on human rights, Michael Matthiessen, to visit the eastern town of Andizhan, where some 500 people, mostly civilians, are reported to have been killed when troops put down a revolt on May 13. It was considered likely that the represenative would of called again for an enquiry. The EU foreign ministers will now probably discuss the Uzbek governments refusal to cooperate at a meeting on 13th June.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Internal struggle in Washington - well maybe

Washington insiders are now struggling with the question: which policy should be prioritized? Should the United States support a dictator who has pursued a generally pro-American policy? Or, should Washington promote democratization regardless of the strategic, military, energy and other geopolitical costs? No consensus has yet emerged in Washington on this issue, but the outcome seems certain... However, some say that close Bush allies are now starting to voice the case for change.

UZBEKISTAN: BUSH ALLIES SEEK HARSHER US TREATMENT OF KARIMOV looks at the movement towards change? On this site, at least, we remain strictly sceptical....

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Enquiries, enquiries - (almost) everyone wants one!

OK, pretty much everyone, except Karimov, now seems to want an enquiry into the Andijan massacre in Uzbekistan. But there are so many options to chose from its all a bit confusing.

Senator McCain wants the OSCE
Dissidents are reported to want the UN and may be the EU
The UN wants an "independent enquiry"
The British Government wants err...well.. better double check with Jack about that one...

But George himself (no not Galloway!) Bush wants the International Red Cross to make a visit (makes a change!).

Good call George, maybe your advisors do after all actually understand something about international law and the Red Cross mandate. If you want an open, hard hitting, publicly accessible report (which of course you don't) then the Red Cross is not the organisation to get on the job. If you want a quiet, highly professional, discreet investigation, with no public reporting of the findings then you have got just the ticket. Hey, this is not a knock at the ICRC, far from it. They are a highly respected organisation with a crucial role to play in many situations, especially in visiting POWs, and other vulnerable groups. But Bush appears to know what he wants from this call and chooses his organisation accordingly. It will be very interesting to follow what happens on this....

For a look at the excellent work that the Red Cross does in so many conflict affected places please go here. To look at the modus operandi of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) go here.