Sunday, October 31, 2010

"Obama waives sanctions for four countries that use child soldiers"


 The Christian Science Monitor -

Obama waives sanctions for four countries that use child soldiers

President Obama grants waivers to Chad, the Congo, Sudan, and Yemen, which use child soldiers but are strategically important to the US. The waivers mean military aid will continue.

Temp Headline Image
A Chadian child soldier stands in front of a machine gun in 2003 in Bangui, Central African Republic.

By Howard LaFranchi, Staff writer
posted October 29, 2010 at 7:53 pm EDT


As a senator, Barack Obama supported legislation requiring the United States to cut off military aid to countries recruiting and deploying child soldiers.

This week as president, Mr. Obama acted to ensure that four countries found to use child soldiers – but which are also considered key national security interests – do not lose their US military assistance. Obama heeded the recommendation of a State Department review and waived application of a year-old law on child soldiers in the case of Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Yemen.

In a Oct. 25 presidential memorandum, Obama said he had “determined that it is in the national interest of the United States” to waive application of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act for the four countries.

RELATED: The world's 10 worst human rights violators

The waiver, issued quietly this week, was another example of what some diplomatic analysts consider to be Obama’s pragmatic approach to foreign policy. But a number of human-rights and international-development groups say the waiver sends a bad signal.

“We are very concerned and disappointed with this decision,” says Jesse Eaves, policy adviser on children in crisis for World Vision, a nongovernmental aid organization with field programs in three of the four exempted countries. “It appears to send the message that you can get away with failing to stop using children in combat as long as your country is strategic enough to the US.”

White House: It's a warning

White House officials say the waivers serve as a wakeup call for the countries to clean up recruitment practices before the State Department delivers its next Trafficking in Persons Report. The annual report serves as the basis for determining which countries employ child soldiers.

The 2010 report found two other countries guilty of the practice: Burma and Somalia. Neither Burma nor Somalia receives US military aid or training.

Some rights activists say the US could have taken a middle road that would sanction the violating countries while preserving assistance focused on military professionalization and weeding out recruitment.

“The basic problem here is that the administration is taking an all-or-nothing approach,” says Jo Becker, advocacy director for the children’s rights division of Human Rights Watch. The US clearly has legitimate interests in these countries, she adds, “but they should have sought a middle ground that allows them to take the law seriously while still taking our cooperation with these countries seriously.”

The State Department review notes the important counterterrorism work Yemen is doing, while citing the negative impact defunding would have on force modernization and human-rights training in Chad, Sudan, and the Congo.

State: They're on the right path

State Department officials would not confirm reports that the waiver decision prompted a heated debate between the department’s democracy and human rights bureau on one side and military affairs on the other. But they emphasized that the waivers do not mean the administration is abandoning the goal of ending the use of child soldiers.

“In each of these countries we are working with the governments to stop the recruitment of child soldiers or [to] demobilize those who may already be in the ranks,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said this week. In the meantime, he added, the waivers allow the US to continue valuable training programs.

“These countries have put the right policies in place,” he said, “but are struggling to correctly implement them.”

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Court saves tortured Nigerian from deportation

Court saves tortured Nigerian from deportation

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

(10-26) 13:18 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- Immigration officials who ordered the deportation of a Southern California woman to Nigeria told her she could avoid torture in her homeland - where police had repeatedly raped and beaten her decades earlier - if she refrained from dissident political activity.

That prompted an indignant ruling Tuesday from a federal appeals court in San Francisco, which said the law protects both free speech and the right to be free from brutality.

Josephine Edu "cannot be forced to choose between her conscience and torture," the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 3-0 decision shielding her from deportation.

Edu, 47, who lives in the Los Angeles area, entered the United States in 1989 and became a legal resident in 1993 after marrying a U.S. citizen. But she was ordered deported after being convicted of assault with a deadly weapon in 2002 for slashing her work supervisor with a piece of glass, the court said.

Her appeal relied on an international treaty that prohibits a person from being deported to a country where he or she is likely to be tortured.

Edu, trained as a nurse and midwife in the Niger Delta, joined a politically active group of doctors and nurses as a young woman. When the group staged demonstrations calling for jobs and government services, Edu said, police responded violently.

She testified that officers beat her at a peaceful rally in 1983, then took her to a barracks and raped her during another protest a few days later.

Military officers sexually assaulted her at three subsequent demonstrations, Edu said, the last one in December 1987, when a high-ranking officer beat her unconscious, raped her after she awoke and told subordinates to dump her at a hospital.

U.S. immigration courts said they believed Edu's testimony that conditions in Nigeria had not improved and that she was likely to be tortured if she returned. But in a 2006 ruling, the Board of Immigration Appeals granted the federal government's request for deportation and said Edu "could avoid torture by refraining from activities that would put her in danger."

That contradicts the purpose of the treaty against torture, the federal appeals court said Tuesday.

"We reject the (immigration board's) decision that in order to avoid torture she must simply give up an activity that most countries (including Nigeria) ... guarantee to their citizens," Judge Ferdinand Fernandez said in the court's ruling.

E-mail Bob Egelko at

This article appeared on page E - 12 of the San Francisco Chronicle

© 2010 Hearst Communications Inc.
Hearst Newspapers


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


Sharing Secrets at Arm's Length


October 30, 2010

Sharing Secrets at Arm’s Length


THE two stories stood side by side: one said that Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, was on the run, in fear of Western intelligence agencies and seen by some colleagues as “delusional,” “erratic” and “imperious.” The other story? A chilling account of war in Iraq, for which Mr. Assange and his organization were the primary source.

In publishing its latest installment of “The War Logs,” which appeared in print last Saturday and Sunday, The Times confronted a stark duality. The case for reporting on nearly 400,000 classified documents was compelling, while the character of its primary source appeared increasingly sketchy.

Managing its relationship with Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks was only one of The Times’s challenges in this exceptional chapter in journalism history.

As in its coverage of the Pentagon Papers, the Cuban missile crisis, surveillance by the National Security Agency and other stories involving secrecy, The Times had to choose whether to cover, how much to cover and when to publish.

The stakes were high. Just as it did in the Pentagon Papers case, when Justice Department lawyers invoked the Espionage Act to try to quash publication, The Times had to consider the possibility that the government would strike back.

More fundamentally, the newspaper had to conduct a fateful cost-benefit analysis that asked: Does the public interest in having this information outweigh the risks to coalition forces and intelligence-gathering in the war zones?

The choices were set in motion early this summer when Bill Keller, The Times’s executive editor, got a call from the editor in chief of The Guardian, a British newspaper. WikiLeaks had offered The Guardian a cache of military field reports and had asked it to invite The Times, and later the German magazine Der Spiegel, to have access as well. Mr. Keller sent Eric Schmitt, an experienced war correspondent, to London to take a look at the giant trove, which included 92,000 individual military field reports from Afghanistan and more than 391,000 reports from Iraq.

Mr. Keller said no conditions were placed on the news organizations’ use of the material, except that they were obligated to synchronize publication with WikiLeaks’s publication online. The Times mapped out its own coverage.

“We chose the documents that struck us as most interesting,” Mr. Keller said in an e-mail message. “We did our own analysis of the material. We decided what to write. We did not discuss any of those matters with WikiLeaks, or give them an advance look at our stories.”

He emphasized, in other words, The Times’s independence from WikiLeaks. The issue emerged as a definitive one in my conversations with veteran journalists, a legal expert and a retired general.

Some say that what’s important is the material itself. Whether or not Julian Assange is a rogue with a political agenda, what matters most is that The Times authenticates the information.

“They did exactly the right thing to establish an arms-length distance,” said Paul Steiger, editor-in-chief of the news organization ProPublica. “WikiLeaks is not the A.P.”

David Rudenstine, a Cardozo Law School professor and author of “The Day the Presses Stopped: A History of the Pentagon Papers Case,” said, “If The Times makes the judgment that this is the real thing, I don’t think it matters much” who it is dealing with.

Another view holds that it is impossible to separate the legitimacy of the material from its source. In this situation, the challenge is compounded because The Times’s source, WikiLeaks, obtained the material from its own source — a leaker whose identity remains uncertain.

“Did the source select which documents to turn over?” asked Bill Kovach, of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, in an e-mail message to me. “What was the nature of the transaction between WikiLeaks and the source(s)? Did WikiLeaks turn over only some documents and not others?”

Mr. Keller said the documents deserved attention, “whatever you think of WikiLeaks as an organization.” He added that Times staffers scrutinized the material to satisfy themselves that it had not been manipulated.

More fundamental than the relationship between The Times and WikiLeaks is the basic question of whether it was right to publish the material at all. Most of those I spoke to echoed the comments of Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of The Washington Post, who called WikiLeaks’s archive “newsworthy and of public interest.” But there is an argument to the contrary.

Thomas E. Ricks, author of “Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq” and now contributing editor to Foreign Policy magazine, believes The Times put those in the field at great risk, with little public gain.

“What you have here is thousands of, basically, the equivalent of telephone logs, situation reports,” he said. “These are not policy statements. These are not Rumsfeld ordered ‘X.’ It is one officer said this or heard this. It is the lowest form of information. It is crappy information being given a status it doesn’t deserve, and it carries great risk.”

To address the risk to troops and informants, The Times took pains to remove names and other information from the documents it published. Nevertheless, a retired Army general, who asked for anonymity to avoid bringing controversy to the civilian organization he now serves, said the field reports enable Al Qaeda and the Taliban to learn much about the operational practices and mind-set of the coalition’s fighting forces.

“Analysis is not nearly as damaging as reports,” he said, drawing a distinction between the Pentagon Papers and the WikiLeaks material. Field reports like these make it possible “to get into the mind of the enemy. Anytime you do that you gain a tremendous advantage.”

These are powerful arguments. Ultimately, the case presented circumstances that stubbornly defied decision-making templates of the past. Daniel Ellsberg, who exposed the Pentagon Papers, needed a major news organization to publish his material. WikiLeaks, with or without The Times, could publish its material on the Internet. So The Times’s choice was whether to use its resources to organize and filter material that was going public, one way or another.

The Times, in my opinion, did take a reputational risk in doing business with WikiLeaks, though it has inoculated itself somewhat by reporting independently on the organization.

The ultimate risk, of course, is to the fighting forces in the field. And I’m sure that wasn’t an easy call for The Times’s editors. Perhaps the decision wasn’t unlike the one that A.M. Rosenthal, then executive editor of The Times, made in the Pentagon Papers case. As Professor Rudenstine related it: “He didn’t think he should play God and decide what was best for the nation. So he decided the question on its news value.”

The Times faced some very tough decisions in this situation and took some risks. I think it did what it had to do.


Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


Serengeti Road Plan Lined With Prospect and Fears


The New York Times

October 30, 2010

Serengeti Road Plan Lined With Prospect and Fears


SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK, Tanzania — Every spring, out here on this endless sheet of yellow grass, two million wildebeest, zebras, gazelles and other grazers march north in search of greener pastures, with lions and hyenas stalking them and vultures circling above.

It is called the Great Migration, and it is widely considered one of the most spectacular assemblies of animal life on the planet.

But how much longer it will stay that way is another matter. Tanzania’s president, Jakaya Kikwete, plans to build a national highway straight through the Serengeti park, bisecting the migration route and possibly sending a thick stream of overloaded trucks and speeding buses through the traveling herds.

Scientists and conservation groups paint a grim picture of what could happen next: rare animals like rhinos getting knocked down as roadkill; fences going up; invasive seeds sticking to car tires and being spread throughout the park; the migration getting blocked and the entire ecosystem becoming irreversibly damaged.

“The Serengeti ecosystem is one of the wonders of the planet,” said Anne Pusey, an evolutionary anthropologist at Duke University. “It must be preserved.”

But it is election time in Tanzania, one of the poorest countries in the world, and Mr. Kikwete is embroiled in what political analysts say is the feistiest presidential race this country has seen. Few things symbolize progress better than a road; this road in particular, which will connect marginalized areas of northern Tanzania, has been one of Mr. Kikwete’s campaign promises.

“The decision’s been made,” said Salvator Rweyemamu, the president’s spokesman. “If this government comes back into power — and we will — the road will be built.”

He said Tanzania had done more to protect wildlife than most countries, and he added, with clear frustration at outsiders, that “you guys always talk about animals, but we need to think about people.”

Hundreds of thousands of people here depend on tourism for a living. And the Serengeti is like a giant A.T.M. for Tanzania, attracting more than 100,000 visitors each year, producing millions of dollars in park fees and helping drive Tanzania’s billion-dollar safari business, an economic pillar. “If anything bad happens to the Serengeti,” said Charles Ngereza, a Tanzanian tour operator, “we’re finished.”

Most Tanzanians scrape by on the equivalent of a few dollars a day, so economic development is a pressing issue in the election, scheduled for Sunday. But corruption is a growing — and related — concern.

Mr. Kikwete’s ruling party has been widely accused of siphoning millions of dollars out of the treasury by awarding contracts to ghost companies. Perhaps no one in the campaign has better channeled voters’ frustrations over being poor while the ruling class is getting rich than Willibrod Slaa, a former Roman Catholic priest and legislator who has crusaded against corruption for years and is now running for president, along with five other challengers.

Tanzania’s government is not accustomed to upstarts. The governing party, the Party of the Revolution, was formed in the 1970s as a continuation of the Socialist-leaning political party that brought Tanganyika independence in 1961, and it has dominated Tanzanian politics ever since.

But the government now seems to be worried. It recently threatened to close independent newspapers, and Mr. Kikwete refused to debate Mr. Slaa on television, sending his campaign manager instead. The government is also delaying opening universities until after the election, which means many students will not be able to vote and will be scattered across the country, not concentrated on campuses, should there be any trouble.

Mr. Kikwete’s green guards, the governing party’s youth wing, have attacked journalists and opposition supporters. Tanzania’s police, who rarely confront civil disobedience, have tear-gassed rowdy opposition rallies. This is one of the few African countries that has escaped civil war and ethnic violence, but some Tanzanians now wonder if their tradition of harmony will be tarnished.

“There’s no way this government can win this election in a clean shot,” said Azaveli Lwaitama, a political analyst at the University of Dar es Salaam, who predicted vote-rigging and possibly turmoil. “The masses are discontented. They’re seething for change.”

That may be true in the towns, but in rural areas, where most Tanzanians live, the president still has plenty of support. In Engare Sero, a village of 6,000 people, mostly Maasai herders, just about everyone interviewed said they would vote for him.

Engare Sero lies along the proposed 300-mile highway route, already marked by red paint on rocks. The only roads out here right now are spine-crunching gravel tracks. People here not only want the highway, said chief Loshipa Sadira, “but we’ve been praying for it for years.”

He rattled off the reasons: cheaper goods; getting to the hospital faster; being better connected to towns; and having a higher chance of someday getting electricity and cellphone service.

It is hard to argue with him. Mr. Loshipa and his family eke out a living herding cows in what is essentially a desert. There are fertile grasslands nearby. But they are mostly reserved for the animals. This policy goes back to colonial times, when Maasai were summarily evicted from their lands for the sake of conservation. It has left many Maasai destitute, with young men now converging in the towns to hustle tanzanite, a semiprecious local stone, or to seek poor-paying jobs as night guards.

None of the leading conservation groups pressing Mr. Kikwete to reconsider say they are trying to block the national highway altogether; they just oppose it running through the Serengeti, which is a Unesco World Heritage site. Grass-roots groups are mobilizing around the world, circulating petitions and setting up Web sites, like

Mr. Kikwete recently promised that the roughly 30-mile stretch through the park would not be tarmac but packed dirt, like the mainly tourist roads already in the park. But conservation groups say any major road would allow poachers to quickly get in, shoot the animals from the highway and get out.

Scientists say the ecological damage is very hard to predict but potentially enormous. During the annual migration, the wildebeest produce more than 800,000 pounds of dung — per day — which nourishes the grasslands. If the highway fragments that migration and makes the wildebeest turn back, “the whole ecosystem could crash,” said Bernard Kissui, a research scientist for the African Wildlife Foundation.

He spoke of a “cascading effect” on the lions, leopards, birds, plants, all interconnected in an ecological web that has been relatively undisturbed for eons.

The World Bank looked into financing such a highway around 20 years ago and rejected it, partly for environmental reasons. Western scientists have recently come up with an alternative route south of the park, which they say will link up more towns and spare the wildlife.

But the Tanzanian government is not biting. Tanzanian officials say that the original route through the park is better, that construction will start soon and that if no donors will pay the approximately half billion dollars for the road, they will build it themselves.

“We are Tanzanians,” Mr. Rweyemamu said. “We know where the people are. The research has been done.”

Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


Saturday, October 30, 2010

The US Is Building An £8 Billion Super Military Base On the Pacific Island of Guam In An Attempt to Contain China's Military Build-Up

Telegraph UK

The US Is Building An £8 Billion Super Military Base On the Pacific Island of Guam In An Attempt to Contain China's Military Build-Up

Praveen Swami, Diplomatic Editor
25 Oct 2010

Andersen Air Force Base in Guam


A B-1B Lancer takes off from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam in 2003 Photo: GETTY

The expansion will include a dock for a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, a missile defence system, live-fire training sites and the expansion of the island's airbase. It will be the largest investment in a military base in the western Pacific since the Second World War, and the biggest spend on naval infrastructure in decades.

However, Guam residents fear the build-up could hurt their ecosystem and tourism-dependent economy.

Estimates suggest that the island's population will rise by almost 50 per cent from its current 173,000 at the peak of construction. It will eventually house 19,000 Marines who will be relocated from the Japanese island of Okinawa, where the US force has become unpopular.

The US's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said that this could trigger serious water shortages. The EPA said that dredging the harbour to allow an aircraft carrier to berth would damage 71 acres of pristine coral reefs.

The EPA's report said the build-up would "exacerbate existing substandard environmental conditions on Guam".

Local residents' concerns, however, have been sidelined by the US-China strategic competition. China has significantly expanded its fleet during the past decade, seeking to deter the US from intervening militarily in any future conflict over Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own, and to project power across disputed territories in the gas and oil-rich South China Sea.

Beijing's naval build-up is also intended secure the sea lanes from the Middle East, from where China will import an estimated 70-80 per cent of its oil needs by 2035 supplies it fears US could choke in the event of a conflict.

China has therefore invested in what are called its "string of pearls" a network of bases strung along the Indian Ocean rim, like Hambantota in Sri Lanka and Gwadar in Pakistan and in developing a navy which can operate far from home.

Experts agree China does not currently have the capability to challenge US supremacy in the Pacific and Indian Ocean. "China has a large appetite", says Carl Ungerer, an analyst at Australian Strategic Policy Institute, "but it hasn't got enough teeth".

But China clearly intends to add bite to its naval arsenal. The country has acquired several modern Russian-made submarines and destroyers. Its shipyards are building new nuclear-powered submarines, as well as an aircraft carrier. There have also been reports that China is planning to test a new type of ballistic missile, the Dong Feng 21D, which would effectively render US carriers defenceless.

"China's charm offensive is over", says Ian Storey, an expert at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, "and its given way to what you might call an adolescent foreign policy. The country's flexing its muscles, letting us know it won't be pushed around".

The US is also investing another £126 million on upgrading infrastructure at the British-owned Indian Ocean atoll of Diego Garcia, 700 miles south of Sri Lanka.

Key among the upgrades at Diego Garcia, which are due for completion in 2013, will be the capability to repair a nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine which can carry up to 154 cruise missiles striking power equivalent to that of an entire US aircraft carrier battle group.

Diego Garcia, which has served as a launch-pad for air strikes on Iraq and Afghanistan, is already home to one third of what the US navy calls its Afloat Prepositioned Force equipment kept on standby to support military deployment anywhere in the world. 

Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.  ~Henry David Thoreau

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs