No I wasn't aware of the history of Indonesian imperialism in West Papua - the western half of New Guinea - till now. Peter Tatchell tells the story at CiF.
One of Iran's most senior clergymen has issued a fatwa on an Azeri writer said to have insulted the Prophet Muhammad.
The call on Muslims to murder Rafiq Tagi, who writes for Azerbaijan's Senet newspaper, echoes the Iranian fatwa against Indian writer Salman Rushdie.
It was issued by the conservative Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Fazel Lankarani.
The writings of Rafiq Tagi sparked recent demonstrations outside the Azerbaijani embassy in the Iranian capital, Teheran.
The Iranian media is reporting that Grand Ayatollah Lankarani's followers inside the republic of Azerbaijan wrote to him asking for advice about what they called "the apostate writer".
They accuse the Azeri writer of portraying Christianity as superior to Islam and Europe as superior to the Middle East.
They allege that he has ridiculed all the sanctities of Islam and done it knowingly, fully aware of the consequences of his action.
In response, Grand Ayatollah Lankarani is said to have issued a fatwa calling for the death of the writer and also the person responsible for publishing his articles.
Earlier, an Iranian cleric had offered his house as a reward to anyone who killed the Azeri writer.
Our nation has always extended its hand of friendship to all other nations of the world.
Hundreds of thousands of my Iranian compatriots are living amongst you in friendship and peace, and are contributing positively to your society. Our people have been in contact with you over the past many years and have maintained these contacts despite the unnecessary restrictions of US authorities.
As mentioned, we have common concerns, face similar challenges, and are pained by the sufferings and afflictions in the world.
We, like you, are aggrieved by the ever-worsening pain and misery of the Palestinian people. Persistent aggressions by the Zionists are making life more and more difficult for the rightful owners of the land of Palestine . In broad day-light, in front of cameras and before the eyes of the world, they are bombarding innocent defenseless civilians, bulldozing houses, firing machine guns at students in the streets and alleys, and subjecting their families to endless grief.
No day goes by without a new crime.
Palestinian mothers, just like Iranian and American mothers, love their children, and are painfully bereaved by the imprisonment, wounding and murder of their children. [...]
You have certainly heard the sad stories of the Guantanamo and Abu-Ghraib prisons. The US administration attempts to justify them through its proclaimed "war on terror." But every one knows that such behavior, in fact, offends global public opinion, exacerbates resentment and thereby spreads terrorism, and tarnishes the US image and its credibility among nations.
The US administration's illegal and immoral behavior is not even confined to outside its borders. You are witnessing daily that under the pretext of "the war on terror," civil liberties in the United States are being increasingly curtailed. Even the privacy of individuals is fast losing its meaning. Judicial due process and fundamental rights are trampled upon. Private phones are tapped, suspects are arbitrarily arrested, sometimes beaten in the streets, or even shot to death.
I have no doubt that the American people do not approve of this behavior and indeed deplore it.
The US administration does not accept accountability before any organization, institution or council. The US administration has undermined the credibility of international organizations, particularly the United Nations and its Security Council. But, I do not intend to address all the challenges and calamities in this message.
The legitimacy, power and influence of a government do not emanate from its arsenals of tanks, fighter aircrafts, missiles or nuclear weapons. Legitimacy and influence reside in sound logic, quest for justice and compassion and empathy for all humanity. The global position of the United States is in all probability weakened because the administration has continued to resort to force, to conceal the truth, and to mislead the American people about its policies and practices.
Undoubtedly, the American people are not satisfied with this behavior and they showed their discontent in the recent elections. I hope that in the wake of the mid-term elections, the administration of President Bush will have heard and will heed the message of the American people.
It's nicely tailored to appeal to sections of the American left - and not without success, to judge from some of the comments at Metafilter. No mention of the destruction of Israel, or holocaust denial, or the glories of martyrdom, or the coming of the seventh imam....
The newly-formed UN Human Rights Council seems to be going the same way as its predecessor, the largely discredited UN Commission on Human Rights:
The United Nations' top human rights body on Tuesday backed an African-sponsored call for an end to violations in Darfur but without criticising Khartoum, angering European Union diplomats.
European members of the 47-state Human Rights Council, backed by Canada, had sought amendments to highlight what they said was the special responsibility of the Sudan government to rein in rights violations and bring those involved to justice.
But the Council rejected the EU move by 22 votes to 20, with 4 abstentions, and the African proposal was then approved by a wider 25-11 margin, with 10 abstentions....
The African resolution, the first on Darfur the Geneva-based rights body has debated since coming into being in June, noted "with concern the seriousness of the human rights and humanitarian situation in Darfur."
But African states, backed by Muslim and Arab countries, refused to accept additional wording that would have called on U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour to draw up a new report on the situation there....
The EU also tried to draw attention to violations such as the use of child soldiers, and said it was up to the government to end a "climate of impunity."
Arbour, a former Canadian Supreme Court judge and war crimes prosecutor, has been extremely critical of Khartoum in the past, particularly on the issue of impunity. She is expected to address the Council on Wednesday. "The human rights situation in Darfur continues to be of grave concern and according to reliable reports continues to show signs of deteriorating," said Finland's ambassador Vesa Himanen, speaking for the EU.
But his remarks were dismissed by Algerian ambassador Idriss Jazairy, chairing the African group, who echoed Sudan's assertion that things are getting better. "We do not share the pessimism that has just been expressed," said Jazairy.
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Tuesday rejected a U.N. role in the African peace mission in Darfur and accused aid agencies, which have 14,000 staff in Darfur, of giving false information on the crisis to prolong their jobs in the region.
The latest from Eric Reeves on Darfur:
Darfur and eastern Chad are now in the throes of uncontrolled, cataclysmic violence. Anarchic conditions are expanding with terrifying speed, even as the international community gives no evidence that it is prepared to act in any meaningful fashion to stabilize the crisis or to halt rapidly accelerating, ethnically-targeted human destruction. Humanitarian relief efforts are daily more deeply imperiled by intolerable levels of insecurity; and as UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland has very recently reported to the Security Council, Khartoum’s grim war of attrition against humanitarian operations in Darfur is relentlessly more successful. Moreover, the possible collapse of the Chadian government of Idriss Deby before growing military pressure from Chadian rebel groups, supported by Khartoum, could have potentially catastrophic implications for humanitarian operations in eastern Chad.
The events of recent weeks---in Addis Ababa, Tripoli, Khartoum, Beijing, New York, London, Paris, Berlin, and Washington---make all too clear that diplomatic paralysis has set in, and that the genocidal quo will prevail for months. Khartoum has made clear that it will accept no “hybrid” force in Darfur, one that includes UN peace support personnel as well as some form of UN command structure; this obduracy has effectively gutted UN Security Council Resolution 1706 (August 31, 2006). [...]
Most ominously, there are increasingly disturbing reports that Khartoum is prepared to resume war with southern Sudan. Tensions are running extremely high in a number of regions that might serve as flash-points for renewed conflict, especially oil-rich Western Upper Nile. It is in this context that Salva Kiir---nominally First Vice-President of the “Government of National Unity” in Khartoum, and President of the Government of South Sudan---has broken fully with the National Islamic Front on deployment of a force to Darfur for civilian and humanitarian protection:
“The international community should send peacekeepers to Darfur with or without Khartoum’s approval, the Sudanese regime’s number two Salva Kiir has said. ‘My position has always been very clear...that international forces should come to save lives,’ the Sudanese first vice president told reporters in Cairo after meeting Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Wednesday. Asked if the Sudanese government’s consent should be a prerequisite to any deployment, Kiir said: ‘It should not be a condition. There will be no reason, if people are dying...and it should not restrict the international community from coming in to save lives.’” (Agence France-Presse [dateline: Cairo], November 22, 2006)
In the context of mounting tensions in southern Sudan, and a continuing refusal by the National Islamic Front to abide by key terms and benchmarks in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (January 2005), Salva Kiir’s remarks reflect just how explosive and regionally consequential Darfur’s conflict has become. It threatens not only some 4.5 million conflict-affected civilians, but stability in Chad and the Central African Republic, and may prove to be the catalyst for renewed north/south war in southern Sudan.
And Jan Pronk, expelled head of the UN operation in Sudan, sharply criticized international passivity toward the Darfur crisis, in an interview published in a German newspaper:
The international community "has absolutely not reacted to this day against (Khartoum’s) violation of the Darfur peace treaty," Pronk told the daily Munich Suddeutsche Zeitung. "This must be registered. Any reply would have been better than no reply at all." [...]
"The situation is very simple," Pronk said. "The government of Sudan has violated the peace treaty in Darfur to which it was a signatory. And it continues to violate this treaty. It bombs villages. It recruits more and more soldiers, instead of disarming the militias. It always seeks a military solution."
This Bryan Appleyard piece on management consultants, and their stranglehold over the Blair government, is well worth a read - and rang a few bells for me, as someone who's suffered through the idiocies of far too many Total Quality Management seminars and the like:
[W]hat is really going on? Why is the government so enamoured of an industry that its electorate regards with contempt and mistrust and which seems to land it in one disaster after another? The answer is, in detail, complicated but, in essence, simple. Government has gone mad. But sanity is in sight.
Lord Birt, with his bland, technocratic face and mangled “Birtspeak”, has provided the popular image of the management consultant since he became director-general of the BBC in 1992. He introduced internal market reforms based on ideas from the consultancy McKinsey. He did some good but left behind a smouldering mass of bitterness and a huge bill payable to the consultants. Ignoring what had been an at best ambiguous episode in the BBC’s history, Tony Blair gave Birt a job in Downing Street. His brief was “blue-skies thinking”, which meant he could upset any government department more or less at random. As he was also a part-time consultant with McKinsey, the clash of interest was glaring. But the problem didn’t seem to strike Blair.
What did strike Blair was that Birt was an intelligent man who seemed to have an expertise that the civil service and his own ministers did not. It is this obsession with external expertise that has turned new Labour into a rabbit caught in the consultants’ headlights. Blair’s and Brown’s speeches are littered with buzz words – “transformation”, “reconfiguring”, “delivery” – that simply were not used in that way before the consultants came along. They both think that consultants are the answer to all their problems. As a result, consultants have infiltrated Whitehall on a massive scale. The official figure of government spending on consultants comes from the MCA: £2.2 billion annually. Since the MCA only represents two-thirds of consultancies, the real figure must be nearer £3 billion. This may not seem much, less than a third of the total consultancy spending in the UK of £11 billion. But the point is that the government is supposed to have its own in-house consultancy: it is called the civil service.
Furthermore, Glass [co-author, as David Craig, of Plundering the Public Sector] argues that IT spending should be included, as this is largely determined by consultants. On that basis, new Labour has spent £70 billion on consultants since 1997 – the equivalent of perhaps 150 hospitals or about 140m pieces of body armour. [...]
[A]s one academic commented, consultancy has become like Marxism in the Soviet Union: nobody believes in it, but everybody must pretend to.
From Scotland on Sunday:
A senior member of the Sudanese government accused of supporting ethnic cleansing in Darfur has been allowed into Britain for medical treatment twice in the last six months, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.
While Tony Blair and fellow international leaders have condemned the Khartoum government for complicity in looming genocide in Darfur, its intelligence chief General Salah Abdallah has been granted two visas to enter the UK for "urgent" treatment at an exclusive private hospital in London.
Between 1990 and 1996 Abdallah, also known as Al Ghosh, was Osama Bin Laden's main escort when he lived in Sudan. Since 2003, he has organised and carried out the brutal counter-insurgency operation in Darfur, where hundreds of thousands of African Sudanese have been killed by marauding Janjaweed militia.
He is one of the Sudanese leaders singled out for condemnation by human rights groups and the United Nations....
The revelation that Britain is now opening its doors to leaders of a "pariah" state has appalled UK campaigners against genocide, who last night claimed Abdallah "had much blood on his hands".
James Smith, of the Aegis Trust, said: "I have seen people lying wounded as a result of Ghosh's genocidal policies. I am staggered that the British government, with full knowledge of his role, arranged for him to have medical treatment in British hospitals. Perhaps he is offering tit-bits of information on our war on terror but our policy should be to stop terror wherever it happens. Around 300,000 people have been deliberately killed as a result of his policies and two million displaced in ruthless attacks." [...]
In a parliamentary answer slipped out last week, foreign minister Ian McCartney admitted that Abdallah, head of the Sudanese Intelligence and Security Service, had been granted two single entry visas to the UK this year. But he insisted that the government had used the opportunity to raise its concerns over Darfur.
Ayatollah Khamenei called Mugabe a prominent and courageous African figure, saying that the measures he has taken, such as the land reform program which gives formerly occupied lands to Black farmers, are in response to the nation's will.
The Leader referred to Iran's progress in the scientific and technological fields and expressed hope that sharing such experiences with Zimbabwe and the implementation of the agreements the two countries have signed would serve to expand bilateral relations.
At the meeting, which President Mahmud Ahmadinejad also attended, Mugabe said, "Once the occupied territories of Black people were restored, Britain, the U.S., and their allies accused us of human rights violations and despotism. This is while our attempts to enable the people of Zimbabwe to determine their own fate and promote peace in Africa are our only sins."
The Zimbabwean president called his meeting with the Supreme Leader a historic opportunity, adding, "Despite all the charges raised against us by the West and their endeavors, the Zimbabwean government is supported by the people and we are determined to continue our campaign against imperialism based on such support."
Michael Glackin in Lebanon's Daily Star:
Western attempts to openly court Syria, and indeed to a lesser extent Iran (one-third of Washington's axis of evil), are wrongheaded for a raft of reasons. Despite Syria's halfhearted approach to border security and Iran's backing of various Iraqi Shiite militias, it is highly questionable whether either country has any real influence over what has now become a full-blown civil war in Iraq. Second, Syria and Iran both have their own interests in Iraq and in the wider region, and unless I've missed it, so far those interests have not coincided with those of the US or Britain.
While issues like the return of the Golan Heights and a fresh Palestinian-Israeli peace process can be fudged into another of those meaningless face-saving formulas the Middle East is so familiar with, other issues cannot be so easily dealt with. Tehran is determined to join the nuclear club, while Damascus wants to restore its hegemony over Lebanon. Assad also wants to thwart the mixed Lebanese-international tribunal put forward by the United Nations to try suspects in the Hariri assassination and thus avoid seeing senior officials from his regime in the dock.
Is Blair, and perhaps Washington too, really prepared to pay for engaging Syria and Iran by compromising on all those issues? One hopes the answer is no. But there is of course a horrible sense of deja vu in all this. Less than 16 years ago the fathers of the current presidents of the US and Syria came to an agreement over Iraq: In exchange for joining the international coalition forming to oust the Iraqis from Kuwait, Syrian President Hafez Assad was granted leeway to impose his control over all of Lebanon. It was all about the "bigger picture" then, and still is today. But not so long ago, officials from the US and the UK were insisting that Lebanon was integral to their wider vision for the Middle East, even a catalyst for change in the region, not a bargaining chip. The brave new world which those who support engagement with Syria want to usher in in the Middle East is starting to look increasingly like the same old one.