Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Khodorkovsky Decision at the European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights has rejected Mikhael Khodorkovsky’s petition asking the court to find that his first arrest in 2003 and subsequent trial for tax evasion and fraud were politically motivated. The court said that while the charges could be read with “considerable suspicion,” Khodorkovsky’s defense did not present “incontestable proof” that the charges were politically motivated.
However, the court said that Khodorkovsky’s human rights were violated during his arrest and detention, noting the cell’s cramped and unclean space and his arrest being based on the fact that he had not appeared as a witness when, in fact, hours after his arrest the more serious tax evasion and fraud charges were brought against him.
Russia was ordered to pay Khodorkovsky US$35,000 for the human rights violation. The payment will be donated to charity, according to Khodorkovsky spokesmen.
Khodorkovsky’s lawyers say that they are satisfied with the decision but have not yet decided whether to appeal. They noted that new evidence showing the political motivation of the arrest and trial has appeared since the case was argued before the court.
The decision is a blow to Khodorkovsky’s stance as a political victim of the Russian government, however at the time of the trial some analysts said that Khodorkovsky may have used loopholes to reduce taxes, but that the loopholes were in general use at that time.
What is clearer is that Khodorkovsky’s second trial for stealing money from his corporation was politically motivated. His lawyers are preparing a case related to the second trial.
Khodorkovsky is seeking early release because he has already spent half of his 13-year sentence in prison. Russian President Medvedev says Khodorkovsky would present no threat if released. Prime Minister Putin has said that Khodorkovsky's hands are covered with blood up to his elbows.
What happens next? Stay tuned.

Monday, May 30, 2011

American Memorial Day, 2011

Today is Memorial Day in the United States, the day on which America pays tribute to its soldiers fallen in war, and to all its veterans.
When I was a child in school, we memorized many poems and repeated them for our teachers. It was an exercise not only in memory and public speaking but a lesson in the beauty of the English language and the emotions it can produce when put to the work of creating a poem.
The poems were about love and bravery and honor and war. Some of them will be in my heart forever.
Today, one especially comes to mind. It was written during the World War I battle of Ypres by Canadian Army Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918), a doctor who was attending the wounded in that terrible field of death.
We American youngsters being raised in the aftermath of World War II learned In Flanders Fields and recited it at memorable occasions when our parents and teachers would stand smiling down on us. We had little understanding of the poem’s real meaning or the imprint it had made on our parents' generation, but we loved to recite it, letting the lines fall and rise toward the finishing words, In Flanders Fields.
Here it is for you, my Memorial Day offering, with the prayer that one day we will outgrow the need for its sorrowful truth.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields. 
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Barcelona Beat Manchester to Win the European Football Champions Cup

Barcelona won its fourth European Football Champions Cup last night at mythic Wembley Stadium in London, beating Manchester United 3-1.
I’m a steadfast Manchester fan and it hurt to see the great team that they are beaten so easily, almost effortlessly, by Barcelona. But, it was a Spanish victory of extraordinary proportions. After the first 10 minutes, during which MU tried to control the game by hustling Barcelona in its own end, the Barcelona team found its legendary rhythm and the rest was, as they say, history.
Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester manager for 25 years and a football legend in his own right, was philosophic about the defeat, saying that Barcelona is the best team he has ever faced and surely the best in Europe right now. He also noted that his team was never able to control Lionel Messi, the two-time Golden Globe winner who seems to score by dancing across the field when he’s not flying. He is almost universally considered to be the greatest footballer who has ever played the game.
Ferguson is 70 and says he’ll be back next year, wiser and ready to improve his team. He has won more English football championships than any other coach, and has three European Football Champions Cups with Manchester.
The Barcelona coach, Pep Guardiola, is 40. He was on the 1992 Barcelona team that won the first European Football Champions Cup for Barcelona - at Wembley. He is a product of the famous Barcelona “school” that finds and trains young footballers to become part of the Barcelona family. That is, indeed, one of Barcelona’s great strengths - their feeling for each other and their completely unselfish playing that means that no one hoards the ball when passing it would be a better idea.
The finest example of this occurred last night. Barcelona captain Carles Puyol, injured and entering the match very late as a gesture for his importance to the team, should have been the player to hold high the cup, but instead he put the captain’s armband around the arm of Frenchman Eric Abidal, the Barcelona player stricken with kidney cancer earlier this season who has survived surgery and played in the last several matches. So it was Abidal who lifted the cup for the first tumultuous shout at Wembley.
That’s team spirit. That’s what makes Barcelona so special. That’s why they win so easily. They think together, they laugh together and they play almost as if they had the same brain.
And to Manchester United, don’t give up. We love you, and as baseball immortal Casey Stengel once said, “You gotta lose ‘em some of the time. When you do, lose ‘em right.” You did just that last night at Wembley.     

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Gaza's Rafah Border with Egypt Opened

The new Egyptian government has re-opened its Rafah border entry with Gaza. The move comes after two weeks of deteriorating Israel-Palestine relations, but Egypt made no mention of this in opening the border.
The opened Rafah border crossing has already permitted several hundred Palestinians residing in Gaza to enter Egypt.
The Egyptian move nullifies the long-standing Mubarak-Israel policy of blocking entry to Gaza at Rafah, except for medical and other emergencies, in order to prevent Hamas from receiving embargoed military goods.
Gaza Strip residents now have an entry-exit point other than that with Israel, which is tightly controlled and Gaza residents will now be able to receive more of the ordinary goods they require in their daily lives.
Israel still maintains a sea and air blockade of Gaza but has recently allowed more goods to enter Gaza.
The Palestinian Authority sees the move as an indication that “the new Egypt stands by the Palestinian people.”
Hamas held a rally near the Rafah crossing to show its support for the move.
Israel has thus far refused to comment publicly.
Time will tell if Egypt’s decision is a humanitarian act to help Gaza residents or a hole in Israel’s blockade of Hamas that will ultimately lead to greater armed confrontation between the two sides.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Mladic to Qadhaffi: You Can Run But You Can't Hide

Late last night the Libyan prime minister called on the UN and the African Union to broker a cease fire between the Qadhaffi regime and the rebel Transitional National Council.
The call came after Tripoli was pounded on Tuesday and Thursday evenings by bunker-busting bombs. Apparently, few people were killed (3 according to Prime Minister Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi) but 150 were injured.
Qadhaffi was not injured, probably because it is reported that he and his family are now moving around every day, often staying in hospitals overnight and trying to avoid any places that could be bombing targets.
Al-Mahmoudi did not say that Qadhaffi’s military would be sent back to their barracks, a requirement of the international community as a prerequisite for any cease-fire.
Wednesday in London, British Prime Minister David Cameron called for Qadhaffi to step down unconditionally and leave the country. At the side of Cameron at the time, US President Obama seemed to differ slightly, saying that the stand down could be made in phases. But, it is clear that America and Britain are telling Qadhaffi to leave Libya, even suggesting that he could find a safe haven unless he delays his departure for too much longer.
However, the Transitional National Council would prefer that Qadhaffi be tried for his crimes, and he is already sought under an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
In a reply all too reminiscent of Qadhaffi’s well-known temperament, Prime Minister al-Mahmoudi said that only Qadhaffi would determine his future role. “It is he who decides what the Libyan people want.”
If that statement is not a red flag waved at a raging bull, we have never seen one. It also makes Qadhaffi’s call for a cease fire very suspicious. He has already gotten one cease fire, which the rebels and UN honored only to find that Qadhaffi had actually stepped up his bombing of rebel cities during the cease fire period.
President Ronald Reagan said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall.”
What we need now is for the UN and international leaders to give a similar unequivocal challenge. “Mr. Qadhaffi, step down. Leave Libya. Or else we will hunt you down and arrest you.”
Bosnian Serb General Radko Mladic just learned this lesson the hard way. He was arrested after a 16-year search and will be tried for war crimes.
It is true - You can run, but you can’t hide.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Israel-Palestine: The Road to Hell Is Paved with Good Intentions

The situation between Israel and Palestine has reached yet another impasse. But, this time, it was accompanied by a dispute between the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and US President Obama.
It all started with Mr. Obama’s speech on the Middle East ten days ago, when he called for a negotiated peace based on the 1967 Israel-Palestine borders.
Netanyahu answered in person when he met with Obama at the White House last week, saying that it was not possible for Israel to return to the 1967 borders because they are indefensible.
Later last week, Netanyahu spoke before the America Congress, re-iterating his position and adding that Israel would be generous about fixing new borders in negotiations. But, he also demanded that Palestine recognize Israel as a state and that Hamas not be part of the negotiation. He added that Jerusalem would never leave Israeli control and that Israel must be able to keep a military presence in the West Bank after peace is reached.
Obama then restated his 1967 border position in London this week.
Whether Mr. Netanyahu meant that all the conditions he mentioned must precede negotiations or be part of the items on the table is not clear.
What is clear, however, is that Palestine President Abbas took them as being the necessary precursors to negotiations. He rejected all of them, saying that Netanyahu had destroyed the possibility of any peace talks.
Even the more moderate political groups in Israel fear that peace talks are no longer possible and that Israel will be at risk, sitting, as it is, in the midst of hostile neighbors who want to destroy her.
There is an old adage: “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”
Mr. Obama launched this catastrophe with good intentions, but he opened a pandora's box that will only be closed with enormous effort.
And, I fear that Mr. Obama does not have the skill or the interest to force the Israelis and the Palestinians to re-consider their recent positions.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Obama, Cameron and the Elephant in the Room that Nobody Wants to Dance With

This afternoon in London, British Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barak Obama are holding a press conference after their meetings this morning.
Their statements were straightforward. They will work together to improve world economic conditions and to support Middle East and North African peoples who are seeking more democratic forms of government and better lives. They will continue to focus on driving Al-Qaida and the Taliban out of Afghanistan and on seeking a negotiated peace between Israel and Palestine All honorable and time-tested goals.
Cameron is an excellent speaker, who seems to be extemporaneous, even when he’s reading his remarks. If you are looking for English as it is meant to be structured and spoken, Cameron is the model.
Obama, meanwhile, does not do quite as well reading his remarks and his English is a little less elegant, but his facial expressions and generally relaxed and friendly style make up for the small differences.
So, we may conclude that nothing very new was developed in London this week, with one exception.
Cameron and Obama will go to the G8 meetings this weekend with the goal of getting agreement on a package of economic and social programs to help the people of North Africa and the Middle East who want to change their societies and lives.
Perhaps my Marshall Plan for the region has a chance after all.
It would be a fitting end (and beginning) to the heroic struggle of so many freedom fighters.
But, there is one small detail to be worked out first, a detail which neither Cameron nor Obama addressed. How to get rid of Qadhaffi, Saleh, al-Assad, and any number of entrenched and non-democratic Gulf monarchs without leaving in disarray the West’s long-time strategy for holding on in the region and using it to cut off Iran. This is the elephant in the room that nobody wants to dance with.
Until a heavyweight leader steps up to this issue, good words will follow good words without much improvement on the ground for the millions of people we want to help.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Obama : Ireland vs. the Rest of the World (Carla's Baby Excluded)

If everything were as easy for an American President as visiting Ireland, the White House would be a very serene place, indeed.
The Irish love Americans, not so common these days outside US borders, and they show it with great enthusiasm every time an American President lands in Dublin.
Of course, there is not another country in the world which has more of its ancestors in America than live today in their own country, including Henry Ford, the Irish-American who mechanized the 20th century.
But, sadly, there’s more to an American President’s agenda than Ireland.
There is, for example, the Middle East with its seemingly unsolvable Jewish - Palestinian problem. For President Obama to do anything that will help, he needs to be more even-handed with the two sides.
There is also North Africa, where the hope of quickly saving Libyans from Qadhaffi has turned into the prolonged “almost” civil war that the American military warned us about. American air power and electronics would surely cut short the suffering in Misrah, if Mr. Obama would agree to help there.
There is Iraq - Iran - Afghanistan, where no one has made much progress in establishing real peace, only a sort of armed truce among rival factions and religions. Here, the President needs a concise and comprehensive set of goals that the region and the world can understand and support. Not easy, but possible. 
And, of course, there is America itself, where exploding budget deficits, national debt ceilings, unemployment and a looming 2012 re-election campaign takes much a lot of energy. The energy could be better spent than in bashing every idea that comes from the GOP. What is required urgently is that the President get into the fray and put out a few ideas himself.
So, Mr. Obama, enjoy Ireland. And, enjoy England, which will treat you more formally but with the same enthusiasm you felt in Dublin.
When you set foot in Paris, the world financial crisis will await you, along with filling the post of the head of the International Monetary Fund so that work on stabilizing Greece and the other dangerously under-funded European countries may recommence in earnest.
Just about the only happy event you’ll find in Euroland these days is the anticipated birth of a baby boy for Carla and Nicolas Sarkozy. Don’t forget to congratulate them and have a little gift on hand.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Republican Candidate Comedy

It’s beginning to be a little comic - the Republicans are losing potential presidential candidates faster than they can update the "possibles" list.
This weekend we lost Governor Mitch Daniels.
Governor Haley Barber was the first out, followed by last week’s exiters Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump.
Some guys don’t even want to be labeled as "possibles" - Governor Christie who still insists he will not be a candidate, and Jeb Bush who says the same thing.
So, where is the GOP candidate going to come from?
There’s Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman, both loved by the Tea Party. There’s Rep. Ron Paul, who seems to be clinging to his Medicare fix for the US budget deficit as if it were the only lifesaver on board.
There are the supposedly frontrunners - former Governor Mitt Romney, who is a candidate but won’t admit it for some unfathomable reason, and Governor Tim Pawlenty, who is supposed to announce his candidacy today.
And, oh yes, there are the two announced candidates - Herman Cain, of pizza fame, and Newt Gingrich, who seems to have foot-in-mouth disease left over from the 1990s.
I have to admit that the situation is underwhelming.   
To put this all this dithering into perspective, we cannot seem to find anyone on the GOP side of the aisle with the guts to step up and beat President Obama, who is still, according to the opinions of almost all analysts, a very weak candidate himself, and who can be beaten by merely going after him with his own economic, diplomatic and military errors of judgment.
Do we have to ask John McCain to put on his running shoes again??
Or will somebody finally decide to carry the GOP colors in 2012. I’d hate to see Obama win because none of the GOP "possibles" can find the courage to step up to the plate.  

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Template Change for Casey Pops Blog

Dear readers,
I've changed the template for my blog to make it cleaner. I hope you like it. The functionality has not been changed.
Have a super week, Casey Pops

Yemen's President Saleh Again Refuses to Sign a Peace Accord

President Saleh of Yemen has again refused to sign the accord negotiated by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the European Union and the United States.
This is the second time that Saleh has refused to sign, indicating Sunday that the signature of the opposition was made in secret and unless the opposition signatory appears to sign with him, he will not resign.
The GCC has given Saleh until late Sunday to sign the accord, which was scheduled to be flown to Riyadh for approval by the chief diplomatic ministers of the Gulf states.
The opposition now says that President Saleh will be driven from office if he does not go peacefully. For its part, the government has deployed security forces around Tahrir Square, the routes to the airport, the presidential palace and the parliament to prevent marchers from taking over these areas.
What is very peculiar in his refusal to sign the accord is that it gives President Saleh and his close circle immunity for past acts.
One would think that by now, immunity for any Arab leader under popular siege would be the offer that makes transition work. There is ample evidence that without immunity, ousted leaders are charged with serious criminal offenses, for example, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt or Colonel Qadhaffi in Libya who now faces charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Wake up, fellows. The game is over. Retire peacefully and let the transition to more democratic governments happen, or be hounded out of office and treated as criminals.
The choice seems obvious to me.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Syria's al-Assad Is now Killing Funeral Marchers

We’ve reached a new low in state terrorism.
Today, 13 demonstrators who were killed Friday during a march in Homs were buried.
After the burial, when the funeral followers were leaving the cemetery, the Syrian security forces fired on them, killing 5 more people.
Apparently, it is now a crime in Syria to attend a funeral for one's friends.
President al-Assad seems to be deaf to the world of his citizens and deaf to worldwide opinion. Even his allies in the Turkish government have now called on him to stop the killings and try to find a negotiated way out of the mess he’s got himself into before it’s too late.
Thursday, President Obama told him to lead the democratic reform or “get out of the way.”
How long will it take before someone makes an offer that a-Assad cannot refuse?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Obama's Middle East Speech Did Not Measure Up to the Occasion

Newspapers and TV commentators are reporting extensively today on the Middle East speech given by President Obama yesterday.
The bombshell contained in the speech was the suggestion by Obama that Israel negotiate peace with Palestine based on the pre-1967 war borders. This is the first time an American president has made such a suggestion, and in the United States, many were shocked and dismayed that he chose to “abandon” Israel. Most Americans believe that the 1967 borders, which are actually the 1949 ceasefire lines, are not defensible as borders today.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was equally unimpressed. He stated afterward that “the viability of the Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of the viability of the one and only Jewish state.” Netanyahu noted that many Israeli citizens would be outside Israel if parts of the West Bank were to be put under Palestine control.
Obama added that the Palestinian state should be “non-militarized” and that some trade-offs of territories should be made to accommodate large Jewish settlements.
He left the fiercely debated questions of East Jerusalem and the right of return of the descendants of Palestinian refugees off the map for now, saying that the border negotiation would set the stage for resolving those two difficult issues.
The President also called on Arab governments to carry out democratic reform, and suggested that as for Syria, President Bashar al-Assad should “…lead the transition or get out of the way.” But, these principles were lost in the noise created by his 1967-border statement.
The speech was received coolly by Americans and Arabs alike.
The Arab Spring has clearly gotten out ahead of the President, and its leaders will probably not be satisfied with his small idea of forgiving two billion dollars worth of loans to Egypt or working to get multilateral lending institutions to aid in the transition to viable economies.
If there is to be a Marshall Plan for the Middle East and North Africa, it will not have Barak Obama’s name on it. His speech was rather ordinary in its half-way proposals and lacked the vision required to lead in the region’s renewal.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Marshall Plan for the Middle East and North Africa

US Secretary of State and former General George Marshall gave a speech at Harvard University on 5 June 1947. In it, he outlined what would become the Marshall Plan to rescue Europe from the ruins of World War II.
Marshall said at Harvard :

“It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health to the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace. Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos. Its purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist.”

That, in brief, is the Marshall Plan that gave new life to Europe between 1947 and 1951, when its major work was completed. It could be transposed to the Arab World today without changing one word.
The Middle East and North Africa desperately need a 21st century Marshall Plan. Should it be called the Obama Plan, why not?
There is no other way out of the genuine chaos now reigning in the region. The major difference between the 1947 Marshall Plan and the 2011 “Marshall Plan” ought to be that the United States would not have to shoulder the entire burden and cost. Saudi Arabia is certainly financially able to help, as is Israel, if its help were accepted.
America could render no greater service to the impoverished, unemployed and uneducated youth of the Arab World than to help them lift themselves into economic and social stability.
It took big vision and heart for the United States to spend billions of dollars to save Europe from itself. No less will be required to save the Arab world.
But, the reward would be a region based on education, social equality and economic partnership that would change dramatically, and for the better, the world we live in.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hamas-Fatah, Israel-Palestine, Nakba-Syria

Hamas and Fatah are in Cairo trying to organize a united Palestine. That Cairo is the venue is not surprising since Egypt has long been the go-between for Hamas and Fatah.
The two delegations are charged to put in place the “mechanisms of reconciliation, in particular the formation of an independent Palestinian government.”
Israel is opposed to the possible merger of Hamas and Fatah and it refuses to accept Hamas as a negotiating partner in future Israel-Palestine peace talks because of Hamas’ long-term position that Israel should be destroyed.
However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently said that in any peace talks, it would demand the right to keep its colony blocks, without mentioning keeping smaller colonies. This is a change from its former position that colony expansion is correct because it sees the lands being colonized as its lawful territory.
Meanwhile, as a measure of how far from any peace talks the region is, border clashes broke out on Nakba Day, the “catastrophe” as it is called by Palestinians. Nakba is the day on which the state of Israel was created and Palestinians began to be displaced.
Demonstrators tried to cross into Israel from Syria, the area of Jordan near Jerusalem, the Occupied Territories, and the Golan Heights in South Lebanon. Israeli troops fired warning shots and then fired on those whom Israeli officials said were trying to destroy Israel security structures. The resulting deaths were unanimously condemned by Arab states in the region.
However, some commentators suggested that Syria may have been responsible for many of the demonstrations, using them as a way to take media attention off its own brutal military sweep against peaceful demonstrators asking for more democratic government in Syria.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dominique Strauss-Kahn

I suppose it is necessary to say something about the bombshell that dropped in New York last Saturday with the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK), French head of the International Monetary Fund.
I leave the eventual resolution of this senseless and tragic affair to the lawyers and prosecutors of New York City.
But, I believe we can all have sympathy for the victim, no matter the outcome, because she was assaulted, as DSK has today admitted, and she is apparently an immigrant from Senegal, 32 years old, and working her way through life as a single parent with a teenage child. She has been brave, and I salute her for her courage.
As for DSK, he is surely the best example we’ve had in many years of perfect self-destruction. He is charged with attempted rape, criminal sexual acts, sexual abuse, forcible touching and false imprisonment.
While the leaders of the French political left continue to ask for patience and withholding of judgment, it is clear they have been placed in a quandary that will probably make it impossible for them to win the French 2012 presidential election, as was forecast with DSK as their candidate. Their other on-the-air pastime is to attack the American justice system - for doing its job in protecting American citizens, one presumes.
The French conservatives, led by President Sarkozy, have been amazingly prudent, not using the affair for political ends. Today, Sarkozy and the French Prime Minister called again for unity, decorum and getting on with the job of governing France.
Last night on a French TV program that focuses on politics and is panelled by senior French journalists and pollsters, the mood was somber. They were surprising in their condemnation of DSK, because in France as elsewhere journalists tend to be left-leaning.  
To summarize their conclusions :
1. DSK is finished politically.
2. The best chance for the left is in Francois Holland, a former Socialist Party president and candidate for the 2012 election, or Segolene Royal, who lost to Sarkozy in 2007, both of whom have always separated themselves from DSK and gone their own ways toward 2012.
3. Sarkozy’s conservative UMP party needs to be quiet, not use the affair politically, and hope that French voters don’t paint all politicians with the DSK brush and stay away from the voting booths in hoards.
4. The real winner in all this is the extreme right, the Front National, already gaining ground toward 2012, whose candidate, Marine le Pen, will benefit from her party’s traditional stance against the “political elite” that rules France without much thought for ordinary citizens. If French voters don’t turn out in normal numbers, le Pen could pull off an historic upset.

Monday, May 16, 2011

International Criminal Court Requests Qadhaffi Arrest Warrants

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, today requested arrest warrants for Libyan leader Qadhaffi, his son and a brother-in-law.
The prosecutor said there is evidence that Qadhaffi has committed crimes against humanity in his efforts to maintain power in Libya during the past two months. The regime's "widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population" constitute crimes against humanity, the prosecutor argued.
Chief Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo said his office "gathered direct evidence about orders issued by Moammar Qadhaffi himself, direct evidence of Saif al-Islam (Qadhaffi) organizing the recruitment of mercenaries and direct evidence of the participation of (Abdullah) al-Sanussi in the attacks against demonstrators." Al-Sanussi is Qadhaffi's head of intelligence and chief enforcer.
"The evidence shows that persecution is still ongoing in the areas under Qadhaffi control," Moreno-Ocampo said. "There is reason to believe Qadhaffi "personally ordered" attacks on unarmed civilians and that al-Sanussi is the executioner."
"The evidence shows that civilians were attacked in their homes; demonstrations were repressed using live ammunition; heavy artillery was used against participants in funeral processions, and snipers placed to kill those leaving the mosques after the prayers."
Qadhaffi has "absolute authority" in Libya....It's a crime to challenge Qadhaffi's authority and he used his authority to commit the crimes," Moreno-Ocampo said.
The investigation covered 11 countries and included the review of 1,200 documents and interviews with 50 witnesses.
Moreno-Ocampo will present the evidence to a panel of judges so that the court can decide whether to issue arrest warrants.
Moreno-Ocampo said in a prior report that the alleged crimes against humanity include alleged rapes by Qadhaffi supporters and the deportation or forcible transfer of Libyan citizens.
"It is indeed a characteristic of the situation in Libya that massive crimes are reportedly committed upon instruction of a few persons who control the organizations that execute the orders," the report said. "Arresting those who ordered the commission of crimes, should the judges decide to issue warrants, will contribute to the protection of citizens in Libya."
Libya is not a signatory to the treaty that created the International Criminal Court and said that it intends to ignore the prosecutor’s efforts to arrest the Libyan leader and family members.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Belarus Dictator Jails Opponents

Andrei Sannikov, the man who had the guts to challenge Belarus dictator Alexandre Loukachenko in the December 2010 presidential election farce, has been sentenced to five years in prison for fomenting "massive troubles to public order" because he protested in December against the presidential election results.
Three other young opposition leaders were sentenced to 3 years in prison and another to 3 ½ years.
All the convicted men will be sent to a prison camp.
Sannikov’s mother, 78-year-old Alla Sannikova, stated after the sentencing that Loukachenko had ruined her family, but that she was proud of her son.
The defense lawyer said she will appeal the verdict.
Sannikov’s wife, a journalist for the Russian opposition Novaia Gazeta, was also tried and two years imprisonment, suspended, are demanded against her. The verdict will be announced tomorrow, Monday the 16th of May.
This brings the total of opponents jailed in Belarus after the December election to 27.
The American Department of State has condemned the decision to jail Sannikov. America and the European Union had already instituted sanctions against the Loukachenko regime.
It seems that efforts on behalf of democracy still have some way to go before we can declare victory against the Loukachenko dictatorship in Belarus.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Osama bin Laden's Last Tape

An American official who spoke on condition of anonymity, has said that the last tape made by Osama bin Laden several days before his death raises some questions.
The tape apparently supports the Arab Spring revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt but doesn’t mention any of the others. The official said this seems strange to US analysts, especially since bin Laden detested Colonel Qadhaffi but seemed not to support, or at least not to care about, his overthrow.
In addition, it seems odd that bin Laden would support any Arab Spring uprising at all, given that these popular and spontaneous revolutions against Arab tyranny would surely cut into the power of Al-Qaida to rally young Arabs to its cause of terror and violence. And, if the Arab Spring succeeds in Syria, Al-Qaida would lose an important partner in its effort to replace current Arab despots with even worse ones loyal to Al-Qaida.
US Secretary of defense Robert Gate said as much recently when he was quoted as saying, “It [the Arab Spring] basically gives the lie to Al-Qaida's claim that the only way to get rid of authoritarian governments is through extremist violence.”
The tape may also support another idea that many analysts have offered - that bin Laden was not interested in small, local terrorist acts, like those of the Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), whose acts are regional and aimed at bombing any available local target, or kidnapping small groups or individuals held for ransom.  
That bin Laden did not mention AQIM, together with the fact that he often wrote to his circle of Al-Qaida leaders to always target Americans and in large numbers, may be the signal that Osama was growing out of touch with the regional groups he spawned.
This inevitably raises the question of his successor. Will it be someone like him who hates America, or will it be someone who can pull together the regional groups to fund and carry out terrorist acts wherever and whenever possible, in America or elsewhere.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Arab Spring Is Working , but It Will Take Time

The Arab Spring is changing the Middle East and North Africa. No one can doubt it. But, perhaps the hourly TV images and reporting has led us to believe that the whole process would take a couple of months. Sadly, and realistically, it isn’t so.

Let’s make an accounting.

Tunisia - started off swiftly. Ben Ali left in a matter of days, and the democratic revolution was in full swing. But, last week, the interim government announced a postponement of elections originally scheduled for July. The reason? Too many street fights between the democrats and fundamentalists, who want to seize the process and take over the presidency. Is it better to wait and get a better result? Probably, but hopes of a quick conversion to democracy have suffered a blow.

Egypt -  started off with little violence, after the first shock troop tactics by the army, which quickly joined the freedom fighters. But lately, there have been signs of tightening military control, with renewed demonstrations against any army takeover. The good news? The new constitution was approved in a referendum and Anwar Sadat has been detained for investigation, albeit in a hospital instead of a prison, where his two sons are now in residence. Egypt will be all right, but its democrats need international support and encouragement.

Libya - the most-televised popular uprising in history. Qadhaffi will finally lose, because the international community has put its name on the line, but after how many lives have been lost? No one knows.

Yemen - protests against the president continue, but so does the push back from loyal security forces, resulting in many deaths. The Yemeni president may think that he is protected by America, because of her interest in eliminating the Yemeni arm of Al-Qaida. Needed : a clearer voice of America telling President Saleh to find a way to exit and give democracy a chance.

Bahrain - nothing here is easy. Saudi forces have crushed the Shiite majority and are now helping the Bahraini security forces to round up and jail anyone who looks like a demonstrator. Needed : difficult to say. Change will come to the Arabian peninsula, but not until the Saudi Arabian king realizes that to secure peace it will take more than paying money to its citizens and backing up the payments with troops.

Syria - Libya II, but without an international component. Yet. Follow the comments of Hillary Clinton to understand that America is gearing up to take a stand against President al-Assad’s unending brutality, and America will bring the rest of the world with her. When? Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Newt Gingrich and Third Party Politics in America and Europe

We are beginning to see the Republican hopefuls for the 2012 presidential race put a foot in the water.
Yesterday, it was Newt Gingrich’s turn. Gingrich is a former Speaker of the House of Representatives. He is recognized as the Republican most likely to develop ideas for a serious alternative to the Obama agenda.
He was also the Speaker who faced down Bill Clinton in 1995, in the last debt ceiling crisis in the United States. Gingrich won the stare-off but it led to a GOP loss in the next congressional elections in 1996, and Gingrich has been blamed for the defeat ever since.
Newt Gingrich is your man if you’re looking for someone to brainstorm and win over Americans with conservative ideas. But, I’m not sure he can win a presidential election. His negative baggage includes two divorces, three wives and a House ethics charge over book profits accounting practices. He was cleared of all charges.
We might note also that the last Gallop poll showed that 53% of Republicans and 33% of Democrats would like to see a third party in the presidential race in 2012. The Tea Party immediately comes to mind, but those polled were thinking not only Tea Party but also new ideas to save America.
This could mean that a third party candidate will enter the 2012 race. Third parties have never succeeded in the US, but this time it might be different. Why? Because neither the GOP nor the Democrats have been able to present any ideas at all, let alone those that might save America in its present economic and social crises.
Third parties in France, Great Britain, Germany and the Netherlands are forcing the leading parties to re-think their positions, mostly on the economy, taxation and immigration issues.
It is not unthinkable that the same might happen in 2012 in America.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hillary Clinton Blasts China on Human Rights Record

Last month, secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave an interview to the Atlantic magazine. The interview was published this month just before the two-day US-China meetings in Washington.
In the interview, Clinton said that China “has a deplorable human rights record.”
When asked by the interviewer if she thought China’s recent crackdown on dissenters might be a sign that they’re afraid of what’s going on in the Middle East Arab Spring, she said, “Well, they are. They’re worried, and they’re trying to stop history, which is a fool’s errand. They cannot do it. But, they’re going to hold it off as long as possible.”
During the Washington meetings, China said that its human rights record has improved.
Well, to my mind, one of the two got it right, and that one was Hillary Clinton.
If you want proof, just ask the Chinese artist, ai weiwei. Oops you can’t because he’s been in detention in China since early April for undisclosed sins against the state, and the world has not had any message from him since his arrest.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Syrian Dilemma

Syria is an open sore that needs attention. The question is - what to do??
We are seeing daily images of Syrian military and police attacking demonstrators, using tanks to over-run them, and lately going from door to door in search of opposition leaders and weapons.
It must be clear, even to usually slow-reacting political leaders, that the Syrian regime and its leader, Bashar Al-Assad, have no intention of easing up on their attacks on the demonstrators. They have no intention of beginning a dialogue with them or softening their repressive grip on the country.
Syria is an important stop along the march that began in Tunisia. It must be expected that either the Syrian regime will finally agree to accommodate its dissenters, as was the case in Egypt, or it will fight to the death, as is now the case in Libya.
But, Syria is not Egypt, which had at least a patina of freedom prior to being confronted by its citizens, or Libya, which was and is terrorized by a madman.
Syria is in many ways the key to the Middle East. It supports Hamas and Hezbollah terrorism, but keeps them under control by providing their financing. It consorts with Iran, but does not submit to Iranian hegemony. It detests Israel but usually does not attack it.
If Syria falls, the world would like to be sure that its replacement government will be no worse.
There is the dilemma. While the West and its Gulf partners would certainly like to see democratic reform in Syria, they would also like the reformers to maintain at least the regional status quo - democracy without anti-Semitism or an enlarged role for Iran in the Middle East.
In this respect, Syria is very much like Bahrain drawn large. It is difficult for the West to intervene in Syria for the same reasons it hesitates to intervene in Bahrain. So, we are leaving Bahrain to Saudi Arabia, which has historically supported its minority Sunni royal family.
The problem in Syria is that it is the client state of no one, if not Iran, and leaving Syria’s future in the hands of Iran would spell disaster for the region, and perhaps for the world.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pakistan and America Disagree over Intelligence Security

If Pakistan and its journalists were as efficient in finding and sharing information about Al-Qaida and the presence of Osama bin Laden in their country as they are in releasing the names of CIA operatives in Pakistan perhaps there would have been no need for a secret CIA-led mission into Pakistan territory to eliminate bin Laden last week.
Late last year, the name of the CIA Islamabad station chief was released in court papers. This led to the USA’s withdrawal of the man because of fears over his safety. At the time, the United States blamed the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence, ISI, for leaking the name.
This weekend, the name (wrong but similar to the real name) of the new Islamabad CIA station chief was revealed in Islamabad media. This is seen as a sign of the worsening relations between Pakistan and America.
Last week, Leon Panetta, the CIA chief, said that Pakistan was not informed about the bin Laden raid because of fears that the information would be leaked in time to warn bin Laden. The ISI has vociferously denied any such complicity with Al-Qaida or bin Laden ever since the CIA raid in Abbottabad.
I repeat - if Pakistan were as efficient in tracking down Al-Qaida and bin Laden as it is in revealing CIA station chiefs’ names, we would be a lot further along in eliminating Al-Qaida from Pakistan.  

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Victory in Europe Day and Terrorism

Today is Victory in Europe Day, celebrating the cessation of hostilities at the end of World War II on 8 May 1945.
The war in the Pacific would drag on until 15 August 1945 when Japan surrendered.
The celebration is still universally held all over Europe and in Canada, but it has lost some of its importance in the United States, where Memorial Day at the end of May, honoring all American war dead, has somewhat replaced it.
What we should always remember about VE Day is that it ended a war that had engaged 100,000,000 men and in which more than 30,000,000 combatants were killed.
Nazism was a cancer at the heart of Europe and it took six long years to kill it. Its basis was the idea that some people are more human than others, and that many of the others deserved to be eliminated. The death camps are today’s silent witnesses to the decimation of more than 7,000,000 innocent non-combatant Jews who are not included in the above figures.
The very size of the effort in lives and costs is almost beyond comprehension, as is the fact that one man, Adolf Hitler, was able to gain cause over Germany and go on to subdue all of Europe before being stopped, largely because of the war machine created by America, and by the lives of Russians in eastern Europe who stopped Hitler when he tried to open a second front and failed, as Napoleon had failed before him.
Today’s losses to Islamist terrorism are small by comparison, but the fight is just as important. Ending attacks on innocent non-combatants, stopping the cancer of cultural hatred, finding common ground on which to build a world after terrorism is just as important and just as honorable as was the battle to free the world of Nazism.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

GITMO, the CIA and Osama bin Laden

America loves to make fun of the CIA - the spooks as they’re called. But, last Sunday, they proved that they are worth every penny spent on them and that CIA spooking may be the best terrorist tactic available to the world. It was their work, along with GITMO information, over four years that finally led to finding and eliminating Osama bin Laden.
More troublesome for many will be the role played by GITMO in the tracking down and killing of bin Laden.
Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba, GITMO, is a leftover from the pre-Castro days, never abandoned by the United States, as is its right under the US-Cuba treaties signed by Castro’s predecessors. Its use for the retention and interrogation of terrorists caught in the Afghan and Iraqi wars after 911 made it a sort of black hole for the world, and for Americans who are used to transparency in their legal system.  
The criticism of GITMO was never louder than during the 2008 US presidential campaign, when Barak Obama vowed to close it if elected, and to put the detainees on trial in US courts in America. Early in his administration there was even talk of criminal investigations of the Bush presidency members responsible for GITMO’s existence.
Reality caught up with President Obama after his election, and GITMO still exists and probably will for as long as terrorism is a fact of life.
The irony is that, while taking credit for the bin Laden killing, President Obama has not mentioned the fact that information gathered at GITMO (and also by the CIA in black houses outside the USA using GITMO methods) led to the discovery of the Abbottabad house and bin Laden.
It will not go unnoticed by Republicans during the 2012 presidential race that Obama was severely critical of President Bush for allowing GITMO to exist and for suggesting that President Bush's action could be considered criminal.
The tables have turned and now it is time for Mr. Obama to pay the piper. He cannot continue to take credit for the result of clandestine work done by the CIA and GITMO, who use waterboarding and other questionable interrogation methods, without being part and parcel of their methods.
His Democrat liberal wing will have some hard swallowing to do if they are to help him to be re-elected.