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ICC Charges Sudanese President, al-Bashir, With Genocide in Darfur

by on Monday, July 12, 2010 at 11:51 am EDT in Africa, Sudan, World

Is justice FINALLY coming to Darfur?

From the AP:

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The International Criminal Court on Monday charged Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir with three counts of genocide in Darfur, a move that will pile further diplomatic pressure on his isolated regime.

The decision marked the first time the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal has issued genocide charges.

An arrest warrant for al-Bashir said there were “reasonable grounds to believe” that since April 2003 Sudanese forces attempted genocide against the Darfur tribal groups Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa.


Genocide, the gravest crime in international law, requires proof of an intent to wipe out “in whole or in part” a racial, religious or ethnic group.

Moreno Ocampo accuses al-Bashir of keeping 2.5 million refugees from specific ethnic groups in Darfur in camps “under genocide conditions, like a gigantic Auschwitz.”

Take action today to prevent new retaliation, protect Darfuri civilians and support justice for Darfur.

The Spark That Incited Rwanda Genocide Finally Comes To Light

by on Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 12:48 pm EDT in Africa, Rwanda, World

Though deep seated prejudices had existed for generations between the two major Rwandan ethnic groups (the Hutu majority and Tutsi minority), it appeared at least from the surface in 1993 that the two groups might actually implement a power-sharing government as outlined in the Arusha Accords — the peace agreement signed between the Hutu dominated Rwandan Government and the Tutsi dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

The UN instituted the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) to oversee the implementation of the new power-sharing government.  Hutu extremists within the government, however, had no plans on allowing such a government to formulate.  They methodically engineered the genocide of the Tutsi population by promoting hate-filled, fear-inducing programming on the two main radio stations (Radio Rwanda and Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines).  Listeners were warned of an impending Tutsi attack and were encouraged to take up arms.  In addition, Hutu extremists in the Rwandan government secretly armed two Hutu extremist militias (the Interahamwe and the Impuzamugambi).  These would be the forces that would carry out the mass murders using mostly machetes.

The much-needed catalyst for the impending genocide against the Tutsi people came in the form of the assassination of Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira (both Hutus).  Their plane was shot down, as it prepared to land in Kigali, Rwanda.  The Rwandan government along with the two radio stations immediately pinned the blame on the Tutsi rebels and the bloodbath ensued.

Over the course of approximately 100 days, between 800,000 and 1.2 million Tutsis and Hutu moderates were exterminated in Rwanda.

Responsibility for the assassination of the two leaders has long been in dispute.  The Hutu extremist government — who quickly blamed the Tutsi rebels — denied UNAMIR access to conduct an investigation of the crash.  Roméo Dallaire, force commander of UNAMIR, revealed in his book, Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, that he was convinced the Hutu extremists in the Government had orchestrated their leader’s assassination.

And now, some fifteen years after the genocide, the new Mutsinzi Report is released — a “massive new report by a Rwandan investigative commission into the assassination of President Juvénal Habyarimana”.  Philip Gourevitch of The New Yorker reveals this from the report’s findings:

the assassination was a coup d’etat. At the time of his death, Habyarimana was on the brink of implementing the Arusha Accords, a power-sharing peace agreement with the Rwandan Patriotic Front, a rebel army led by Paul Kagame (who is now Rwanda’s president). But the Hutu Power genocidaires wanted to consolidate their power through their campaign of extermination. Habyarimana, then, appeared to have been killed as a traitor to the Hutu Power cause; but his death was blamed on Kagame and the R.P.F. and turned into fuel for the Hutu Power cause.

The new Rwandan report—known, after its lead author, Jean Mutsinzi, as the Mutsinzi Report—lays out this story in remarkably convincing detail. It draws on a number of previous international investigations and on a remarkable collection of more than five hundred interviews that its own investigators conducted with former officers of the Hutu Power regime and other eyewitnesses, who describe the events before, during, and after the assassination with convincing consistency.

The broad findings are not surprising. What makes the Mutsinzi Report most remarkable is the thoroughness and seriousness of the underlying investigation, which covers not only the events leading up to the downing of the plane. It traces the history of earlier investigations into Habyarimana’s assassination and the genocide, and draws on these findings (which have never before been collected and cross-referenced) to build its own. The Mutsinzi commission brought in independent British ballistics experts to establish the trajectory and origins of the missiles that struck the plane; and, in passages of the report that read like pure farce, they traced the mystery of the black box from the cockpit, which kept disappearing and reappearing and ultimately vanished.

So it appears this case is finally closed.  The Hutu extremists assassinated the Rwandan President (a fellow Hutu) as the catalyst for the Tutsi genocide.

Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize Speech Incites Neo-Con Cartwheels

by on Sunday, December 13, 2009 at 9:38 am EDT in Afghanistan, Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe, Iraq, Middle East, Politics, World

President Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize Speech, in my opinion, was an attempt to somehow mesh Candidate Obama — the principled, compassionate, mindful leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize — to President Obama — torch bearer of the neo-con commitment to open-ended warring.

He started off on a semi-defensive tone, giving something of a broad justification for embarking on an indefinite commitment to more killing and dying in occupied Afghanistan.  He then transformed into the more thoughtful, sensible, Candidate Obama persona — the one that artfully taps into secular humanistic sensibilities.  A little something for everyone, I guess …

In all fairness to Obama, he never should have been awarded this honor, and he somewhat acknowledged that fact.  So it was by no fault of his own that he had to somehow overcome this uncomfortable, somewhat vicarious predicament.  And from the favorable reception this speech has been getting from both the Left and Right, it’s safe to conclude he pulled it off — politically-speaking.  You know you are the rhetorical master when you deliver a speech that:

has Karl Rove waving pom poms and doing cartwheels, …

It was as if Obama was saying: even THIS president doesn’t do canapés and champagne with European peaceniks! Hoo-ah! After the speech, Karl Rove was crowing, if you can crow by Twitter. “Tweeted that Gerson and Thiessen had gone to work at the Obama White House,” he e-mailed me—Gerson and Thiessen being the two neo-con wordsmiths in the Bush shop.

and also garners support from left-of-center columnists like Joe Klein of Time:

“How does a rookie President, having been granted the Nobel Peace Prize, go about earning it? Well, he can start by giving the sort of Nobel lecture that Barack Obama just did, an intellectually rigorous and morally lucid speech that balanced the rationale for going to war against the need to build a more peaceful and equitable world.”

Here are a couple things from the speech that managed to exorcise my ire:

1. The beginning of Obama’s speech, where he resorted to exaggerated, simplistic notions — i.e. ‘neo-con speak’ — to try to justify his Afghanistan decision:

“For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms.”

This part really disappointed me — that he would resort to this kind of charged-up demagoguery.  He has never been one to shy away from complexity in making his case to the American people.  His sudden fallback on words like “evil,” and conjuring up images of Adolph Hitler to justify his decision in Afghanistan, will lead many discerning viewers to question his underlying sincerity; especially after eight years of George W. Bush misleading us into wars, committing war crimes, and trampling upon our Constitutional rights — all under the guise of that same simplistic imagery.  It’s as if Obama himself has come to recognize that his own substantive case for war is somehow unconvincing on its own merits.

Yes, we are all keenly aware that there’s a small band of loosely connected thugs (al Qaeda), which poses a threat — on some level — to American security.  But don’t even try and muddy that threat with Adolph Hitler imagery — a dictator of an industrial nation that had one of the most powerful militaries in the world; one who bombed and invaded country after country, committing genocide against Jews and other innocents, and who ultimately left over 65 million dead in his wake.  It’s a disingenuous comparison.  The world faces no equivalent threat to Nazi Germany, and this kind of demagoguery has been used far too often — as of late — by disingenuous leaders seeking to justify unnecessary wars.

World War II was a necessary war, but Iraq was not — something he acknowledged, if only by its omission from his speech.  But a continued military escalation in Afghanistan is also unnecessary.  The tragic consequences of neo-con warmongering has all but ensured that exaggerated threats leveled as a run-up to military escalation is only going to fall on deaf ears, and his doing so only undermines America’s ‘new and improved’ image abroad.

2. Obama’s speech then pivoted to a more idealistic discussion on world responsibility — one where all countries are subjected to the same standards:

To begin with, I believe that all nations — strong and weak alike — must adhere to standards that govern the use of force. I — like any head of state — reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation. Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards, international standards, strengthens those who do, and isolates and weakens those who don’t. […]

Furthermore, America — in fact, no nation — can insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves. For when we don’t, our actions appear arbitrary and undercut the legitimacy of future interventions, no matter how justified. […]

Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America’s commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. (Applause.) And we honor — we honor those ideals by upholding them not when it’s easy, but when it is hard. […]

Those who claim to respect international law cannot avert their eyes when those laws are flouted.

This one almost made me laugh.  Mr. President, clearly this rings hollow to anyone who’s been following your continued cover up of Bush Administration war crimes and your continuation of indefinite detention.  Hell — let’s put your predecessor’s illegalities (and your cover up and perpetuation of them) aside for a second.  You extend this same “exceptionalism” — this same exemption from international law — to another country: Israel.  Richard Goldstone’s UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict produced a credible, scathing report documenting Israeli and Hamas war crimes.  You, your administration, and the U.S. Congress immediately discarded it outright using flimsy, ridiculous, unsupportable excuses, as if international laws shouldn’t apply to Israel either.

It appears that much of his speech’s positive feedback from the Left has been directed at his placing recognition on the historic role of war in helping to actually foster peace.  He brought up the Balkans as an example.  It’s a legitimate point; there are times when war is absolutely necessary in preserving or restoring peace.  And yes, the U.S. has willfully assumed a great deal of the world’s burden on this front, paying dearly in American lives and treasure.

There are very few who would look back on history and contend that the U.S. should have stayed out of the 2nd World War, or shouldn’t have intervened — the embarrassingly few times we actually did — to stop genocide.  The problem I have is he’s obviously attempting to conflate these noble causes of war with something unrelated: Afghanistan.

Obama is not sending 30,000 additional troops to Darfur or to the Congo to save millions of civilian lives.  We’re sending young Americans to prop up a corrupt and illegitimate regime in Afghanistan that has its hands deep into the world’s heroin industry.  And this is supposedly vital to U.S. security interests, only because there are fewer than 100 cave-dwelling al Qaeda operatives somewhere between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Obama is a master orator — I give him that.

Having said all this, the entirety of Obama’s speech was not utterly deplorable — in fact, he’s incapable of delivering a bad speech.  But overall, it rang hollow to me, leaving me with the following impressions:

  1. He knew, as we all did, that he had NO BUSINESS being in Oslo, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize.  (He cannot be blamed for this.)
  2. In using neo-con, war-mongering rhetoric overseas, he slightly diminished America’s ‘new’ standing in the world, as well as his own image, while simultaneously giving the now-ridiculed neo-cons a HUGE moral victory; a big ‘told you so’.  It felt like he somehow substantiated their despicable and dishonest methods by exhibiting lines from their very own playbook, word for word, to reach a similar ends.  How appalling, after all the calamity they inflicted upon this country and this world.

Have we finally seen the real Obama?