Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Military Commissions Act - an outrage on civil rights.

Remember that old saying innocent until proven guilty? Apparently there is no room in the War on Terror for such legal delicacy. Ever since 9/11, the Bush administration has incrementally eroded the rights of not only foreign terror suspects, but American citizens as well. I give you the Patriot Act, the NSA wiretapping (which is far more extensive than the administration admits) and now the Military Commissions Act. Under this bill, which Bush signed into law today, anyone he or Rumsfeld want can be detained indefinitely without charges and eventually tried by a military tribunal without even seeing the evidence against him. The text of this bill can be seen in part here: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?c109:4:./temp/~c109xDe3kj:e8389:
and in entirety here: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c109:2:./temp/~c1095sklM9::
In the first link, take note of Sec948d.(c), and below it note that punishment can include the death penalty. The courts can not even challenge this legislation. This is outrageous. Is the President unconcerned about how he will be remembered - as a war-monger, as a hypocrite, as a civil rights eroder? - or is this nothing more than an October surprise to remind his base about the nebulous War on Terror in order to fire them up for next month's elections? The President says "we do not torture," but after all the other lies and vagaries we have been fed, who really believes him?
In this class, we often focus on the plight of others in the third world, and they are certainly suffering rights infractions far greater than we are in this country, but at what point is enough enough? What will Bush do next in the name of "protecting the homeland" while we watch his wars on TV?
If the military commissions act doesn't concern you, what about a national ID card outfitted with RFID chips? What about the notion that speaking out against the government could be considered aiding terrorists and land you in one of these tribunals? This is just beginning and we should all be very concerned.

Is peacekeeping ineffective?

The genocide in Darfur has not only led to the deaths of many, but it has displaced numerous Sudanese. An article from the Washington Post mentions how the refugees in Sudan believe that an African Union peacekeeping mission is not providing protection. It is a problem that peacekeepers in Darfur are only there to monitor the violence and not fight it, similar to the U.N.’s presence in Rwanda. Therefore, many believe the African Union mission has been ineffective in protecting and improving the conditions of the refugees. At one of the refugee camps near Kassab, a health clinic had shut down, so refugees were forced to seek treatment from nearby towns. The female refugees are extremely vulnerable because they are exposed to robbery and rape while having to search for firewood and go to surrounding villages. Other refugees have trouble sleeping at night for fear they will need to flee at any instant.
Fighting between the Sudanese army and rebel groups has been ongoing sine 2003. After 3 years, the people of Sudan are still not safe. Even those seeking refuge are exposed to unsafe conditions. Should forces outside of the African Union be sent to Darfur? Or, should others ignore the situation in Darfur and let the Africans help themselves? Should we be allowed to sit around and let others suffer when the situation is not their fault? How is it that a peacekeeping mission does not provide the protection the Sudanese need? Is peacekeeping altogether ineffective?

Yunus’ Pay-It-Forward: Saving an economy with $12 loans

Who would have thought that opening a bank to provide loans to the poor of Bangladesh would end up winning the next Nobel Peace Prize? Here’s a perfect example of a small act of kindness going a very long way. When I first read this article, I could not help but think how impractical Muhammad Yunus’ idea must have seemed when he first decided to open a bank to provide loans to individuals that any rational bank would turn away. His first simple act of kindness was loaning $27 to 42 villagers near the University where he taught economics. This small act spurred the creation of the Grameen Bank, a bank devoted to providing microloans to Bangladesh’s poorest citizens. On the outside, a horrible business endeavor, but the potential for growth was more than any of his critics had expected. This reminded me of a past post on the Origin of the Paradoxical Commandments: The biggest men with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men with the smallest minds. Think big anyways. More so than his actual act of opening Grameen Bank, I find it admirable how he was able to persevere through constant criticism for something he believed was the right thing to do, even if it was not the most economical. Even within this one article, there is mention of Yunus’ critics on several occasions. I am glad he did not head their advice or else there would be 80,000 more beggars in Bangladesh than there are today.