Thursday, October 04, 2007

Child Soldiers in Uganda

Warren brought this youtube video to my attention. Wondering what is going on in Northern Uganda? When will it stop? And for that matter, when will it stop in Darfur, or Burma, or the Democratic Republic of Congo? etc, etc?

Torture in American Military Policy?

President Bush has done many things in his presidency. He's removed a ruthless dictator, involved the United States in a war against an enemy that is vast and veiled, and he has condoned methods of torture in order to gain "crucial intelligence" from detainees.

The Bush administration has blurred the legal lines as to what is right and what is wrong. Waterboarding, stress positions, and countless other forms of physical and psychological "inquisition" methods are being used on supposed terrorists. Is it right for the U.S. to condone such extreme measure of interrogation? The U.S. claims in the Bill of Rights Amendment XIII that there will be no "cruel and unusual punishment inflicted." If this is true domestically why is it untrue in foreign relations? Where do we draw the line in terms of acceptability for this behavior?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Girl survived Brazil tribe's custom of live baby burial

The story of Hakani has gained international media attention in the past few weeks. Hakani was born in 1995 with a growth deficiency. Her parents were ordered by tribe leaders to poison her because of this. The Suruwah√° tribe believes, as is common in many tribes in the Amazon, that a child born with a deformity has no soul and should therefore be killed. The child is to be buried alive, suffocated with leaves, poisoned, or simply abandoned in the jungle. Hakani’s parents were unable to poison their child and committed suicide, as did Hakani’s grandfather when told to complete the task. Hakani was left to die in the jungle, and if it weren’t for a brother that smuggled food to her, she would have. Brazilian missionary couple Marcia and Edson Suzuki petitioned the government to allow them to remove Hakani from the tribe and finally their wish was granted. Hakani is receiving medical treatment for a thyroid condition and is currently attending school.

It is not known how many children die a year in this way, as Brazilian authorities often record these deaths as malnutrition cases out of respect for these cultures. It is an argument of cultural relativism— is it a question of murder or the preservation of a culture? Anthropologists argue that abolishing this practice would be in some way a threat to these tribes’ cultures. Human rights groups argue that this is not only a violation of human rights, but that it is simply not logical as this practice actually expedites the extinction of these tribes. I agree with the human rights groups on this issue. Many of these children have problems that are very treatable and instead of looking at this issue as an issue of whether or not we should further isolate these cultures from our civilization, we need to work of getting them access to basic health care. This practice is cruel and has led to a high suicide rate among parents who are not willing to kill their own children. The Brazilian government is currently deciding on “Muwaji’s Law,” a bill that would outlaw infanticide. It might not stop the authorities that falsify the death records, but it would spark a debate, as it already has, about the morality of this issue.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Increased Human Rights Leading to Development

Tostan is an NGO that has worked in various African countries. It works to eradicate illiteracy, reduce poverty, and promote human rights. The aid organization is claiming that there is a link between human rights and national development. The group has found that once natives learn their rights, they begin to restructure their communities to better assert these rights. Tostan’s work has led many in Senegal to abandon the hotly debated practice of female circumcision. The group has educated both women and men about why the practice is a violation of human rights and natives who were once proponents of the practice now speak out against it. Does this show that we do not have to be culturally relative on this issue and other, similar issues as well? Or are were merely imposing our western values and brainwashing Africans when we help them learn “their rights” and they then demand that they are respected?

Burma- Scared Silent

Burma (Myanmar) is a country oppressed by military and government regime led by Than Shwe since he took control in 1990. Shwe took control after the National League won democratically held, multiparty elections for Democracy (NLD). Since he was appointed Prime Minister in May 2007, Shwe has appointed current and former military officers to almost every position in his cabinet and government.

On September 27th, the government forcibly suppressed, public outcry and protest against the military regime. That day hundreds of Buddhist monks and civilian protestors were detained and ten were reported killed, although many credible reports suggest that ten is a wildly conservative figure.

The government has also placed restrictions on mobile phones and the Internet, limiting the availability for accurate real time information. Public demonstrators cannot protest without eminent threat of detainment nor can they communicate with others in the country or otherwise to relay pertinent and vital information. The government and military regime has a stranglehold on the Burmese people. Why don’t China, India, Russia, Japan or the United States react with direct and sustained reprisal of the government?

The answer seems simple: national interest. When a government considers all of the possible actions it could take, from diplomacy to declaration of war, its own national interest is primarily considered. Human rights affairs are not of enough interest to the world powers. The most that has been done is a US economic sanction against Burma. None of the Asian powers have responded, other then “calling for restraint.” More action must be taken to ensure human rights in Burma.

Minorities Only Ones Charged in Hate Crime

In a McDonald's located in Oceanside, NY, a bunch of white kids attacked 2 minorities. After the fight only one person was charged until just recently. Aloysius Staton Jr., 24, a black man, was arrested and charged after the fight. Stanton was charged because he broke a bottle across the face of one of the white males. The fight started when one of the white males took a chair and slammed it over the head of Statons friend Oswaldo Rivera. By taking a look at the video of the incident (fight doesn't start until about 4 minutes into the video) you can see that the fight began when one of the white males picked up a chair and slammed it down on Rivera, but yet he has not been charged. Only now 4 months after the incident has one of the white men been charged. When you look at the video it is pretty evident that the fight was started by the mob of white children, but because Stanton used self-defense he is the only one really being persecuted. Oceanside is my hometown and I know some of the white kids. I am not suprised in the least bit that these kids would be involved and instigate this incident, and it appauls me that hate crimes still occur in a normal suburban Long Island town. Their are a couple of human rights issues that occur here. First is the issue of the hate crime, and that racisim still is prominent in the US. Second and I believe more important is that the white kids get off free while the minorities pay for their actions. How can we trust the legal system when atrocities such as this occur?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Is Forgiveness in the eye of the beholder?: Nickle Mines & the Amish

We live so close to them, but oh so far away. A year ago, the unthinkable happened: a local Lancaster county man stormed an Amish one-room school house and mercilessly gunned down 5 young girls. What did the Amish do? They forgave the killer and comforted his family. How is that possible? If most of us are honest with ourselves, we would admit that we would never be able to do that. Why is that? What happens when an atrocity occurs on a larger scale? To a specific ethnic group, or religious group, or racial group, or a group according to sexual orientation? How do we rebuild societies that have been so poisoned?

Darfur rebels kill 10 in peace force

I realize that my naivety will be revealed when I make the statement that even in war and rebellions, there are certain basic rules, which should be followed by all. There are groups such as peacekeepers, humanitarian services, medical professionalists and journalists who should not be attacked and brought into the war or dispute. I believe this rule is fundamental to any kind of working society and those who can not honor this, are completely lawless and should be dealt with very harshly i.e. cut off from all other elements of society. An example of such lawlessness occurred on Sunday, September 30th when there was a major attack in Nairobi, Kenya. Darfurian rebels attacked an African Union peacekeeping camp in the town of Haskanita, about 100 miles east of Nyala- a major city in Darfur. Hundreds of Darfurian rebels attacked the peacekeeping camp from all sides outnumbering the peacekeepers in what seems to be a planned attack. At least 10 soldiers are dead, numerous people are missing and the rebels took supplies and heavy weapons. According to Noureddine Mezni, an African Union spokesperson the purpose of the attack on this camp was to seize quality weapons and materials. This raid “was the deadliest and boldest attack on African Union peacekeepers since they arrived in Darfur three years ago.” The African Union has been trying to restore peace in Darfur for the past three years, but they are currently mixed up in a battle between two competing rebel tribes and the government. The fighting and raids in Darfur seem to only
be getting worse, “the attack was the most dramatic display yet of the new kind of chaos that is engulfing Darfur…” the fighting in Darfur has turned into a “free-for-all” power struggle between dozens of armed groups and the fighting in Haskanita seems to be the worst. The main issue, which stems from this recent raid is whether or not other countries are going to withdraw aid as a consequence of this new chaos. Other countries that have been considering supplying troops to the United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission might rethink their position. The plan was to increase the number of peacekeepers from 7,000 to 26,000, but now those numbers might not be possible. This ongoing fight in Darfur needs to come to an end. But with no help from supporting countries I don’t see the “light at the end of the tunnel.” Instead of this last raid scaring people away it should shake them enough to realize how desperate the Darfur region is, and how badly they need help to prevent this from happening again and furthermore to take a stand and stop even more severe genocide which is occurring in this region.

Suspected Nazi War Criminal Found in Metro Atlanta - When will this end?

This week, members of the Justice Department's "elite" Nazi-tracking force located Paul Henss, an 85 year old man who lives in Lawrenceville, GA. Henss had joined the Hitler youth when he was between 12 and 13 years old, then joined the Nazi party in 1940. Eventually, he volunteered to serve in the Waffen SS and was chosen to serve in the "elite Waffen SS combat unit 'Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler'". After leaving the combat unit, Henss served as a dog handler at both the Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps for a total of 2-3 months each. NOW, the Justice Department wants to deport him, because they claim that Henss trained other prison guards how to handle guard dogs. Additionally, the Criminal Division's Office of Special Investigations issued a statement that “the brutal concentration camp system could not have functioned without the determined efforts of SS men such as Paul Henss, who, with a vicious attack dog, stood between these victims and the possibility of freedom.”

While the government begins the legal proceedings to prosecute and possibly deport this man, I think it is imperative that we ask ourselves how much longer this must go on. Is it truly necessary to punish those that, after living a normal life for the past 50 or so years, finally felt comfortable confessing to past sins? Had Henss not said anything at all, he'd still just be an old man living a very normal life (he didn't admit until March of this year that he had ever been involved in Nazi activities). Instead, the government has seen fit to alienate and possibly deport him. Although the Holocaust was an awful chapter of world history, I feel it is absolutely unnecessary to continue to track down and prosecute former members of the Nazi party - this man is 85 years old and likely will not live much longer, anyway. The major figures in this chapter of history are no longer living, and Henss is extremely insignificant compared to Adolf Hitler. What use is it to make the last few years of his life miserable? We all know that the world will NEVER forget the Holocaust, but I think that we can never move forwards if we cannot forgive men like Henss.