4/02/2004

Bush and Africa

Bush’s policies towards Africa have been shaped by three influences: Christian conservatives, the energy sector, and national security. Christian conservatives have pushed for a more humanitarian approach towards Africa, and the Bush administration has listened. Bush’s methods have been logical and compassionate at times (e.g., stronger presence in resolving the Sudanese crisis). Then again, his AIDS-prevention initiatives (largely influenced by Christian conservatives) have emphasized abstinence over condom distribution (the ABC program in Uganda).

Bush also has tried give American oil companies greater access to Africa’s oil reserves. As the administration says, we’ve got to reduce our dependence on Middle East oil, and one way to do that is to look elsewhere.

Finally it’s the issue of national security. We’ve provided assistance (intelligence, equipment, advanced technology, weaponry, etc.) to our African allies and their internal security forces, with the idea that they’ll manage the terrorists in their own ways.

For a full and complete take on these issues, go to African Oil Politics. Obviously, the blog highlights the oil factor, but it also addresses the other issues.

Africa and al-Qaeda

Africa has its fair share of failed states, and it’s in these countries—with their collapsed economies and corrupt political systems—that Islamic extremists have found safe havens. Once again, I refer you to the New Republic. In January, TNR had a piece about al-Qaeda’s activities in a small island off the coast of Kenya.

Here’s what it has to say:

“First made popular by Mick Jagger in the 1970s, this sleepy island just off the Kenyan coast has long been a favorite retreat for Europeans, both entertainment royalty and low-end backpacker tourists, all of whom want to escape the real world. During the past year, however, the real world's problems have crept in. The Thanksgiving Day 2002 suicide attack on the Paradise Hotel near Mombasa and the simultaneous attempted downing of an Israeli jetliner with shoulder-fired missiles have badly damaged Kenya's tourism industry: Though in 1996 Kenya attracted more than one million tourists, the Kenya Tourist Board says that it drew roughly 480,000 between January and November of 2003. The attacks also gave Lamu a new--and more sinister--reputation. Several of the men who planned and carried out the November bombing, it turned out, were members of an Al Qaeda-affiliated cell that used Lamu and other remote islands along the Kenyan coast as way stations and hiding places while they plotted. In fact, Lamu has quietly become a breeding ground for militant Islam. Now, Kenyan and American law enforcement officials have descended on this paradise, moving into Lamu's hotels, conducting interrogations, and frantically searching for Al Qaeda members.


"But, in the dank warrens of Lamu Town two miles down the beach, there are more serious problems. The residents of Lamu Town are primarily Muslim traders, fishermen, boat-builders, and coconut farmers. Most do not share in the island's tourist-generated wealth and have felt neglected for decades by the Christian-dominated Kenyan central government. In fact, the money from tourism has benefited only a handful of property owners in Lamu who rent their houses to wealthy Europeans, some Christians brought in to work at such resorts as Peponi, and a few Muslim boatmen, furniture-makers, and antiques vendors. But, for the most part, the Europeans on the island inhabit their own private world, while Lamu Town remains a filthy, garbage-strewn place with open sewers and donkey feces in the streets. Worse, years of neglect by the regime of corrupt former Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi, a Christian who left office in late 2002 after 24 years in power, deepened the town's poverty and fostered resentment toward the Kenyan government and the West, which backed Moi. In fact, Lamu Town voted overwhelmingly for the opposition party in Kenya's last national election.

"And, though Lamu is hardly a hotbed of Islamic extremism, Moi's mistakes and the dichotomy between Western tourists and the Lamu Town poor have created a welcoming atmosphere for Muslim extremists' anti-Western message. As I wandered past black-veiled women and scrawny children in Lamu Town, I confronted graffiti on the ancient walls celebrating Osama bin Laden and warning, BUSH, PREPARE FOR ANOTHER ATTACK. Omar, my guide, told me that two of Lamu's dozen mosques--one Shia, one Sunni (which have become known as fundamentalist hotbeds) erupted in celebrations after the World Trade Center terrorist attacks two years ago. "The police made a lot of arrests after September eleventh, and they keep a close watch on those known to be [Al Qaeda] sympathizers," Omar told me. "That's driven many of them underground, but they're still there."”


For more on this subject, go to Winds of Change. They’ve posted an excellent summary of al-Qaeda’s activities in Algeria. You’ll see from this summary, and from other analyses, that Islamic fundamentalism in the continent has grown out of the despair and misery that’s widespread in Africa. It's not a natural, home-grown phenomenon. Not really a shocker.

To give you a sample of what’s up on the site, here’s “The Genesis of Algerian Extremism”:

"The origins of Algerian extremism are fairly common knowledge, though Fred Pruitt has theorized that one of the reasons that extremism is so prevalent in Algerian is that as a result of the sheer brutality of the nation's war for independence against France that barbaric violence became ingrained as an element of the national culture. As a result, Fred sees the Algerian Islamists' decision to orchestrate their war against the civilian government as being an entirely logical decision given the violent tendencies of the culture. Whether or not he's right I can't say, although that would certainly explain the equal levels of brutality with which the Algerian military has responded against the extremists ...

"In any case, in December 1991 the Algerian political party Front Islamique de Salut (Islamic Salvation Front or FIS) won 188 seats in the National People's Assembly during the first round of elections, with the National Liberation Front (FLN) that had governed Algeria ever since its independence winning only 15. FIS had already declared its intention to dissolve the Assembly and implement the sha'riah upon being elected and a quote from FIS leader Ali Belhadj ("When we are in power, there will be no more elections because God will be ruling") is one of the origins of the phrase, "One man, one vote, one time." The second round of elections was never held as a state of emergency was declared, FIS was banned, and a military junta took control of the country through the Higher Council of State that is today commonly referred to by Algerians as simply le Pouvoir or "the Power." FIS leaders Abassi Madani and Ali Belhadj were arrested, though several other key leaders including Abdelkader Hachani, Rabah Kheir, and bin Laden's ally Khamareddine Kherbane managed to escape to Europe, where the organization established an executive branch and a military council in exile in Germany.

"Back in Algeria, the Islamic Salvation Army and the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) emerged to fight the Algerian military for control of the country. The latter, formed in 1993, was particularly ruthless with its assassination campaigns against Algerian diplomats, priests, industrialists, intellectuals, feminists, Sufis, and foreigners. Razing entire villages and claimed that its actions were motivated by jihad, the GIA hacked its victims to death with swords, axes, and chain saws as a means of saving ammunition. Those believed to be guilty of apostacy were doused with petroleum and set on fire. To further compound the violence, the Algerian military was known to wipe out villages on its own accord, claiming the destruction to be the work of the GIA, in order to turn the public against them.

"I am uncertain as to when exactly the GIA first became an al-Qaeda affiliate, though it is known that one of the group's first emir-generals, Abdel Haqq Layada, was himself a member of the terrorist network so it would have had to have been prior to his rise to power. In any event, the GIA under Layada and his successors staged one of the most ruthless terrorist campaigns ever conceived and over 120,000 Algerians civilians have died since the carnage first began in 1992. Antar Zouabri, who assumed the emir-generalcy of the GIA in June 1996 following the death of his predecessor, even proceeded to issue a 60-page fatwa that declared the entire Algerian general population to be kufr for failing to support his campaign against the government as well as justifying indiscriminate attacks against civilians.

"It was this fatwa, despite its blessing from Abu Qatada, bin Laden's ambassador in Europe and the editor of the GIA propaganda tract al-Ansar, that earned Zouabri bin Laden's disapproval. In addition to doing a great deal of damage to the support for Islamist revolution in Algeria, Zouabri was also spending too much of his time killing villagers and not enough fighting the Algerian government. As a result, al-Qaeda contacted Hassan Hattab, the head of the GIA's European arm and convinced him to form a separate organization - the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, better known by its French acronym as the GSPC."

Rwanda

This Thursday night, PBS aired Frontline's "Ghosts of Rwanda." I've seen the advertising for program here and there for the past month. And it's something I've looked forward to watching (that sounds horrible: looking forward to watching a program on genocide). The tenth anniversary of the genocide is approaching (April 6). What sort of coverage it will it get in the media?-who knows.

I have to agree with the New Republic: "Ghost of Rwanda" is a success. The program's message: the U.S. and the rest world stood by and watched as Rwanda quickly slipped into a bloody genocide. There were a few heroes, notably General Daillaire, the Canadian commander of UNAMIR. But those who could have done something to prevent the genocide--the top Clinton officials--failed to consider Rwanda for what it was. And as a result, 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus died. Clinton later predicted that, had the United States committed troops to the peacekeeping mission, half of the victims (400,000) could have been saved.

The New Republic had a review of "Ghost of Rwanda" on its site today. Here are some of the highlights:

""Ghosts of Rwanda," a powerful, necessary documentary to be shown tonight by PBS to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide reminds you of the "other television" the way Michael Harrington once reminded complacent readers of the "other America," the impoverished and dispossessed one. By "other television," I mean the television of attention as opposed to the television of diversion. For we can forget, as high and popular art bend themselves more and more toward real experiences that might be familiar to us, that there are vast regions of the real that we have never experienced, and probably never will experience. To comprehend these exotic and sometimes wretched precincts of life requires a focused viewer every bit as much as a focused camera.

"As an act of memory and witness; as historical indictment of not just the perpetrators of genocide, but also of the politicians and bureaucrats who allowed it to happen; as an illumination of the motives driving the murderers, as well as those animating the individuals caught in an unimaginable situation, "Ghosts of Rwanda" fails to tell a coherent story. It fails to illuminate the psychology of the U.N. and U.S. officials who refused to deploy troops that would have saved perhaps half of the 800,000 Rwandans killed over a three month period from April to July 1994. It fails to offer viewers consolation for its images of men, women, and children hacked to death by machetes, or to offer reassurance that international mechanisms are now in place to prevent such atrocities from happening again. That is to say, "Ghosts of Rwanda" is a success; it is a scathing accomplishment almost on the same level of urgency as Samantha Power's vital ray of light, A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide."

The NRA's Next Slogan: We Prevent Genocide

InstaPundit has recently posted some interesting links relating to genocide. One link will bring you to a Fox News opinion piece, in which the author suggests that arming civilians would prevent genocide.

Mr. Reynolds writes:

"This has led some observers to suggest that genocide isn’t something that can be addressed by international conventions or tribunals. A recent article in the Washington University Law Quarterly argues that the most important thing we can do to prevent genocide is to ensure that civilian populations are armed:

"'Recent events in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and many other parts of the world make it clear that the book has not yet been closed on the evil of official mass murder. Contemporary scholars have little explored the preconditions of genocide. Still less have they asked whether a society's weapons policy might be one of the institutional arrangements that contributes to the probability of its government engaging in some of the more extreme varieties of outrage.'


"Though it is a long step between being disarmed and being murdered--one does not usually lead to the other--but it is nevertheless an arresting reality that not one of the principal genocides of the twentieth century, and there have been dozens, has been inflicted on a population that was armed. (Emphasis added).

"The result, conclude law professor Daniel Polsby and criminologist Don Kates, is that "a connection exists between the restrictiveness of a country's civilian weapons policy and its liability to commit genocide."

"Armed citizens, they argue, are far less likely to be massacred than defenseless ones, and armed resistance to genocide is more likely to receive outside aid. It is probably no accident that the better-armed resistance to genocide in Bosnia and Kosovo drew international intervention, while the hapless Rwandans and Cambodians did not. When victims resist, what is merely cause for horror becomes cause for alarm, and those who are afraid of the conflict’s spread will support (as Europe did) intervention out of self-interest when they could not be bothered to intervene out of compassion.


Hmmm. I'm not sure I buy the argument. Britain, an under-armed country, I don't think of as a genocide-prone nation. And it seems counter-intuitive---arm civilians in order to protect peace.

4/01/2004

Kristof and Sudan, Part II

A few days ago, Nicholas Kristof had another piece in the Times discussing the troubles in Sudan and in Africa in general. His perscription: security, market-oriented policies and good governance. For too long, Africa has been plauged by war, famine, disease, corrpution...the list goes on. And for too long, the American media has turned a blind eye to Africa. Thank you, Mr. Kristof.

I just came across a new blog that describes itself as "Politics, gossip, and witticisms from a Yalie." Sounds pretty pretentious to me (please don't identify yourself as an Ivy-league grad). But it did have a clever April-Fools-related observation. Here's what they found:

Looking at the Yale Daily News today, I could not tell what story was meant to be the April Fools special...this one:

After a heated, top-secret Yale Corporation meeting Wednesday during which members voted against University President Richard Levin's proposal to move Yale to Palo Alto, CA, next door to Stanford University, administrators burst into tears as they exited Woodbridge Hall into the rainy New Haven afternoon.

"Why? Why?" Levin said as he stomped his feet and shook his blue and white golf umbrella at the sky.

or this one:

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Coca-Cola Company Douglas Daft spoke yesterday about the ethical and moral responsibilities of businesses while around 20 Yale students and New Haven residents protested what they called Coke's poor international labor practices...

...As Daft began his speech, protesters proceeded to the front of the room and removed their coats to reveal shirts stained with fake blood. The protesters lay on the floor as if they were dead and remained so throughout the talk. Other demonstrators passed out literature accusing members of Coke's board of being complacent about the murders of union members at the company's plants in Colombia. The group also unfurled two banners, one reading "Coke: Proud sponsor of Colombian Death squads."

Fools. Reminds me of a great piece in last week's TNR online by my former colleague at the New York Sun Ben Smith (he's now at the Observer) about anti-war protesters:


In August, New York City will be flooded with people like Teresa Gutierrez, a squat woman in a red beret and sunglasses who faced the crowd squarely to deliver an important message: "One of the corporations that we hate so much is Coca-Cola," she told the protesters. "Never ever drink Coca-Cola again. Drinking Coca-Cola is like drinking the blood of Colombian workers." If these people didn't exist, Karl Rove might have to hire actors to play them. Come August, when Bush is inside the convention, surrounded by men in suits and hugging black people, he's going to look like a pretty sane, dare one say, wise, alternative to the anti-Coca-Cola brigade.



Well, Ben, these folks sure ain't actors. Here's some pearls of brilliance for you:

At a question and answer session after the speech, demonstrators repeatedly mentioned an allegation that Coke used a paramilitary group to assassinate a union leader. Thomas Frampton '06 criticized Yale for inviting Daft.

"It is atrocious given Coke's labor practices that this university would roll out the red carpet for the CEO," Frampton said. "It is stunning that [Daft] would give a speech about good business practices."


3/31/2004

More PBS

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m obsessed with PBS, but last night’s programming was outstanding. Following “The New American,” Charlie Rose interviewed Karen Hughes, long-time communications director for President Bush. She’ll soon be releasing Ten Minutes From Normal, a book which covers her history with President Bush. So much attention has been given to Karl Rove by the media and by liberals, who believe he’s the mastermind behind Bush’s ascendancy. But Rove is only half of that machine, the part that’s dedicated to mobilizing the core constituents. Hughes crafts Bush’s message and makes it appealing to mainstream America. She was the one who coined the term “compassionate conservative.” And she’s the one who’s responsible for attracting mainstream America to the Bush agenda. They say the Bush White House doesn’t need focus groups because they have Hughes, who’s the soccer mom and the Nascar dad summed-up in one.

Hughes left the Bush White House in 2002 to spend more time with her family in Texas. But she has remained close with the administration, speaking with them several times a day, and she’ll be on board fulltime with the reelection campaign beginning in August. If I were a Democratic strategist, Hughes, not Rove, would be the one I’d be more concerned about.

Not often do I get the chance to see how privileged I am. All throughout my life, I’ve had every opportunity fed to me, and all it took was a slight amount of interest on my part to have the world fed to me.

PBS’s new three-part, seven-hour series, "The New Americans", gives some insight into the lives of America’s recent immigrants. It’s simultaneously heart-wrenching and uplifting. Steve James, who did Hoop Dreams and Stevie, follows five families (the Ogoni refugees from Nigeria who flee political turmoil to settle in Chicago, the Palestinian bride who joins her fully Americanized husband in Chicago, the Dominican minor-league baseball players who come and live with a family in Montana, the Mexican laborer who works in a slaughterhouse in Kansas and who struggle to get visas for his five children and wife, and the Indian technical worker who comes to Silicon Valley) as they adjust to life in America. At times, you wonder why they come, but as the Mexican laborer tells us, this piece of paper is the only inheritance he can offer his children. And you can’t help but cry while watching the video postcards they send home to their families. The final segment will air tonight on PBS. Watch it!!!

I'll Take My Frappe with Top-Secret Intelligence Records, Please

Remember: Don't leave important, internal Pentagon papers at your local Starbucks. Before briefing the Secretary of Denfense Donald Rumsfeld on his appearances on the Sunday morning talk shows, a top-level Pentagon official left these papers behind at the DuPont Circle Starbucks. The Center for American Progress has posted the papers, which inlcude talking points, hand-written notes on spin tactics, and a hand-drawn map to the Secretary's house, on the organization's website. Enjoy!

3/30/2004

Officials from earlier White House administrations have been vocal in their criticisms of the Bush White House. Perhaps the harshest and most surprising criticisms have come from former Nixon officials. Kevin Phillips, a Nixon political strategist, released American Dynasty, which outlines the threat that the Bush legacy poses to American democracy. Mr. Phillips elegantly describes the ties that Bush family has to the energy, intelligence, and financial industries, and explains how these ties undermine American democracy.

John Dean, Richard Nixon's White House counsel, has put out Worse Than Watergate, where he claims that the Bush White House has "created the most secretive presidency of my lifetime...far worse than during Watergate."

One has to wonder why these Nixon officials have been so ruthless in the attacks on the Bush White House. Are they trying to restore their reputations by placing the Bush White House one notch below Nixon's in the hierarchy of American presidencies? Or is there a substantial ideological divide between these officials and the Bush team?

In other book news, the New York Times gives Richard Clarke's new book a very favorable review:

Richard A. Clarke knows too much, and ''Against All Enemies'' is too good to be ignored.

The explosive details about President Bush's obsession with Iraq in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks captured the headlines in the days after the book's release, but ''Against All Enemies'' offers more. It is a rarity among Washington-insider memoirs - it's a thumping good read.

The Bush-Cheney '04 Slogantor once allowed users to create their own campaign posters with their own campaign slogans. Of course, the program became a source of ridicule from the campaign and has since been shut down. This funny site has posted some of the more clever posters: "No Rights Left to Lose," "F U Frechie," "Axis of Idiocy," "Leave No Billionaire Behind," and "Steady Horsemen for the Apocalypse" among others. Wonkette notes that Dumb, Stupid, Queer, Faggot, Fascism, Evil, Lying, Scum, Terrorists, Sodomy, Rape, Pillage, and Iraq are blocked by the sensor. However, "racist" and "homophode" are approved.

Letter From America

Earlier this month, Alistair Cooke retired from the BBC after filing 2,869 letters from America. "A reporter with lucid and piercing prose," as NPR described him, Cooke explained to millions throughout the world the unique character of America. He died last night at 95.

Voting? That's for Chumps

Noam Chomsky now has his own blog. He always copies me (especially when it comes to linguistics). You can catch up on all of your radical, far-left paranoia at Turning the Tide. Here's a sample of what you'll find:

True, there's no mainstream critique of the whole electoral process. That would be next to inconceivable. Rather, there are enormous propaganda campaigns to try to induce people to vote and trying to make the elections look very serious. We're right in the middle of them now. They have some success, but it's limited.

As for whether one should vote, that's a separate matter.