Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
I heard the bursts of gunfire near my house in Monterrey as I was showering this morning. Then the ambulance sirens started wailing, and as I drove my kids to school about 20 minutes later, a convoy of green-clad soldiers, their assault rifles at the ready, sped by us. In northern Mexico, where I cover the drug war, it has become a part of life to read about, hear and even witness shootouts, but today I shuddered at the thought: what if those soldiers accidentally ever shot at me?
It was in February 2007 that Amnesty International raised concerns over Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s decision, two months earlier, to send thousands of troops across the country to control Mexico’s spiraling drug violence. Echoing worries voiced by the United Nations, the rights group warned that sending the army onto Mexican streets to do the job of the police was a bad idea. Even individual soldiers have commented to Reuters, off the record of course, that they feel very uncomfortable about their new role.
Back then, when there was still plenty of optimism about winning the war against drug cartels, many Mexicans brushed off concerns of rights abuses and the possible deaths of innocent bystanders. Washington praised Calderon for his bold move.
But almost four years on, it would seem Amnesty, the U.N. and a host of other rights groups were right. For the family of slain architect Fernando Osorio, who was shot dead by soldiers who mistook him for a hitman late last month, they were certainly right. Fernando, 34, was killed on the outskirts of Monterrey, Mexico’s richest city, as he worked on a piece of land soon due to become a housing development. “The army is committing atrocities, they destroyed my family today,” Fernando’s father Oswaldo Osorio told reporters on Oct. 28.
Germans have spent the last six decades trying to be as un-militaristic as possible.
Their struggle to make a complete U-turn from their belligerent past has caused many an awkward moment for the country and its NATO allies. In avoiding the mere mention of the word “war” that seemed to be all but banished from their vocabulary, German leaders raised in a post-war era and the motto “Nie Wieder Krieg!” (No more war ever) have gone through tortuous tongue-twisting excursions about what the increasingly deadly mission in Afghanistan isn’t – a war.
Germany’s defence minister gets his tongue in a twist every time he tries to explain why the German army is not in a “war” in Afghanistan, even though more and more German soldiers are coming home in coffins.
“If we were to speak of ‘war’ then we would only be focusing on the military aspect in the region and that would be a mistake,” Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung said after three more German soldiers were killed on Tuesday, raising the total to 35.
When they call it “the coalition”.
That’s not a joke. It’s just how things work in Afghanistan, where two separate forces with two separate command structures — one completely American, the other about half American — operate side by side under the command of the same U.S. general.
”When we say ‘coalition’, basically that means it’s just us,” a helpful U.S. military spokeswoman explained last month to a reporter who had just arrived in country after being away for a couple of years. “Otherwise, it’s the ‘alliance’.”
Soldiers took power in a coup in Mauritania on Wednesday after presidential guards deposed President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi when he tried to dismiss senior army officers. Abdallahi took over only last year after winning elections to replace a military junta that had ruled since it toppled the previous president in a bloodless coup in 2005. The largely desert nation, one of Africa’s newest oil producers, has suffered five coups since 1978 but Africa as a whole has transformed its reputation for violent government ousters in recent years after notching up around 80 successful coups and many more abortive attempts between the 1950s and 2004.
There have only been a handful of military seizures in the last five years compared to the heyday of military takeovers in the 1960s. In the mid-70s around half of African countries had military governments. Since then, democracy has gradually made ground and attempts to seize power are strongly frowned upon.
Hezbollah literally rolled out the red carpet to welcome home five prisoners released by Israel in a U.N.-mediated exchange deal. Securing the release of the last five Lebanese held by Israel was a major triumph for the group, which in turn handed over the bodies of two Israeli soldiers captured in a 2006 raid into Israel.
Having achieved a long-held goal, Hezbollah is holding up the exchange as further evidence that its uncompromising, armed approach to dealing with Israel brings results, directly challenging the policies of Arab leaders who have engaged in negotiations or signed peace treaties with the Jewish state. The New York Times called the prisoners’ homecoming a triumph.