Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
from Afghan Journal:
On a hilltop in central Kabul, the relics of Soviet armoured vehicles sit in the shadow of an incongruously vast and empty swimming pool. A tower of diving boards looks down into the concrete carcass built by the Russians. Boys play football there and on Fridays the basin is used for dog fights; combat is the only option for the canine gladiators, as they cannot climb up the sheer, steep sides. From the vantage point you can see the city's graveyards, its bright new mosques, the narco-palaces of drug-funded business potentates and the spread of modest brick homes where most Kabulis live. It's a favourite spot for reporters when they need to escape the press of urgent events and get cleaner air in their lungs.
For years journalists have sought to tell stories that go beyond the conflict in Afghanistan. We've tried to portray this country - the crossroads of central Asia, the summer home of Moghul emperors, the cockpit of clashing empires - as more than a place of blood, deprivation and extremism. Amid the dust and the heat it has its oases of tranquility, its laughter and its charms. From the market stalls of sweet pomengranates that line the road in autumn to the rose gardens newly planted in central Kabul, Afghanistan is a place of thorny history, cultural complexity and spartan beauty.
Alas, we cannot ignore the warfare. Great journalistic energy has to go into counting the casualties, explaining the violence and charting the shifting strategies of the combatants. It's a conflict whose outcome is uncertain. The bullets and bombs tear through the flesh of ordinary Afghans, fanatical insurgents and Western soldiers with equal awfulness. A blast takes the life of a child, deprives a wife of a husband and faintly furthers some cause. The impact is immediate and local, but it reverberates harshly in Washington, Delhi, London or Paris.
Can we weave together the warp of war and the weft of daily life in Afghanistan? Yes, in this blog, we hope is the answer. In the tradition of the region's richly patterned carpets, it will be both intricate and stoutly structured, minutely detailed and expansive in scale.
It’s true that Russia crushed Georgia’s army when it stepped in to help South Ossetian rebels but its forceful reaction to the Georgian attempt to retake rebel held areas scared its European partners and isolated the country. Only Nicaragua followed Moscow and recognised both South Ossetia and another breakaway region Abkhazia as independent states after the war.
Breaking into the summer holiday lull, Austrian politics has gotten into a lather over a far-right populist’s call for a referendum on whether a mainly German-speaking region of northern Italy should rejoin Austria.
No matter how far-fetched, his proposal raised a hue and cry by challenging the taboo of old unreconstructed nationalism in a country restlessly determined to live down its Nazi past.
By Patrick Worsnip
What’s more important — the right of a sovereign state to manage its affairs free of outside interference or the duty of the international community to intervene when massive human rights violations are being committed in a country?
The United Nations — nothing if not a talking shop — has been debating that question this week in the General Assembly. It goes to the heart of what the U.N. is all about.
At issue is a declaration issued four years ago by a summit of more than 150 world leaders asserting the “responsibility to protect” — R2P in U.N. jargon — populations threatened with genocide or other mass atrocities. It was a somewhat belated response to widespread criticism of the United Nations for failing to stop massacres in Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990s.
The carefully crafted declaration said the responsibility began with the government of the country concerned. If that failed, it foresaw a sliding scale of international action, ranging from advice through mediation to — in a last resort — intervention by force. And such a use of force could only be authorized by the Security Council, meaning the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China would all have to agree.
Cautious as it was, the summit document was seen by many advocacy groups as a step on the road to fulfilling their dream that if a government was committing atrocities against its people, the United Nations would march in and stop it.
In the real world, U.N. officials say, that is not going to happen, at least under the peacekeeping rules that have applied in recent decades. These do not authorize U.N. forces to go to war against the national army of a sovereign state — a move that would amount to invasion. Witness the six-year-old conflict in Sudan’s western region of Darfur — branded by some as genocide — where a U.N./African Union peacekeeping force is only now being slowly deployed with the consent of the Khartoum government. The only time that R2P has been invoked in practice — and even then retrospectively — was in former U.N. secretary-General Kofi Annan’s mission to mediate in post-election violence in Kenya last year, U.N. officials say.
This week’s debate was to take stock of R2P and discuss how to take it forward, although no immediate action is expected. It came against the background of a determined attempt by radicals led by General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto, a former Nicaraguan Sandinista government minister, to kick the issue into the long grass.
For D’Escoto and those who agree with him, R2P is code for an attempt by big Western powers to impose their will on the weak. In a contentious “concept note” issued to all U.N. members he declared that “colonialism and interventionism used ‘responsibility to protect’ arguments.” One member of a panel of experts D’Escoto convened to launch the debate, U.S. academic Noam Chomsky, said R2P-type arguments had been used to justify Japan’s 1931 invasion of Manchuria and Nazi Germany’s pre-World War Two move into Czechoslovakia.
While some radical states, such as Venezuela, echoed D’Escoto’s line in the assembly debate, human rights groups expressed relief that most cautiously supported a strictly defined interpretation of R2P and backed proposals by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for developing it. Ban has proposed periodic reviews of how countries have implemented R2P and regular reports by himself on the issue. “To those that argued this week that the U.N. was not ready to make a reality of the commitment to end mass atrocities, the majority of the General Assembly gave its answer: you are wrong,” said Monica Serrano of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. Despite that, there have been clear signs of concern among developing countries that unless tightly controlled, R2P could be used in support of future Iraq-style invasions of countries that have angered the big powers.
What’s your view?
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.
from The Great Debate UK:
- Luke Baker is a political and general news correspondent at Reuters. -
The mountains and deserts of southern Afghanistan are far removed from the elegant charms of Trieste in northern Italy, but there will be a link between the two this weekend.
Foreign ministers from the Group of Eight nations meet in the Italian city on the Adriatic on Thursday for three days of talks, with the state of play in Afghanistan, as well as developments in Iran and the Middle East, front and centre of their agenda.
For many, Vietnam has always been two things – a war and a country. Since probably the mid-1990s, though, when Washington and Hanoi established diplomatic relations, the balance — in terms of headlines at least — started to tip decisively toward “Vietnam the country”.
Vietnam’s economic transition and integration with the world has, indeed, made for some decent reading. So it’s been interesting to note since moving to Hanoi a few months ago the strong comeback that “Vietnam the war” has made in the form of articles about Afghanistan and the Obama presidency.
from Africa News blog:
The overthrow of Madagascar’s leader may have had nothing to do with events elsewhere in Africa, but after four violent changes of power within eight months the question is bound to arise as to whether the continent is returning to old ways.
Three years without coups between 2005 and last year had appeared to some, including foreign investors, to have indicated a fundamental change from the first turbulent decades after independence. This spate of violent overthrows could now be another reason for investors to tread more warily again, particularly as Africa feels the impact of the global financial crisis.
For months U.S. commanders in Afghanistan have been asking for more troops and Washington has been increasingly receptive. Today, we turned the spotlight on the skeptics in this story.
How much heed should President Barack Obama pay to their concerns? As a presidential candidate, he promised to send more troops to Afghanistan and he has made the war there the top U.S. military priority. But are more U.S. forces the answer to Afghanistan’s worsening violence? If so, how many more?
Who remembers the Google Wars website that was doing the viral rounds a few years back – a mildly amusing, non-scientific snapshot of the search-driven, internet world we live in?
It lives on at www.googlebattle.com where you can enter two search terms, say ‘Lennon vs. McCartney’ or ‘Left vs. Right’, and let the internet pick a winner by the number of search hits each word gets.