International House of Dan: December 2005

Friday, December 30, 2005

Argentina Remains Top Destination...

...for Europeans fleeing genocide charges. General Ratko Mladic is wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on a 15 count indictment charging genocide, complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity (7 counts) and violations of the laws or customs of war (6 counts). The Statute of the Court defines the broader crimes charged, the indictment specifies the acts constituting each count (i.e. taking hostages is charged as a violation of the laws or customs of war). The indictment states that Mladic
was born on 12 March 1942 in the municipality of Kalinovik in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina ("BiH"). He was trained at the military academy of the Yugoslav People’s Army ("JNA") in Belgrade, and was then a regular officer in the JNA and subsequently in the army of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina/Republika Srpska ("VRS").
The alleged crimes took place between 12 May 1992 and 22 December 1996, while Mladic held the most senior military post in the VRS. Mladic remains at large, though authorities expect to find him in the near future. Many believe that he remains in Europe, but I have a bad feeling he will surface in Buenos Aires, like fellow war crimes suspect Milan Lukic.

Up next, extradition related concerns in the event that Mladic does surface in Argentina.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Democracy vs. Terrorism

In my last post I failed to mention something that's been lingering in the back of my head for a while: what makes the administration so sure that a democratic Iraq "will never again be a safe haven for terrorists"? The experiences of democratic societies such as Northern Ireland, Spain, Israel and Oklahoma City suggest that terrorism can thrive for generations regardless of the political system in place. As the latest Foreign Affairs came in the mail last week I began to go over some back issues I hadn't had time to finish, and lo and behold, in the September/October issue there is a piece by F. Gregory Gause III entitled "Can Democracy Stop Terrorism?". The answer is likely "no", and the article explains why much better than I could.

Monday, December 19, 2005

President Interrupts TV

I got home from snowboarding and was anxiously anticipating plopping down to watch a new episode of "American Dad" yesterday when Fox decided to interrupt my relaxation to show the President's speech on Iraq. This morning I had to leave my car for a meeting during his radio news conference, but I'd heard enough excerpts throughout the day to get a sense for it long before turning to the official transcript. I have responses in two parts, first to the Iraq language and second to the wiretapping admission:

First of all, I felt as though the President was speaking to me on Sunday when he said :
I also want to speak to those of you who did not support my decision to send troops to Iraq: I have heard your disagreement, and I know how deeply it is felt ... I don't expect you to support everything I do, but tonight I have a request: Do not give in to despair, and do not give up on this fight for freedom.
All I can say about that is that people who disagreed with the decision to go to war cannot possibly "give up on this fight for freedom", you have to first support something in order to be able to "give up" on it. For those of you who know what was said in place of the ellipsis, I will revisit that passage later in this post.

Second, as election results are starting to trickle in, I have to conclude that the "I'm-not-Shia-or-Sunni-I'm-Iraqi" voter from Sunday's speech is in the very slight minority, as everybody else seems to have voted along strict sectarian lines. The tremendous lack of support for the secular slate also does little to reassure me that this government will not contribute to a "movement that exploits Islam in the service of radical political aims -- a vision in which books are burned, and women are oppressed, and all dissent is crushed." I'm not saying that a vote for religious candidates will automatically lead to Sharia, but in the Middle East as in the rest of the world, I think everybody benefits from keeping church and state in their respective corners. In any case, I think it's either hypocritical or naive for any of us to expect that a truly democratic Iraq would not be highly susceptible to the use of religion as political campaign tool.

Finally, with regard to Sunday, I was a little put off by the President's belief that not only will a constitutional democracy in Iraq play out as hoped, but also that it will be the first of its kind in the region. How is the expected Iraqi system any different from those already in place in Algeria, Yemen, Israel, and Egypt? The election is being touted as part of a larger and recent attempt to overpromote the positive developments in Iraq. The selective use of intelligence that drove the nation to war spilled over into Sunday's speech as well, as the President proudly announced that "seven in 10 Iraqis say their lives are going well, and nearly two-thirds expect things to improve even more in the year ahead" while neglecting to mention that those same polls indicate that
Fewer than half, 46 percent, say the country is better off now than it was before the war. And half of Iraqis now say it was wrong for U.S.-led forces to invade in spring 2003, up from 39 percent in 2004 ... Two-thirds now oppose the presence of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq, 14 points higher than in February 2004. Nearly six in 10 disapprove of how the United States has operated in Iraq since the war, and most of them disapprove strongly. And nearly half of Iraqis would like to see U.S. forces leave soon.
As far as this morning's press conference, there is no need to rehash the parts of it that were merely regurgitated pieces of the Sunday speech. No, the big thing this morning was the clandestine wiretaps of U.S. citizens authorized after September 11.

I would only like to quickly point out three things about these wiretaps, I could write more, but this is too long as it is. First, the President seems to subscribe to Nixon's interpretation of what the Constitution does and does not allow the Executive to do. Second, I'm glad to see that on Sunday "the need for victory is larger than any president or political party, because the security of our people is in the balance", but on Monday it's ok to take a partisan shot at Sens. Reid, Clinton, Schumer and Boxer for their position on the Patriot Act. Last, and perhaps most frightening, the President seems to believe that when Congress voted to authorize "all necessary and appropriate force" following September 11, 2001, it afforded him the authority to pursue many of the extrajudicial tactics that, we are now learning, have been secretly adopted in the last 4 years. This is uncomfortably reminiscent of what some Argentine generals believed in 1975.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Quick Thoughts on Iran...

I originally wrote this on November 4th, which was just after President Bush asked Congress for funds to save us all from imminent death by bird flu. It seems equally applicable in light of more recent Middle Eastern events:

...and I do mean "quick". Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said some stupid things lately, he's coming across a little crazy... crazy like a fox! Controversial? Yes. Divisive and hostile? Absolutely. That's the point. "All politics is local," the saying goes, and Iran is no exception. My read on the situation is that a president under pressure, beset by global condemnation, decided to energize his base and divert attention from his own doings. Does it sound familiar? Of course. Because the $7 billion dollars sought to prevent the impending and inevitable Asian bird flu pandemic came at a perfect time for President Bush.

The world may be doing a disservice to the Middle-East peace process by acknowledging (granted, with properly felt indignation) Mssr. Ahmadinejad's sophomoric comments. At a time when Iran stood to become increasingly isolated from its Muslim neighbors, Western and Israeli outrage over politically charged remarks could galvanize the region. Mssr. Hussein tried this strategy before, by firing Scuds at Jerusalem and praying that Tel Aviv would fire back.

I do not believe we should give these comments the credibility they have been receiving: treat them the same way as our president's weak attempts at changing the subject. All this is, is a way for an embattled leader to say "oh yeah? oh yeah?? well... what about them!? They're not like us... forget me, fear them!!". Don't let Bush get away with that nonsense, and don't let Ahmadinejad get away with it either!

I don't recall why I didn't publish that then, perhaps I planned to add more links, but as I revisited the issue today, I was pleased to learn that I may have been onto something when I wrote those words.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Holiday Party Tonight

Liberals from around Chicago are expected to descend (or in my case ascend, since I live South of there) upon Black Rock Pub starting at 6:30 for the IllinoisDemNet holiday party. I understand that the pub is located just North of the Addison Brown Line stop on Damen, and that all sorts of little groups will be in attendance, meaning that those of you who don't belong to a little group should go ahead and show up because everyone will just assume you're there with a group other than theirs. Cheers!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Is Dan Still Catholic?