International House of Dan: May 2006

Monday, May 22, 2006

History Repeating

What is the spirit of 1967? What is the mood of America and of the world toward America today? It is a joyless spirit - a mood of frustration, of anxiety, of uncertainty.

In place of the enthusiasm of the Peace Corps among the young people of America, we have protests and demonstrations.

In place of the enthusiasm of the Alliance for Progress, we have distrust and disappointment.

Instead of the language of promise and of hope, we have in politics today a new vocabulary in which the critical word is 'war': war on terror, war on drugs, war on poverty, war on ignorance, war on crime, war on pollution. None of these problems can be solved by war, but only by persistent, thoughtful, and dedicated attention. But we do have one war which is properly called a war - the war in Iraq, which is central to all the problems of America.

A war of questionable legality and questionable constitutionality. A war which is diplomatically indefensible; the first war in this century in which the United States, which at its founding made an appeal to the decent opinion of mankind in the Declaration of Independence, finds itself without the support of the decent opinion of mankind.

A war which cannot be defended in the context of the judgment of history. It is being presented in the context of an historical judgment of an era which is past. 9/11 appears to be the starting point of history for the administration and for those who attempt to support its policies. What is necessary is a realization that the United States is a part of the movement of history itself; that it cannot stand apart, attempting to control the world by imposing covenants and treaties and by violent military intervention; that our role is not to police the planet but to use military strength with restraint and within limits, while at the same time we make available to the world the great power of our economy, of our knowledge, and of our good will.

The bold text is mine. The "war on terror" and "war on drugs" are mine. "Iraq" was originally "Vietnam", "9/11" was "Munich", "administration/its" were "secretary of state/his". The speech was delivered by Senator Eugene McCarthy in Chicago, on December 2, 1967.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Argentina vs. Uruguay

On May 4, Argentina filed a claim against Uruguay at the International Court of Justice over the construction of two paper mills along the River Uruguay. The suit alleges that the operation of the mills would:
"damage the environment of the River Uruguay and its area of influence zone", affecting over 300,000 residents, who are concerned at the "significant risks of pollution of the river, deterioration of biodiversity, harmful effects on health and damage to fisheries resources", and the "extremely serious consequences for tourism and other economic interests"
In 1975, Argentina and Uruguay entered into the Statute of the River Uruguay and formed the Administrative Commission for the River Uruguay (CARU) to oversee the environmental protection of the river. Argentina had appealed to CARU and the Uruguayan government before initiproceedingsedings at The Hague, but Uruguay continued the construction of the first paper mill and began building the second one.

The treaty mainly governs navigation on the river, but Article 7 provides that "If one Party plans to ... carry out any other works which are liable to affect navigation, the regime of the river or the quality of its waters" it must first seek approval from the Commission. Chapter X of the treaty further mandates that parties must protect against pollution. The proceedings at the ICJ will settle, among other things, whether Uruguay has violated these provisions of the treaty. Chapter XV allows either party to bring disputes before the ICJ for adjudication. Both Argentina and Uruguay have ratified the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Uruguay has accepted compulsory jurisdictioniction at the ICJ, but only on the basis of reciprocity. Since Argentina has not accepted compulsory jurisdiction, the court can only hear the case because of Chapter XV of the River Uruguay Statute.

In less enlightened times, or under less enlightened leaders, this dispute would likely have led to open warfare. It is truly remarkable and it gives me hope to see nations submitting their disputes to the World Court in the spirit of justice and the preservation of peace. Following an adverse ruling at the ICJ in the Avena case two years ago, our administration chose to withdraw from a treaty protocol giving the ICJ jurisdiction to hear disputes with the U.S. over the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. What would it be like to instead have a president who says things like: "Let us show the world that we have that minute of reflection, and let us not allow ourselves to be pushed by nationalisms devoid of content, which instead of uniting Latin America separated it permanently"?

How different would the road to Iraq have been if President Bush had de-escalated the conflict by making an appeal such as Kirchner's? "I beg Uruguay to hear me, to accept this humble request. Only 90 days for the best environmentalists in the world to help two brother peoples to resolve this matter. Ninety days are a mere sigh in the long history of Argentina and Uruguay."

All translations by Dan.


Monday, May 08, 2006

Who Says The Left Is Not Good At Message?

This is brief, as I just returned from a wonderful visit to my parents' spotless house and I am busy shaking my head at what a terrible, terrible mess my apartment really is, but I overheard a great sound byte from an immigrant rights advocate on CNN over the weekend and I thought I would share it.

It was something to the effect of: "It's hard to play by the rules when the rules say you can't play." I guess it's a more succinct way to put what I've been writing about on here for a little while...

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Photos From M1

As will be noted in my upcoming post on the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa, I am waiting for a clearer picture of what impact the marches had before posting an in-depth review of last Monday's events. In the meantime, though, here are a few photos from the march in Chicago:

This is at Union Park, around 10:30 a.m., the meeting point. I ran into several people I knew and finally settled in with the SEIU group. We heard speeches from Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Senator Barack Obama, and others. The park is to the right, the speakers were in a stage in the truck ahead of the one with the people on top of it.

At 11:45 we began to move, people steadily poured into Union Park until then. This picture is from when we were reaching the west Loop. It's difficult to see, but there are people for as far as there are lamp posts, as well as a similar view ahead of us.

We did not see any counterprotests along the way, but we did see plenty of bystanders, watching in awe and occasionally clapping or joining us in chants. The mood was festive, and we noticed that in just about every office building we passed, people were not working, they were at their windows watching the sea of people pass by. As we turned East on Jackson, we saw this balcony with a banner reading: "Si se puede! Yes we can!".

As we turned that corner, this was the view ahead towards Lake Michigan. Notice the people standing outside the building on the left.

A few blocks East on Jackson, this was the view to the rear of me. The last building on the left is the one where the banner hung.

I don't know how old this child was, probably around 10, but he was leading chants with that megaphone. The presence of children was significant. From infants being carried by their parents, to groups of teens carrying signs and chanting loudly. I was pleased to see that children were not taking the day to hang out at the mall, they were active participants. I was also pleased to see that it was not just Hispanic children in attendance, but also their black and white classmates supporting them. Hopefully they will take the lessons of the day to heart and remain active in the political process.

More Chicagoans hard at work while the march went past their offices.

SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff (big guy on the left), other march organizers, and Congressmembers Luis Gutierrez and Jan Schakowsky (both on the right). They would soon be joined by SEIU Local 4 President Hal Ruddick and other community leaders in attendance.

One last look West on Jackson as we crossed Michigan Avenue on the way to the rally at Grant Park. I could not see the end of the procession.

We reached Grant Park at about 1 p.m., these are people pouring in to join earlier arrivals in anticipation of the rally. Did I mention we were towards the front of the march?

This is the corner of Balbo and Columbus, at the "entrance" to where the last picture was taken. This was taken at around 3:30 p.m.; people were still steadily flowing in more than two hours after I arrived.

This was taken from behind the stage. Use the flag jutting up towards the left as a reference point in the next picture to get a "panoramic" effect. At the far back you can see little "spikes" of people. These are new arrivals as well as people leaving. There was a fairly steady rotation of people coming and going, so the numbers at the rally remained lower than the total for the march, even in light of the people who did not march but came to the rally.

The flag is now on the far right. Notice the children of all races, it was great to see them participate.

I believe I took this a little after 4:00 p.m. If you look hard at the right side between the trees, you will get some sense of how many more people were at across Balbo (the rally is to my right and behind me). Groups were still arriving and being led to the rally.

I walked North on Michigan to avoid crowds on the bus ride back (incidentally, I wound up taking the wrong bus and wound up almost 30 blocks north of where I needed to be, but that's another story for another day...). I posted this picture of The Bean to prove to my family that it exists. Every time they come to visit me it's boarded up.

Aside from a political assessment of the events of M1 I can say on a personal level that it was a tremendously moving experience. I participated in solidarity and because I oppose HR 4437 and believe no law like it should ever be enacted by our Congress; but to see the people who are personally affected avail themselves of the First Amendment, to see the people "peaceably assemble ... to petition the government for a redress of grievances" showed me in no uncertain terms just how hypocritical it is of so many Americans to wish to deny the protections of our Constitution to the people who seem to understand it most.