Tag Archives: Amnesty International

ISRAEL ATTACKS SYRIAN AND IRANIAN TARGETS

Syria’s state media released images of what they say are destroyed houses near Damascus (AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Israel says it has hit dozens of targets in Syria belonging to the government and allied Iranian forces.

The Israeli military says the “wide-scale strikes” responded to rockets fired by an Iranian unit into Israel.   Syria says two civilians died and that Syrian air defenses shot down most of the missiles over Damascus.  Other reports say the death toll was higher.   Local reports said loud explosions were heard in the capital.   Pictures on social media showed a number of fires.

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PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS

“It’s easy to go about our lives and forget that in places like Nigeria, Iran and North Korea being a Christian can often lead to death.” — Vernon Brewer, founder and CEO of World Help, Fox News, November 4, 2019

“4,136 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons.  On average, that’s 11 Christians killed every day for their faith.” — Open Doors, World Watch List 2019

More than 245 million Christians around the world are currently suffering from persecution. — Open Doors, World Watch List, 2019 (Gatestone 11/15/2019)

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CHANGES AHEAD IF CORBYN WINS

The United Kingdom has a general election on December 12th.  It is considered the most important election in 80 years.  It will determine the issue of Brexit, the future direction of the British economy and even of the United Kingdom itself.

  • “By far the most likely casualty of a Corbyn government would be the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network, where there is a strong likelihood that other member states of the alliance will be deeply reluctant to share highly sensitive material with a British prime minister who has spent his entire political career openly associating with regimes and groups that are utterly hostile to the West and its allies.
  • At the heart of his hard Left approach to foreign policy lies a deep hatred for the US and its role in safeguarding the interests of the Western democracies.
  • Thus Mr. Corbyn’s instinct is to be more sympathetic to the views of Russia, Iran, North Korea and the Assad regime in Syria than Britain’s long-standing allies in Washington and Europe.   (Con Coughlin, Gatestone, 11/16/2019)

JEREMY CORBYN’S BIG NEGATIVE EFFECT ON FOREIGN POLICY

“A Corbyn-led government would quickly lead to the biggest change in Britain’s defense posture since the second world war.   Even if the country stayed in NATO, as is likely, it would be a passive member, reluctant to push back against Russian expansionism and hostile to the idea of a nuclear deterrent.   Given that NATO depends on confidence that it means what it says, this would be a severe blow to its credibility.   Britain’s Middle East policy would be revolutionized, with a more hostile stance toward Israel and the Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia, and a friendlier one to Iran.   America would almost certainly stop sharing critical intelligence with Downing Street, for fears that such secrets would find their way into Russian or Iranian hands.   Given Britain’s membership of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, that would harm Europe’s ability to combat hostile states and non-state actors.

“Such a revolution would come at a sensitive time.   Mr. Trump is already disrupting established security relations (for all their differences, he and Mr. Corbyn share a common hostility to the multinational institutions that have kept the peace since 1945).   Brexit is straining relations with Britain’s European allies, while gobbling up the political class’s available bandwidth.  The Foreign Office is demoralized by decades of cuts, and the security establishment is still tainted by the weapons-of-mass-destruction fiasco.

All this is taking place at a time when Mr. Putin is on the march and Islamic State is shifting its focus from state-building to global terror. A Dangerous world may be about to become more dangerous.” (“Security questions,” Bagehot, The Economist, 11/9,2019).

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MACRON ON RUSSIA

“. . . consider Mr. Macron’s Russia policy.   He has long argued that rogue powers are more dangerous when isolated.   To this end, he has hosted Vladimir Putin at both Versailles, near Paris, and Bregancon, on the Mediterranean.   But his call for a “rapprochement” with Russia, in order to keep it out of China’s arms, has alarmed Poland and the Baltics.   “My idea is not in the least naïve,” argues Mr. Macron.   He insists that any movement would be conditional on respect for the Minsk peace accords in Ukraine.   He has not called for sanctions to be lifted.   And he sees this as a long-term strategy, that “might take ten years.”   Mr. Macron’s belief is that, eventually, Europe will need to try to find common ground with its near neighbor.   Not doing so would be a “huge mistake”.” (Briefing, The Economist, 11/9/2019)

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WHO WILL PAY FOR ENDLESS WARS?

“Future generations will pay for them:   the wars have been funded by debt.   Most Americans have had little reason to think their country is even at war.    And lucky them because war is hell.   But this disconnect helps explain why the country’s civil-military relations are as distant as they are.   It also helps explain how America came to be locked in such long and largely unproductive conflicts in the first place.   Its voters started to reckon with the rights and wrongs of the Vietnam War – then demand accountability for it – only after they felt its sting.   By contrast Donald Trump, who almost alone among national politicians decries the latest conflicts, has struggled to interest voters in them – or indeed end them.

“Though mostly wrong on the details, the president raises an important question of the long wars.   What have they achieved?” (Lexington, The Economist, 11/9/2019).

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TEMPLE MOUNT NO LONGER

154 UN nations call Temple Mount solely by Muslim name Haram al-Sharif  – EU approves text, but warns it may not do so in the future by Tovah Lazaroff, November 17, 2019

The UN gave its preliminary approval to a resolution that referred to the Temple Mount solely by its Muslim name of Haram al-Sharif.

The resolution passed at the UN’s Fourth Committee in New York 154-8, with 14 abstentions and 17 absences.   It was one of eight pro-Palestinian resolutions approved on Friday, out of a slate of more than 15 such texts the committee is expected to approve.   The UN General Assembly will take a final vote on the texts in December.

. . . Acting US Deputy Representative to the United Nations Cherith Norman Chalet told the Fourth Committee it opposed the “annual submission of more than a dozen resolutions biased against Israel.

. . .  “As the United States has repeatedly made clear, this dynamic is unacceptable,” Chalet continued.  “We see resolutions that are quick to condemn all manner of Israeli actions, but say nothing or almost nothing about terrorist attacks against innocent civilians.   And so the United States will once again vote against these one-sided resolutions and encourages other nations to do so.”
(https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/154-UN-nations-call-Temple-Mount-solely-by-Muslim-name-Haram-al-Sharif-608135)

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GERMAN MILITIAS

Right-wing militia groups say they patrol where police turn a blind eye.  But with criminality dropping and more police than ever in Germany,  analysts and politicians say their motives are more sinister.         Deutsche Welle, 18/11/2019 

Sebastian Niedrich is one of about 20 militiamen in Berlin with a “citizen patrol” initiative.   In groups of two or three, the red-vested men patrol neighborhoods in Berlin they claim are areas where petty crime is rife.   Their initiative is called “Establish Protection Zones” (“Schafft Schutzzone”).   It is abbreviated as “SS,” which in Germany immediately brings to mind the notorious Nazi-era “SS” – the paramilitary “Protection Squadron” that persecuted millions and was directly responsible for genocide.   Niedrich rejects any such connection.   Right-wing extremist initiative:   The “Establish Protection Zones” initiative, an offshoot of Germany’s extreme-right National Democratic Party (NPD), says the areas it patrols are often popular tourist areas, as well as those with growing immigrant communities.

The first subheading of the NPD’s party platform in Berlin reads “The Problem of Foreigners” and lays out ways to close Germany’s borders, bar immigrants from receiving jobs and social benefits, and preserve Germany’s national identity.   The party’s website also prominently displays images of its logo-wearing patrols, superimposed with slogans like “Protect Germans!” and “Germans helping Germans!”   Multiple attempts to disband or ban the party entirely have failed in courts.   The extreme-right NPD in western Germany, has made it their task to protest against Islam.   A study on German society’s biggest fears released earlier this year by the Berlin Social Science Center showed that one in three respondents feared “foreign infiltration” on account of too many immigrants. Over half feared criminality.

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GERMANY-TAIPEI LINKS

German politician urges military links with Taipei                             Taipei Times, 19 Nov 2019

Germany and Taiwan should conduct military exchanges, which would be more meaningful than exchanges with China, German lawmaker Ulrich Lechte, a member of the Bundestag Committee on Foreign Affairs, said on Sunday.   “The free world should stand together,” the Free Democratic Party lawmaker wrote on Facebook.  The Taipei Representative Office in Germany’s Munich office shared Lechte’s post on its Facebook page, and thanked him for his continuing support of Taiwan.   The German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported that 62 nations, including China, are to receive training from the Bundeswehr, Germany’s military.

Amnesty International arms and human rights expert Mathias John criticized the plans to train Chinese soldiers, telling the paper that doing so was “incomprehensible” given China’s “human rights situation and the role the Chinese People’s Liberation Army plays” in human rights violations in China.   John also brought up the protests in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong police’s response to them.  Germany should “send a clear message and immediately cease all military cooperation with China,” he said.   A spokesperson for the German Ministry of Defense told the paper that Chinese soldiers regularly participate in educational events organized by the German military, including international officer courses, as well as officer training courses offered at military schools, universities and military leadership academies.   The weekly news magazine Der Spiegel on Saturday reported that the German government is planning to send warships into the South China Sea and through the Taiwan Strait as a way of “refuting Chinese territorial claims” in those areas (http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2019/11/19/2003726106)

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ADMIRAL HORATIO NELSON and THE BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR

 214 Years Ago

The Battle of Trafalgar, fought 21 October 1805, was one of the most important and decisive Naval engagements of all time, decisively establishing the supremacy of the Royal Navy on the high seas.   Rather than a conventional engagement between lines of battle with gunnery duels, the English made a bold attack that allowed them to gain local superiority over the enemy and raked their ships with devastating broadsides.   The Franco-Spanish fleet was decisively defeated and British supremacy on the high seas was decisively established for the rest of the 19th century.   Lord Nelson’s defeat of the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar allowed British trade to flourish around the world, laying the foundations for Britain’s emergence as an economic superpower.   It also made possible the Greatest Century of Missions, as Protestant missionaries were able to sail to every corner of the world.   The Royal Navy’s domination of the high seas brought an end to the slave trade in the 19th Century.   (Reformation SA, 2019)

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TO THE POINT

  • The Chinese Ambassador to the UK has accused both the UK and the US of interfering in Chinese domestic affairs.   He is referring to British and American support for student protesters in Hong Kong.   He has a point. Democracy isn’t working too well right now in the US or the UK.   Perhaps we should shut up until things calm down at home!
  • “The escalation of the unrest in Hong Kong coincides with recent mass protests around the world.   These protests – in Bolivia, Iran and elsewhere – are not connected.   However, they are loosely linked thematically in that they concern inequality, political freedoms, corruption and climate change.”  (“Protests catch fire,” USA Today, 11/19/2019)
  • Prince Andrew’s BBC interview in which he denies having had a relationship with a 17- year-old girl, courtesy of Jeffrey Epstein, has failed to convince many.   Members of the royal family rarely give interviews.   It’s difficult to remember one, which was advantageous to the royals.   Perhaps they just haven’t had as much practice at lying as politicians!  (Prince Andrew has since withdrawn from public duties, “for the foreseeable future”.)
  • A 55-year-old man in China’s Inner Mongolia region has been diagnosed with bubonic plague after eating wild rabbit, the third recorded case of the deadly disease in the country.
  • A famous person I’ve never heard of is complaining about the patriotic song “Rule Britannia,” which dates back to the days when the British Royal Navy governed the world.   Is she objecting to the fact that the royal navy did more than any other institution to end the slave trade?   From 1810 to 1860 the West Africa Squadron freed 250,000 slaves. (see article above on Horatio Nelson; last sentence) “Slavery was a fact of life in the sixteenth century.   The African slave trade was already the largest form of commerce in the world.   No one had the least qualms about it, least of all Africa’s own tribal rulers.” (“To Rule the Waves,” page 2, Arthur Herman, 2004)
  • “The global debt ballooned to a record high of more than $250 trillion and shows no sign of slowing down, according to a new report from the Institute of International Finance (IIF).   . . . Extended low interest rates and easy money has facilitated the accumulation of a bone crushing amount of debt over the last decade or so,” Dylan Riddle, a spokesperson for the IIF told ABC News in a statement.   “This debt has helped fuel global growth, however, we must focus on managing the current debt load, and deploying resources for more productive means — like fighting climate change or investing in growth.”  (ABC News)

OBAMA’S AFRICAN VISIT

Barack-Obama-Kenya

Only an African-American president could say it and get away with it!

President Obama on his visit to Kenya and Ethiopia was able to pointedly criticize African leaders for their corruption, human rights abuses, abuse of power and unwillingness to ever relinquish office.

Nobody could accuse him of racism.

Mr. Obama said things that have long needed to be said.

In contrast to his speeches on the Middle East, which are always filled with controversy and generally seem to make things worse, his speeches in Nairobi and Addis Ababa could only upset Africa’s corrupt leaders.   Ethiopian primary school teacher, Hikma Lemma had just one regret:  “He took too long to come.”   (“In Ethiopia, a cry for basic freedoms,” USA Today, July 28th.)

Things will not change quickly.  Indeed, they may not change at all, but it was still good to hear the president address these basic issues.

“Ethiopia jails the most journalists in Africa after Eritrea, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.   Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned the country’s human rights record.   And in May, the State Department expressed concern over how the elections that month could result in all seats being won by the ruling party and its partners.   The department noted lingering ‘restrictions on civil society, media, opposition parties, and independent voices and views.” (ibid, USA Today).

At the start of his African trip, Mr. Obama spoke candidly to Kenyans, warning them against the twin evils of corruption and tribalism.  He could have addressed both issues in any of Africa’s 54 countries and his listeners would generally have applauded him. Only the leaders would have sat stone-faced and emotionless, probably wishing they had invited the Chinese leader to visit instead of the American president.   China, much more involved in Africa, does not comment on human rights abuses or corruption.

Boldly, Mr. Obama even addressed the persecution of gays in Africa. Most African governments deny that homosexuality even exists in their countries.   Certainly, all governments are guilty of a double standard in this regard.   At least one country has a prominently displayed sign in its airport warning “perverts and sexual deviants” to stay away, but saying nothing about the many prostitutes offering themselves in all the hotels.

In Addis Ababa, Mr. Obama addressed delegates of the African Union, whose headquarters are in Addis Ababa.   Introducing him was the Chairwoman of the AU, who did not always tell the truth. She criticized the United Nations because Africa is the only continent that does not have a permanent representative on the Security Council.   In actual fact, neither South America nor Australia are represented, either.

The US president expressed incredulity that any president would want to serve indefinitely.  He said he is looking forward to retirement and being able to go places without a massive security detail.  He said it was particularly difficult to understand when so many African presidents have so much money, another reference to corruption, enabling leaders to amass great wealth while their people go hungry.   Unwillingness to leave office is also linked to corruption – African presidents fear being investigated for corruption when they stand down.

Underscoring his points was the absence of the current AU Chairman Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, one of the richest men on earth.   Mr. Mugabe has been president of his country since independence in 1980, presiding over a number of rigged elections.

Mr. Obama mentioned, too, that Americans don’t want to keep on sending Africa free food, but would rather teach Africans how to farm more efficiently.   He could have added that the continent would do well to encourage western (white) farmers to remain in Africa, as their farming skills produce greater crop yields.   Zimbabwe was once the grain basket of Africa – it’s people now go hungry because Mr. Mugabe evicted the white farmers.

Western reporters were also guilty of not telling the whole truth. Much was said during coverage of the African visit about what America is doing for Africa, with some focus on a program to help those with AIDS, a disease that, in Africa, is transmitted almost exclusively by heterosexuals.   Not once did I hear mention of the fact that the program was the initiative of George W. Bush, Mr. Obama’s predecessor.   With this one single program, he did more for Africa than any other president.

It would be nice to think that, with this one single visit to Africa, President Obama might accomplish something else on a grand scale – the end of corruption, together with real progress toward greater democracy.   The two together would boost the living standards of the entire continent.

It remains to be seen whether his visit will make a difference.   But his candid comments were certainly a good start!