24 May 2003

negative news in orbit
From the EE Times:

Hints of such a policy showed up in the Rumsfeld Commission report of January 2001, which warned of a "space Pearl Harbor" if the United States did not dominate low-earth, geosynchronous and polar orbital planes, as well as all launch facilities and ground stations, to exploit space for battlefield advantage.

The European Union complained in no uncertain terms five years ago that the NRO and National Security Agency were using global electronic-snooping programs like Echelon outside the boundaries of mutual NATO advantage. The European Space Agency chimed in last fall, when the Defense Department tried to bully ESA into changing its design plans for a navigational-satellite system called Galileo.

In the aftermath of the successful Iraq campaign, concern goes much deeper and extends to the heart of NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command inside Cheyenne Mountain near here. While Canada is supposed to be an equal member of NORAD, representatives of Canada's military and civilian establishment are complaining that they are not allowed to use space-based communications and intelligence in the same way the United States can.

"We cannot address the way the U.S. views missile defense and weapons in space without dealing with their insistence on space negation head-on," said Lawson of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Judd Blaisdell, director of the Air Force Space Operations Office, said recently, "We are so dominant in space that I pity a country that would come up against us."

Oh well, at least George Bush will get a chance to dress up as Luke Skywalker.

Link courtesy of Gyre.
nine weeks and counting
From the BBC:

The new American administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, has abolished the ministries and institutions that formed the backbone of Saddam Hussein's power structure.

The Iraqi army - including Saddam Hussein's once formidable Republican Guard - has been disbanded, and will be replaced by a new defence force.

The defence and information ministries, the military and security courts and the Olympic Committee have all been dissolved.

Okay, this is largely a symbolic act, but why wait 9 weeks to do something so basic? It can't be because the occupation is busy with real actions like restoring basic services because they've moved at snail's pace on those as well.

Phil Carter's excellent analysis in the Washington Monthly gives the real answer:

Even the failures of these previous missions demonstrate that manpower is less important to the achievement of military victory than to coping with victory's aftermath. In Kosovo, according to retired Gen. Montgomery Meigs, then commander of the Balkan stabilization force, we were forced to "do less" because the Pentagon claimed it could not send more peacekeeping troops. As a result, says Meigs, "we were unable to run operations inside Kosovo to interdict the internal movement of arms and Albanian-Kosovar fighters to [neighboring] Macedonia." Those armed separatists set off a civil war in Macedonia--stopped only by the timely deployment of more Western troops, including Americans, into that country.

Something very similar happened in Afghanistan. Our biggest failure there occurred in the mop-up stage, following the flight of the Taliban government. Because we had so few troops on the ground, we failed to cut off and destroy the remnants of al Qaeda--including, most likely, Osama bin Laden himself--as they fled into the lawless mountain regions of the Afghan and Pakistani frontier. Our subsequent efforts at nation-building on the cheap have yielded similar results. Our unwillingness to put many troops on the ground has made a mockery of the president's promise for a "Marshall Plan" for Afghanistan. The Western-oriented, U.S.-installed president, Hamid Karzai, controls little more than Kabul, and the rest of the country has already drifted back into warlordism.

Keeping the coalition numbers down may have been a simple miscalculation. The Pentagon's civilian leadership may believe that machinery is everything and boots on the ground are futile. Of course, there's also a fair chance that it was thought a lot easier to sell a fast, clean war with few troops than a long and difficult occupation with hundreds of thousands of troops.

The Guardian reports similar problems:

Tony Blair has been told in stark terms that American forces have exacerbated tensions because they have refused to mingle among the local population in the same way as British forces in Iraq's second city of Basra.

The finger of blame is being pointed at troops from the 3rd Infantry Division, the main US forces in Baghdad, who are said to be desperate to return home after bearing the brunt of the military campaign.

One source said: "In the capital the US forces have not adopted the mingling profile with the populace that has been a success in other cities. That is not the instinct of a heavily armoured division that has gone through a tough war."

The failure to secure Baghdad, which contrasts with successes by US and British forces in other parts of Iraq, will have grave consequences for reconstruction. It is understood that US corporations, such as Bechtel and the USAid government department, are reluctant to start repairing Iraq's infrastructure until Baghdad is safer.
Ruddock's rules
From Immigration Minister Ruddock's interview with Kerry O'Brien:

KERRY O'BRIEN: Do you acknowledge that at least in a number of instances that self-harm was an act of desperation, not some cynical act to somehow try and fool us into accepting them but an act of desperation?

Do you accept that?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: It depends on what you mean by 'desperation', Kerry.

KERRY O'BRIEN: I mean in despair.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: If you were saying are they despairing that they may not have claims that would entitle them to refugee status and hope that by behaving that way they might influence the decision I think many people tried to do just that.

And that was the advice that I was receiving from people who independently went and sought to mediate and ascertain what the reasons were for the incidents that were occurring.

In Ruddock's world no-one ever suffers depression or despair and self-harm is all malingering to pressure the minister. It makes good rhetoric and gets gobbled up eagerly by the media chooks, but it's not good psychology and the entire policy is inconsistent with international practice. Given the atrocious situation reported by Four Corners it's amazing that his advisers have not already briefed him on the nature of despair. Despair is, after all, the cornerstone of his policy.

Human Rights Watch comments:

Australia is the only country to grant temporary status to refugees who have been through a full asylum determination system and who have been recognized as genuinely in need of protection for 1951 Refugee Convention reasons. Temporary Protection, as it is used in Europe and as permitted by various United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) ExCom1 Conclusions,2 is granted to asylum seekers as a group when they are fleeing an emergency that is self-evidently causing forced displacement or when the number of arriving asylum seekers threatens to overwhelm the administrative capacity of receiving states. In all other instances refugees are able to enjoy full and permanent protection after they have gone through the refugee determination process.

We are also the only country demanding that groups like the East Timorese return home and the only country imposing a blanket penalty on anyone stopping for 7 days in a third country.

Lastly, I think it's interesting one of Ruddock's favourite lines is that the issues raised on Four Corners are now only 'historical' because Woomera is closed. The same policy remains in force and the new detention centre is operated by the same company. Only the address and the spin has changed.

23 May 2003

snark of the week
From Slate:
By now, Paul Bremer must have come to grips with the enormity of the task facing him. As President Bush's special envoy and the chief U.S. civilian in Iraq, he must mediate among fierce tribal factions riven by ancient hatreds. And that's just in the Bush administration.

22 May 2003

General on Aceh duty again skips his trial for rights abuses

JAKARTA (JP): Maj. Gen. Adam Damiri, who is accused of crimes against humanity in East Timor, had failed to appear before the human rights court here on Wednesday for the third time in succession because he is helping supervise a major military assault in Aceh province, AFP reported.

Chief judge Marni Emmy Mustafa said the court would issue a ruling next month in the case, although it was not clear if this would amount to a verdict.

"To maintain the authority of the court, because the trial has already been postponed three times and enough time has been accorded to the defendant, on June 5 the council of judges will come out with a ruling," Marni said.

Adam Damiri headed the military command overseeing East Timor in 1999 and is now posted to military headquarters.

His lawyer Hotma Sitompul told the court that Adam cannot attend because of his duties in Aceh, where the government Monday launched a major assault on separatist rebels.

Adam is one of two generals still awaiting verdicts in cases linked to the military-backed militia violence against independence supporters in East Timor in 1999.

No-one could ever accuse a TNI general of inconsistent behaviour.
Get used to it
The international community will spend the next quarter-century justifying or downplaying stories like this:

Mahmood Malik, whom Gam considers its prime minister, urged the UN to intervene immediately. He called for an international fact-finding mission to be sent to the province to investigate the "crimes against humanity that have been committed".

Lieutenant Colonel Yani Basuki, a military spokesman, refused to comment on the incident. "We are still checking the reports," he said. "We will have more details tomorrow."

But Mr Nazir said none of his son's killers would ever face justice. "There's no way we are going to complain," he said. "We are far too afraid of the Indonesian military. There's nothing we can do."

Gen Endang also said that he was imposing restrictions on the media, reversing earlier promises of free access. He said journalists who quoted Gam spokesmen would be banned from the province.

What is about Australian politicians and a bill of rights?
The ACT has published a report advocating a bill of rights. In recent years committees have advised against a bill of rights in NSW or, as in Queensland, advised in favour and had their advice rejected. If anyone had dared to mention a bill of rights at the 1999 constitutional convention I suspect the ALP and Coalition delegates would, as one, have leapt onto the nearest table and started screaming.

We are now the only democracy without any form of statutory, let alone constitutional, protection of human rights, except for strictly limited rights mentioned in the federal constitution. Why? And do not significant failures such as Woomera suggest we need one?

20 May 2003

the Murray's chance of survival: moderate, maybe
There's a good article at Public Opinion linking to an article on the ACF website:

The Australian Conservation Foundation has expressed deep concern about a static core environment budget and cuts to salinity expenditure in the federal budget.

ACF Executive Director Don Henry said, "The Prime Minister had promised that salinity, tree clearing and water were priorities for the next 12 months. But this budget contains no additional commitments, instead we're seeing cuts and little progress in these critical areas."

"The core environmental budget has stayed static, right at the time when Australia's growing extinction crisis demands increased funding for threatened plants and animals, climate change and the Murray Darling River system."

"The recently leaked government report, the Australian Terrestrial Biodiversity Assessment talks starkly of an extinction crisis sweeping Australia, which has the world's worst mammal extinction rate. The report declared that a 'significant increase in funding was necessary to achieve effective biodiversity conservation outcomes'."

"And yet this year's budget cuts salinity funding by $63 million over two years and provides no additional money to address tree clearing," said Henry.

"Later this year Federal and State ministers will meet to decide whether to rescue our great Murray Darling river-system. This requires an immediate allocation of $50 million from the federal government."

"But this budget is as dry as a dead river bed, for the Murray Darling. Instead of rescuing the Murray, the government is leaving it endangered and on life support."

The saddest comment is from the government's own mouth. Read The living Murray from the Murray-Darling Basin initiative. The initiative sets up 3 reference points:

Reference Points - Average amount of extra water provided to the River Murray environment
350 GL a year
750 GL a year
1500 GL a year

The initiative estimates 10 years to implement the first 2 options and 15 for the thirds.

The initiative estimates the' likelihood of a healthy working river from an ecological perspective' at Low for the first option, Low to Moderate for the second option and only Moderate if we add 1500 gigalitres of environmental flow. So the best outcome from the most radical proposal the basin authorities are considering is a Moderate chance of success.

Read it and weep. Your tears might help. If they're not too saline.
anniversary of Timor Lorosae
The Democratic Republic of East Timor celebrated the first year of independence today. At the other end of the Indonesian archipelago:
Separatist rebels in the Indonesian province of Aceh will "fight forever", their leader said as government troops deployed in force.

"We have been fighting Indonesia for 27 years... we are confident that we will be able to resist them," Mahmood Malik said from exile in Sweden.

The Indonesian army launched a major offensive this week aimed at destroying the rebels within six months after peace talks in Japan collapsed over a demand for them to surrender their arms.

Empires have such bad memories. The Indonesian empire cannot remember what the people of Timor Lorosae said at the start of their quarter-century struggle for independence. The Indonesian military is going to destroy the rebel movement within 'six months'. Evidently they cannot remember saying that before, either.

19 May 2003


The God of Smoke listens idly in the heat
���� to the barbecue sausages
speaking the language of rain deceitfully
���� as their fat dances.

Azure, hazed, the huge drifting sky shelters
���� its threatening weather.
A screen door slams, and the kids come tumbling
���� out of their arguments,

and the barrage of shouting begins, concerning
���� young Sandra and Scott
and the broken badminton racquet and net
���� and the burning meat.

Is that a fifties home movie, or the real
���� thing? Heavens, how
a child and a beach ball in natural colour
���� can break your heart.

And the brown dog worries the khaki grass
���� to stop it from growing
in place of his worship, the burying bone.
���� The bone that stinks.

Turn now to the God of this tattered arena
���� watching over the rites of passage -
marriage, separation; adolescence
���� and troubled maturity:

having served under that bright sky you may look up
���� but don't ask too much:
some cold beer, a few old friends in the afternoon,
����� a Southerly Buster at dusk.

John Tranter