24April,2004

Which strange quiz did you take?

Take the quiz: "Which American City Are You?"

Los Angeles
You are the epitome of duality. You'll deal with all the strife to bask in all the glamour.

23April,2004

Sovereignty for Iraqi interim govt 'will be limited'

The new Iraqi interim government scheduled to take control on July 1 will have only 'limited sovereignty' over the country and no authority over United States and coalition military forces already there.

Senior State and Defence officials told this to Congress in testimony this week before the Senate and the House Armed Services Committees.

Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman said the US will operate under the transitional law approved by the Iraqi Governing Council and a resolution approved by the United Nations Security Council last October.

Both those provisions give control of the country's security to US military commanders.

Senior State and Defence officials told this to Congress in testimony this week before the Senate and the House Armed Services Committees.

Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman said the US will operate under the transitional law approved by the Iraqi Governing Council and a resolution approved by the United Nations Security Council last October.

Both those provisions give control of the country's security to US military commanders.



Well, doh. The text of the Iraqi transitional diktat has been available since it was signed on 8 march. Article 59 provides:

(A) The permanent constitution shall contain guarantees to ensure that the Iraqi Armed Forces are never again used to terrorize or oppress the people of Iraq.

(B) Consistent with Iraq�s status as a sovereign state, and with its desire to join other nations in helping to maintain peace and security and fight terrorism during the transitional period, the Iraqi Armed Forces will be a principal partner in the multi-national force operating in Iraq under unified command pursuant to the provisions of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1511 (2003) and any subsequent relevant resolutions. This arrangement shall last until the ratification of a permanent constitution and the election of a new government pursuant to that new constitution.

(C) Upon its assumption of authority, and consistent with Iraq�s status as a sovereign state, the elected Iraqi Transitional Government shall have the authority to conclude binding international agreements regarding the activities of the multi-national force operating in Iraq under unified command pursuant to the terms of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1511 (2003), and any subsequent relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. Nothing in this Law shall affect rights and obligations under these agreements, or under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1511 (2003), and any subsequent relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions, which will govern the multi-national force�s activities pending the entry into force of these agreements.



Why was the limitation of sovereignty not reported on 8 March? Why are there 304 stories from a shocked press announcing to an equally shocked world what has been plain as mud since 8 March as though it was a new discovery?

Human Rights Watch | Indonesia: Indicted General Unfit for Presidential Bid

A leading Indonesian political party, Golkar, should reconsider its decision to select a former general indicted for crimes against humanity as its candidate for presidential elections in July, Human Rights Watch said today.

Golkar should be embarrassed to select someone who has been indicted for crimes against humanity as its presidential candidate. If Golkar has really reformed itself after the massive rights violations of the Suharto years, it should be distancing itself from its dark past instead of embracing it.

The former general, Wiranto, was chief of Indonesia's armed forces in 1999 when the Indonesian army and military-backed militias carried out numerous atrocities against East Timorese after they voted for independence. In February 2003, he was indicted for crimes against humanity by the U.N.-sponsored Special Panels for Serious Crimes of the Dili District Court and named as a chief suspect by the Indonesian Human Rights Commission.

'Golkar should be embarrassed to select someone who has been indicted for crimes against humanity as its presidential candidate,' said Brad Adams, executive director of the Asia Division at Human Rights Watch. 'If Golkar has really reformed itself after the massive rights violations of the Suharto years, it should be distancing itself from its dark past instead of embracing it.''

Human Rights Watch said that the party's decision to nominate former General Wiranto calls into question Golkar's commitment to reform after the dictatorial reign of its former leader, President Suharto. The nomination also raises the possibility that Indonesia will elect a president who will be unable to travel to other countries.

The charges against Wiranto are so serious that the United States has put Wiranto and others accused of crimes in East Timor on a visa watch list that could bar them from entering the country. Human Rights Watch called on other countries to enact similar bans to send the message to Golkar and Indonesian voters that electing someone allegedly responsible for such serious crimes is unacceptable to the international community.

'Countries with a commitment to the rule of law and justice should send a message that Wiranto's election could make Indonesia a pariah state that they would have difficulty dealing with,' said Adams.

On February 24, 2003, the U.N. sponsored East Timor Serious Crimes Unit filed an indictment for crimes against humanity against Wiranto and three other Indonesian generals, three colonels and the former governor of East Timor. The charges include murder, arson, destruction of property and forced relocation. ?
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The indictment covers crimes committed before and after East Timor's referendum on independence in August 1999, and the Serious Crimes Unit has submitted 1,500 pages of evidence in support. All of the suspects are believed to be in Indonesia.

However, Indonesia's current foreign minister, Hasan Wirajuda, said the government would 'simply ignore' the indictments by the U.N.-sponsored tribunal. In addition, the Indonesian Attorney General's office has ignored the recommendations of its own national human rights commission that General Wiranto should be put on trial, allowing Wiranto to remain free from criminal prosecution.



Human rights are universal. Witanto should be facing trial, not a presidential election. The Australian government should be making its attitude on this fundamental issue clear. Even in pragamtic terms, we know that the military solution is failing in Aceh and beginning to fail in West Papua. Does the Australian government really want to face a repeat of Wiranto's East Timor policy in Aceh and West Papua?

22April,2004

Book reveals Howard's early commitment to overthrow of Saddam

As far back as September 2002, John Howard assured George Bush he would support him in his efforts to remove Saddam Hussein, but told him they needed to get a UN Security Council resolution, Bob Woodward reports in his new book, Plan of Attack.

'I'm with you. We need a resolution,' the Prime Minister said to the President, according to an interview Bush gave Woodward. At the time, the British leader, Tony Blair, had committed sending troops to Iraq and gave him the same assurance - 'I'm with you'.

But Howard, Blair and Spain's then prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar, all wanted Bush to obtain a resolution from the UN authorising the war.



Well. We all suspected that the invention of pre-deployment was a way of covering a decision that had already been made. This also means the Howard has misled parliament on a number of occasions but no doubt we'll see a little Newspeak to dismiss this problem.

20April,2004

Back to Iraq 3.0 | Meet the new boss

Well, it was bound to happen. President George W. Bush today named John Negroponte the new ambassador to Iraq.


Chris Allbrighton has the goods on Bush's ambassador-designate to Iraq. Naturally the Iraqis will have absolutely no knowledge of Negroponte's human rights record in Latin America. None at all. Really. Truly...

Update

The Disinfopedia also gives Negroponte a serve.

Perhaps the White House believes there's no problem in Iraq that a few death squads couldn't solve.

Edward I loses his 'throne' after Scots outcry

Buckingham Palace has backed down over a claim that Edward I - known as 'the Hammer of the Scots' - was king of Scotland.

The Palace's website listed the Scottish crown as among his titles in a section entitled 'Monarch of the Month', but Royal staff have changed the entry after historians expressed outrage.

The section now says that the arch-enemy of William Wallace 'regarded himself as sovereign lord of the kings of Scotland' and no longer includes king of Scotland among his list of titles, which include king of England, Wales and the Isle of Man. However, Professor Ted Cowan, a leading Scottish historian who last week criticised the 'Anglo- centric' description of Edward, described the change to the website as 'feeble'.

A spokeswoman for the Palace said: 'We decided to put that he regarded himself as sovereign lord, which is open to dispute but probably more accurately reflects the position.

'I think the rest of it is a matter for interpretation. History is always a matter of interpretation.'

But Prof Cowan, of Glasgow University, was unimpressed. 'I think it's feeble but it's quite good to know the Palace can admit there was an error and that it has done something to remedy the situation,' he said. 'To say Edward regarded himself as sovereign lord, it implies a sense of legitimacy: if a king believes something, it's more valid than what a 'rebel' like Wallace believes.

'The only word I can say to describe it is 'spin'. And anyone writing about history has to remember history has a relevance to the present.'



I checked. The palace website is also sadly misleading in not mentioning that Mel Gibson fathered the heirs of Edward II.

19April,2004

prime sonnets

About a week ago, Boing Boing linked to a midi version of the Fibonacci sequence with the comment that it sounds a lot like Philip Glass. This is not the point in my blogging career where I confess to once spending a lot of time giggling for no obvious reason in the Valhalla while watching Koyanisqaatsi. But I digress.

Fibonacci was more than just a dry humourless mathematician. He belonged to the most brilliant court in Europe, that of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II the Stupor Mundi, and may have contributed his dry-as-dust mathematical knowledge to Giacomo da Lentini's invention of the sonnet.

The midi piece does sound a lot like Philip Glass.

New team to challenge Megawati

Opinion polls show the former security minister is the only candidate whose support is growing. A poll published on Friday by Indonesian non-government group Soegeng Sarjadi Syndicated said Mr Yudhoyono, with 44 per cent support, was more than twice as popular as President Megawati Soekarnoputri with 21 per cent.

Mrs Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle was routed in the legislative elections on April 5, losing almost half its supporters, many of whom voted for Mr Yudhoyono in an apparent protest at the level of corruption in the big parties.

And in a question about who would be the best vice-presidential candidate, Mr Kalla came top with 21 per cent while Hamzah Haz, the current Vice-President and possible running mate for Mrs Megawati, received 5 per cent support.

Sukardi Rinakit from the survey group said the results showed a Yudhoyono/Kalla team was preferred.

Mr Kalla, a business tycoon from South Sulawesi province, is regarded by many observers as Golkar's most popular candidate. His decision to pull out of the convention and join Mr Yudhoyono seems certain to split the Golkar vote in the July poll.



Polling is new in Indonesia (it as not really needed under Suharto) and it's accuracy is not always brilliant. If Yudhoyono is already at 44% he needs to pick up only another 6 points before 5 July. Kalla's supporters will contribute to that.

Golkar's legislative vote of 20% (even without any Kalla defectors) is not enough to overtake Megawati in the race to be the other candidate to go into the second round if one is necessary. By the looks of it the list of presidenciables is fast shrinking to Yudhoyono and Megawati.

18April,2004

Bantuising Gaza

The old regime in South Africa devoted huge amounts of paper and ink to setting up a magic formula that would convert the white minority into a paper majority. The 1983 tricameral constitution created white, Cape Coloured and Indian legislative chambers and then gave the white president overriding powers if the three houses disagreed on anything. The black majority were assigned to highly fictive Bantustans recognised by no government in the world except South Africa, Israel and Taiwan. South Africa then claimed it no longer had any responsibility for what happened in the Bantustans. All were swept away when democracy came.

According to Haaretz:

The disengagement plan's states "there will no longer be a basis for the claim that the Gaza Strip is occupied territory (Article 2.A.3). Thus Israel releases itself from legal-political, moral, and economic responsibility for the Strip and transforms it into an independent entity. However the plan removes only the responsibility, together with its few citizens and its many soldiers. Other than that, control of the Gaza Strip stays in its hands. Israel will continue to control all international passages (Article 2.A.1, and Article 12). The "independent" entity will not be allowed to invite international forces to exercise control unless Israel - which will no longer be responsible for 1.3 million Gazans - agrees. Although Israel has ensured that the Palestinians have no say in the disengagement plan, it demands that Gaza be demilitarized, stating that the presence of weapons "is not in accordance with the existing agreements" (3.A.2).

Basic services (water, electricity, fuel, etc.) will remain the same. The perpetuation of these arrangements contradicts the divestment of responsibility stated by the disengagement plan. But it points out that Israel cannot permit a humanitarian disaster.

The most interesting article in the plan concerns the evacuation of the northern West Bank enclave, to allow "transportation contiguity" (2.B.4) for Palestinians. This term is also taken from the South African precedent. The white South Africans, too, thought this would allow them to continue ruling on the ground, building bridges and tunnels for the natives. Only Israel and Taiwan had ties with the homelands. Foment there deteriorated into a series of rebellions, and a decade ago the homelands became part of united South Africa, governed by a black majority.



Haaretz also has the text of the Sharon plan. Like the 1983 constitution, and indeed the Iraqi interim constitution the Sharon plan retains more than it gives away and is a device to absolve Israel of responsibility while retaining the realities of power.

Israel's official borders may correspond roughly to the 1967 Green Line. The limits of their actual authority include the West Bank and Gaza. That will not change udner the Sharon plan.

That area of authority will have an Arab majority in the near future. At some point Israel must either abandon the occupied territories or grant everyone within its area of authority citizenship. The Sharon plan is really only a device to deny citizenship and suffrage to non-Jews who live outside the Green Line but within the area of authority.

For the Bush administration to choose the moment of intifada in Iraq to formally approve Israel's retention of West Bank settlements outside the Green Line almost defies belief. Until this week no government on this planet except Israel recognised any West Bank settlements as lawful. Abandoning that principle without any kind of Palestinian consent or Israeli quid pro quo, apart from the presumed Jewish vote in a number of key states in November, is madness.

Indonesia Presidential Favorite Chooses Strong VP

Indonesian presidential favorite Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has picked a respected cabinet member as his running mate for the July 5 election, officials said on Sunday, dealing a blow to President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Social welfare minister Jusuf Kalla would partner Yudhoyono in the country's presidential election, said Akbar Tandjung, chairman of Golkar, the party of ousted autocrat Suharto.

'This morning, he said he will team up with Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for the presidential poll,' Tandjung said, but brushed off suggestions the move would hurt Golkar.

Kalla was one of several candidates for the Golkar ticket and Megawati had also been courting him as a running mate.

Megawati's Indonesia Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) is running second to Golkar with about two-thirds of the ballots counted from the April 5 parliamentary election.

Kalla is expected to follow Yudhoyono's example and quit her cabinet in the next few days. Yudhoyono, who is now being backed by a new political party that was formed before the parliamentary elections, was Megawati's chief security minister until he resigned last month. He has since surged to presidential favorite.



Yudhoyono has pulled off a coup and split Golkar while stealing the thunder of their nominating convention. For Kalla to run with Yudhoyono means he's rejected Megawati's effort to recruit him.

The election results have not shifted since I last blogged them. Within 24 hours we will know who Golkar's candidate is. At that stage it will be possible to start thinking about whther any rival ticket can overcome Tudhoyono's early lead.

The neocon conundrum

In other words, if we remain in Iraq we will have:


1) Instability and maybe even civil war.

2) Encouragement to terrorists. Actually, we're recruiting them for the other side. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt has estimated that our post-Saddam 'harvest' will be 'a hundred bin Ladens.'

3) Loss of prestige and influence in the Arab world and beyond. According to last month's Pew Research Center international opinion survey, 'Discontent with America and its policies has intensified rather than diminished ... the war in Iraq has undermined America's credibility abroad.' Here's the view from key countries: By a 46-37 margin, Moroccans think that Iraq will be worse off post-Operation Iraqi Freedom; the 'worse off' margin is 45 points in Jordan and 53 points in Pakistan.

4) Loss of the ability to use or threaten force. As retired four-star Gen. Barry McCaffrey told Time magazine, 'There are no more U.S. troops to send to Iraq' -- without a draft, that is. So we don't hear the White House saying much about the rest of the 'axis of evil' anymore, because the North Koreans and Iranians know that the U.S. can't attack when it's mired in Mesopotamian quicksand. Meanwhile, North Korea is reported to be showing off at least three of its nuclear weapons.

5) A nourishing of future violence. Those who don't have a TV to see the gates of hell opening in Iraq might contemplate these additional numbers from the Pew Center: By a 46-36 margin, Pakistanis support suicide bombings against Americans and other Westerners in Iraq. In Morocco, suicide-bomber proponents outpolled opponents 66-to-27. And in Jordan, 70-to-24.



The war party swore that none of these unintended conequences would happen. All of them have happened. Resolving the Israel/Palestine question is now further away than ever.

I am tired of hearing withdrawal described as the cut-and-run option, especially by people who seem to fear thought itself. Bush and Blair do not want to stay in Iraq because they are brave. They want to stay because they fearful of even thinking about withdrawal. How many Iraqis, and how many others have to die to enable Bush and Blair to make grandiloquent speeches about resolve and staying the course?