Friday, December 7, 2012


US Homeland Security now states that domestic terrorism is more of a concern that foreign-based terrorism. But can the incident a few months ago of a man firing into a Denver movie theatre be considered terrorism, if the perpetrator did not have a clear political motive? Many definitions of terrorism includes political motivation. Here is an article from the Atlantic Monthly, June 6, 2012. It is entitled

Americans Are as Likely to Be Killed by Their Own Furniture as by Terrorism

By Micah Zenko
""The National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) has  released its 2011 Report on Terrorism. The report offers the U.S. government's best statistical analysis of terrorism trends through its Worldwide Incidents Tracking System (WITS), which compiles and vets open-source information about terrorism--defined by U.S. law as "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.
Although I invite you to read the entire thirty-one page report, there are a few points worth highlighting that notably contrast with the conventional narrative of the terrorist threat:
  • "The total number of worldwide attacks in 2011, however, dropped by almost 12 percent from 2010 and nearly 29 percent from 2007." (9)
  • "Attacks by AQ and its affiliates increased by 8 percent from 2010 to 2011. A significant increase in attacks by al-Shabaab, from 401 in 2010 to 544 in 2011, offset a sharp decline in attacks by al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI) and a smaller decline in attacks by al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)." (11)
  • "In cases where the religious affiliation of terrorism casualties could be determined, Muslims suffered between 82 and 97 percent of terrorism-related fatalities over the past five years." (14)
  • Of 978 terrorism-related kidnapping last year, only three hostages were private U.S. citizens, or .003 percent. A private citizen is defined as 'any U.S. citizen not acting in an official capacity on behalf of the U.S. government.' (13, 17)
  • Of the 13,288 people killed by terrorist attacks last year, seventeen were private U.S. citizens, or .001 percent. (17)
According to the report, the number of U.S. citizens who died in terrorist attacks increased by two between 2010 and 2011; overall, a comparable number of Americans are crushed to death by their televisions or furniture each year. This is not to diminish the real--albeit shrinking--threat of terrorism, or to minimize the loss and suffering of the 13,000 killed and over 45,000 injured around the world. For Americans, however, it should emphasize that an irrational fear of terrorism is both unwarranted and a poor basis for public policy decisions."

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ahmadinejad Never Said Israel ‘Must Be Wiped Off the Map’

  Students often write that Iranian leader Ahmadinejad had said that ""Israel must be wiped off the map." It is now widely agreed that it was a mis-translation. 
As the Guardian columnist Jonathan Steele explained in 2006, a more direct translation of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s remarks would be: “this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time,” echoing a statement once made by the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. See this article 
Israeli Minister Agrees Ahmadinejad Never Said Israel ‘Must Be Wiped Off the Map’

Monday, December 3, 2012


Excellent discussions again in my UMUC class this week. We discussed the Responsibility to Protect principle, which is aimed at giving nations the ability to intervene in other nations' affairs in the case of widespread human rights abuses. It was noted that only the wealthy countries can actually ''do'' interventions of this nature.  R2P is usually discussed in terms of the UN Security Council making the decision to intervene, but I think it should be the UN General Assembly.
What of self-determination and national sovereignty?  Should the UNSC, as a sort of one world government, or a superpower such as the US,  violate the national sovereignty of country, even if for a good cause? And if so, what about nation building to prevent conflict, or after the intervention?
R2P makes a conceptual link between operations to aid the development of democratic institutions, and the prevention of humanitarian disasters such as wars and widespread human rights abuses.
This brings up the question of the difference between poverty and a humanitarian disaster. For example, India suffers from widespread poverty, and yet it is a democracy with quite a good record for political human rights.  Rwanda is a democracy now, but still suffers enormously from the 90s humanitarian disaster. Nation building may follow a UN war and sanctions, which in themselves cause humanitarian disaster?

(BTW,  I've joined an excellent organization, called Women to Women, and am helping a woman in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to get on her feet. It’s only $30 a month, and I highly recommend it. Unfortunately, her project has had to close temporarily due to a flare up of violence there). 

Some students wrote that the US is always called on to help, because it is the most powerful country in the world. What are some alternatives to the power of the Western governments to render aid? There are many regional organizations recognized by the UN.
For example, the African Union could be empowered to act much more efficiently, effectively, and credibly; they do not currently. They require training, resources, and guidance beyond what they currently possess. The ICISS (the INGO that promotes R2P) downplays the role of regional organizations in implementing 2P, and emphasizes the leadership role of the UNSC.

The African Union has accused the West of double standards. Attempts by the International Criminal Court to bring about the arrest of war criminals, has been met with accusations of racism. It's true that the majority of war criminals indicted by the ICC happen to be Africans.  For example...


The ICC has recently released a second international warrant for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir’s arrest, this time adding the crime of genocide to his list of offenses. Bashir already faces previous charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, all of which he has denied.

In fact, only 1 or 2 African countries support the decision of the ICC. The others consider it illegal intervention in another country's domestic affairs The AU will send its troops (if funded) but draws the line when it comes to arresting leaders.

AU forces are under-funded, which is why they have failed to materialize. Personally, I think AU should be funded by the UN. They've done the most to broker an agreement.

Sometimes, individual countries attempt to bring to justice war criminals in other countries. 

A Turkish court is trying four senior Israeli officers  for deadly attack on peace activists at sea in 2010."Senior Israeli Officers Charged With War Crimes Over Flotilla Attack." Meanwhile, 

"Ankara may be facing a daunting probe of its own now, as a report in the weekly Der Spiegel on Thursday prompted German politicians to call for an urgent inquiry into the Turkish military’s alleged use of chemical weapons against Kurdish freedom protestors."

 As we are learning in this class, hardly any event in international relations is easily categorized. A good overall question for  R2P interventions, is ''who guards the guardians"? 

The US however, does remain the world's superpower, at least, militarily. Obama came into office promoting R2P. Susan Rice, newly appointed US ambassador to the UN in 2009, said this at the time:

"...we must find more effective means to protect innocent civilians around the world....In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the fighting rages on and is reported to have resulted directly or indirectly in more than 5 million deaths, as well as countless rapes, sexual assaults, recruitment of child soldiers, and other major human rights violations...The United States is determined to act to prevent such violations of international humanitarian law. This means, in practical terms, preventing conflicts in the first place, keeping existing conflicts from escalating to mass atrocities, acting early and decisively when they occur, and ensuring that peacebuilding and post-conflict assistance consolidates peace durably once conflict ends. As agreed to by member states in 2005 and by the Security Council in 2006, the international community has a responsibility to protect civilian populations from violations of international humanitarian law when states are unwilling or unable to do so. But this commitment is only as effective as the willingness of all nations, large and small, to take concrete action."

It is now 2012, and the matter of helping the DRC has been dropped. My feeling is that Obama is not promoting R2P anymore.