Thursday, June 30, 2005

Darfur, Conflicting Priorities

Via Coalition For Darfur (in full):
For more than two years, the international community has done little to stop the violence in Darfur or provide security to the millions of displaced victims. And the closer one follows the world's response to this crisis, the clearer the conflicting priorities of the major actors (the US, the AU, the ICC and the UN) become.
Though former Secretary of State Colin Powell declared the situation "genocide" in September 2004, the United States has more or less ignored the Genocide Convention's legal requirement that parties to the convention "undertake to prevent and to punish" it. This can be partly explained by the fact that the administration played a key role in ending the decades long war in the South and does not want to risk upsetting it by directly confronting Khartoum over Darfur. It can also be partly explained by the fact that the CIA has developed significant ties to the regime in Khartoum, which has become "an indispensable part of CIA's counterterrorism strategy."
The International Criminal Court has just recently become involved in the conflict in Darfur, taking up an investigation and warning that Khartoum must cooperate with its investigation. The ICC is a relatively new body that has yet to try a case and is still working to establish itself as a viable international body. As such, the ICC is proceeding slowly and cautiously, attempting to stay within the bounds set by the ICC statute and avoid an embarrassing and potentially damaging showdown with Khartoum should the genocidal regime refuse to cooperate.
The AU faces many of the same problems. As a relatively new organization, the AU hopes to become the key to providing "African solutions to African problems." Over the last six months, the AU has only been able to supply 2/3rd the number of troops it initially mandated and will, in all likelihood, be equally unable to fill the size of its expanded mandate. As a fledgling organization, the AU does not possess the clout or support necessary to demand an expanded mandate to protect civilians in Darfur and has been reluctant to seek outside logistical or financial assistance for its mission, perhaps out of fear that doing so will highlight its inadequacies and undermine its credibility further.
While the US, ICC and AU all have a genuine interest in stopping the violence, it is clear that they also have internal concerns that are restricting their effectiveness in Darfur.
At the same time, the United Nations faces internal concerns of its own. The presence of Russia and China on the Security Council has stymied attempts to force Khartoum to reign in the Janjaweed militias and prevented the imposition of sanctions. Nonetheless, no amount of internal concerns can excuse this recent statement by Jan Pronk, Kofi Annan's Special Representative to Sudan.
While Annan was telling Khartoum that the violence "must stop," Pronk was praising Khartoum for setting up meaningless show trials designed solely to slow the ICC investigation

The government says its national trials will be credible and will be a substitute for the ICC, which announced last week the formal launch of its investigation in Darfur.

Pronk said those concerned about the credibility of the national court, which begins proceedings on June 15, should give the government the benefit of the doubt.

"If the government takes a decision to do something which it had been asked to do late, you only have to criticise that they are late, you should not criticise that they are doing it," he said. "So give the government the benefit of the doubt."

For two years, Khartoum has waged a genocidal campaign against the people of Darfur, taking the lives of an estimated 400,000 people. Under no circumstances does this government deserve "the benefit of the doubt." Solving the crisis in Darfur is undoubtedly a priority for many in the international community. Unfortunately, it is not a main priority. And because of that, it is likely that tens of thousands Africans will continue to die over the coming months.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Serious Discussion on Interrogation and Alleged Torture

Let talk about torture. I am not allergic to the subject at all. In fact I think the subject should be thoroughly discussed and debated. But I am appalled at the how the direction and tone of the discussion. There are those who think that that the subject should be ignored. This is a wrong approach. Whether there were torture or not, or whether they were isolated acts of undisciplined individuals, or a result of government policy, we need to investigate. If there were tortures, we should remedy it immediately and do more to prevent future abuse. President Bush is right in stating with forceful clarity that the US does not tolerate torture. Therefore an investigation can vindicated our armed forces and convince the world of our virtue.

And there are those who are convinced that tortures already have occurred and that it is permeating every interrogation facility. They are convinced that it was part of the Pentagon policy. I think their conclusion is premature, emotional, and lacking in logic. It is also noticeable that none of the critics appeared to understand the science of interrogation. Not once was torture ever defined. In a discussion on Democracy Arsenal, a commenter accuse me of “fixated on what you consider the proper definition of 'torture' and ignore all other salient points.” This is the very underlining problem of the debate, that there is no definition. There can be no salient points if the very foundation of the issue is not discussed. We are discussing torture, should we at least define what torture is (as well as other associated terminology concerning interrogation)?

The argument that “I know it when I see it” has flaw since there are those who declared that listening to loud music is torture (no doubt the same people who believe that disciplining children is child abuse). Slate has a good article on torture and so does Phillip Carter. But none can clearly define torture and I cannot find a good definition of torture myself (I doubt anyone can), let first looks at the various interrogation techniques and debate from those techniques. At least we can start with some known facts.

Here is a document from the Pentagon (in Adobe Acrobat). The first part is a memo establishing a working group to study policy on interrogation (dated January 15, 2003). The second part is another memo rescinds an order allowing category II and category III techniques of interrogation (dated January 15, 2003). The third part is the study itself, I would like to direct you to page 62 of the study where it discussed the various permissible interrogation methods. These are all the techniques that were requested by interrogators on the field, but not all of them were approved, only techniques number 1 through 24 were approved. I will skip technique number 1 through 17 because are standard interrogation technique in Field Manual (FM 34-52). There should be no controversy on their uses.

Technique number 18 through 26 are considered category II. Here are the list of all of them in detail.
18. Change of Scenery Up: Removing the detainee from standard interrogation setting (generally to the location more pleasant, but no worse)

19. Change of Scenery Down: Removing the detainee from standard interrogation setting and placing him in a setting that may be less comfortable; would not constitute a substantial change in environment quality.

20. Hooding: This technique is questioning the detainee with a blindfold in place. For interrogation purpose, the blindfold is not on other than during interrogation.

21. Mild Physical Contact: Lightly touching the detainee or lightly poking the detainee in a completely non-injurious manner. This also includes softly grabbing or
shoulders to get the detainee’s attention or to comfort the detainee.

22. Dietary Manipulation: Changing the diet of the detainee; no intended deprivation of food or water; no adverse medical or cultural effect and without intend to deprive subject of food or water, e.g., hot rations to MREs.

23. Environment Manipulation: Altering the environment to create moderate discomfort (e.g., adjusting temperature or introducing an unpleasant smell). Conditions would not be such that they would injure the detainee. Detainee should be accompanied interrogator at all time.

24. Sleep Adjustment: Adjusting the sleep time of the detainee (e.g., reversing sleep cycles from night to day). This technique is NOT sleep deprivation.

25. False Flag: Convincing the detainee that individuals from country other than the United States are interrogating him.

26. Threat of Transfer: Threatening to transfer the subject to a 3rd country that the subject would likely to fear would subject him to torture or death. (The threat would not be acted upon nor would the threat include any information beyond the naming of the receiving country.)
Technique numbers 27 to 35 are category III techniques. These techniques are being considered. But as far as I know, they are not approved. I include them because they are in the process of being evaluated and they may be approved in the future.
27. Isolation: Isolating the detainee from other detainees while still complying with standards of treatment.

28. Use of Prolonged Interrogations: The continued used of a series of approach that extend over a long period of time (e.g., 20 hours per day per interrogation).

29. Forced Grooming: Forcing the detainee to shave hair or beard. (Force applied with the intention to avoid injury. Would not use force that would cause serious injury).

30. Prolong Standing: Lengthy standing in “normal” position (non-stress). This has been successful, but should never make detainee exhausted to the point of weakness or collapse. Not enforced by physical restraints. Not exceed 4 hours in 24 hours period.

31. Sleep Deprivation: Keeping the detainee awake for an extended period of time. (Allowing individual to rest briefly and then awakening him, repeatedly). Not to exceed four days in succession.

32. Physical Training: Requiring detainees to exercise (perform ordinary physical exercise actions) (e.g., running, jumping jacks); not to exceed 15 minutes in two hours period; not more than two cycles per 24 hours periods) Assists in generating compliance and fatiguing the detainees. No enforced compliance.

33. Face Slap/Stomach Slap: A quick glancing slap to the fleshy part of thecheek or the stomach. They are only effective if used once or twice together. After the second time on detainee, it will loose the shock effect. Limited to two slaps per application; no more than two application per interrogation.

34. Removal of Clothing: Potential removal of all clothing; removal to be done by military police if not agreed by subject. Creating a feeling of helplessness and dependence. This technique must be monitored to ensure the environmental conditions are such that this technique does not injure the detainee.

35. Increasing Anxiety by Use of Aversion: Introducing factors that of themselves create anxiety but do not create terror or mental trauma (e.g., simple presence of dogs without directly threatening action). This technique requires the commander to develop specific and detailed safeguards to insure detainee’s safety.
I personally see no problem with Category I and Category II techniques, and most probably agree that they are not tortures. (Of course there are always those who believe that unless the detainee is in a five star hotel, it is tortured. You know who you are). The most controversial part is Category III techniques. There is plenty of room for disagreement within the Category III techniques; whether they are tortures, abuses, or neither. But we can absolutely agree that any techniques that exceed the describe techniques above are clearly tortures. Water-boarding is torture. Physical beating is torture. The pictures at Abu Ghraib are tortures.

I will talk more about this subject on other posts. On this post, I only want to define the parameter for discussion by presenting some facts.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The President Speech

The President told the audience the honest fact that Iraq is not an easy fight. But he did not emphasise how tough it is going to be and how tough it was the last two years. The American people are no pussies, but we need to be honest with them. They will make the neccessary sacrifice. But if they expect victory around the corner and when we come to the corner, the is still no victory, they have every right to be angry. I think that the recent poll reflects the disharmony between expectation and reality.
I think it is the administration fault for creating an unrealistic expectation among the populace. The "we are in a tough fight" message should have been delivered a long time ago, not today. Furthermore, there should be a concerted effort to reinforce the message that winning the War in Iraq will take considerable time, as well as blood and treasure; but in the end the effort will be well rewarded.
Having been to Iraq, I already knew that victory is not around the corner, that the fight is tough, and the enemies are resilient. But I also believe that our war is just and and our cause is noble.

Constructive Criticism

The most common myth propagate by the Left on the Iraq War is that Conservatives parrot President Bush propaganda without question, that we never criticize the current administration. This could not be further from the truth. There are plenty of criticisms from the Right. At one point last years, several prominent Conservative, such as William Kristol, called for resignation of Secretary of Defense. But Liberal Left either refuse to acknowledge the existence of such criticism or grossly misinterpret them for an anti-war position.

Peaceniks do not consider any criticism of the administration a valid criticism unless it calls for the complete capitulation to our enemies. The Left main criticism is the “why criticism.” They question why we went to war in Iraq. They are looking for reason not to fight the war, to withdraw and run. Criticism from the Right is the “how criticism,” an honest disagreement on how to win the war. We question how the war is being fought with complete agreement on why we must fight it and more importantly, that we must win it.

Conservatives criticize the administration for releasing terrorists; many went back to fighting us. Liberal criticize the administration for continue holding detainee, demanding their release. When conservatives criticize Rumsfeld, we criticize for a different reason from Liberal. We criticize him for his failure to bring the enemies to their knees, that he was at time not aggressive enough, not serious enough about the war. Peaceniks criticize him because they want to discredit the war effort. We criticize because we believe the war can be won, and should be won. They criticize the war because they believe the war cannot be won, and should not be won.

Let not confuse our constructive criticism with their destructive criticism. A criticism of the administration is necessary. It is especially necessary when their action stray away from the path of victory. I will not hesitant to call out errors from the administration as I have in the past.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Agendas For This Week

I will be talking in detail about alleged torture and interrogation policy this week. I am in fact working on a detail analysis of our current and past interrogation policy – hopefully it will be done by tomorrow. The subject needed to be discussed, regardless whether abuses or torture have occurred or not. If they had occurred, then it is a very serious problem that needs immediate remedy. If they had not occurred, then we can prove once for all of our honorable conducts. What I am hoping to do is to lay the frame work for the debate.

I am extremely dismayed at the current debate on the subject. I am sorry but most of the comments and analysis on the subject have been pathetic – seriously lacking in substance. I am particularly saddened to see that war advocate such as Gregory Djerejian, Andrew Sullivan and others who cannot put together a solid argument. For instance, Gregory Djerejian is a solid analyst on the subject of foreign affair and a solid war supporter. But his writing on the alleged torture have been substandard (thus far), far weaker than his other writing. This is because his approach (which is typical of most critics approach) has been wrong – no foundation, no definition, and no in-dept research, and often base on hearsay. Gregory promised to go into detail and provide a more substantive argument on the subject. I will look forward to reading his argument with an opened mind. And I promise I will keep my mind open on the possibility and probability of torture. I believe they had occurred but I am unconvinced that they are a result of policy. So far Gregory and Andrew have fail utterly to prove that they are.

I will also talk in detail about the two terminologies that the Left constantly used when it come to the Iraq War: “chicken-hawk” and “101st Fighting Keyboard.” In the process, I will thoroughly fisk their silly argument. Expect a harsh and merciless criticism of Kos and his Cossacks from this veteran. Trust me, I earned my right to fisk them.

I am also hoping to comment on the President Speech tomorrow on Iraq and whatever hot topics that will emerge this week.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Fall Outs from Kelo v. New London

Kieran Healy of Crooked Timber has a section of the early draft of the majority opinion on Kelo v. New London that did not make the final cut.

You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any property for the immense majority of society. In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend. From the moment when labour can no longer be converted into capital, money, or rent, into a social power capable of being monopolised, i.e., from the moment when individual property can no longer be transformed into bourgeois property, into capital, from that moment, you say, individuality vanishes. You must, therefore, confess that by “individual” you mean no other person than the bourgeois, than the middle-class owner of property. This person must, indeed, be swept out of the way, and made impossible.


In fact, this proposition has at all times been made use of by the champions of the state of society prevailing at any given time. First comes the claims of the government and everything that sticks to it, since it is the social organ for the maintenance of the social order; then comes the claims of the various kinds of private property, for the various kinds of private property are the foundations of society, etc. One sees that such hollow phrases are the foundations of society, etc. One sees that such hollow phrases can be twisted and turned as desired.

Cool point to readers who can recognize the author and the name of the work which the passage was quoted. (the answer is in the comment section).

In Hubris v. Scotus, Hubris holds that he can rip off a justice’s right nut so long as he compensates him for fair market value of that nut.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

A Sad Day for the Flag

“It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, serves beneath the flag, whose coffin is draped by the flag, who gives that protester the freedom to abuse and burn that flag.” (Father Dennis Edward O'Brien, USMC)
The above quote carry potent meaning for the men and women who have served, are serving, and thinking about serving. It had been quoted on every Veteran Day, every Memorial Day, and many memorial services for our fallen soldiers. But soon the House of Representative will strip it of all meaning. They will introduce a constitutional amendment banning the desecration of the US flags. It is a sad day indeed. Our fallen heroes did give their lives so that other maybe free to abuse the very symbol that they love; that what make them special and dear. That is why they are heroes.

Our Congress fails to understand that our flag cannot be desecrated. As if it is possible to demean the American spirit. No amount of burning, stepping-on or any other physical abuses can destroy the spirit of our flag. It symbolic and enduring value is that it represent freedom, – even freedom to abuse it. The spirit of Freedom cannot be destroyed by physically burning a flag. But it can and will be destroyed when it is taken away by a constitutional amendment. Congress in an attempt to save the physical flag kills its spirit.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

US-Vietnam Relation

Vietnam Prime Minister Phan Van Khai met President Bush on July 21, 2005, the first of such visit since the end of Vietnam War. The US-Vietnam relation had progressed far, only little than ten years ago there was no relation. When the US normalized relation with Vietnam, I was one of the strongest critic. At the time, Vietnam was still a dictatorial regime and I was one of their victim. Naturally I opposed the idea. At the time, I thought that violent armed struggle was the only course of action.

Well, I had a change of heart. Not that Vietnam has became a free democratic nation, or that I have forgotten my misery living under the regime. Vietnam is still a one-party ruled country with the Communist Party as the only legal political party. But I have to admit that it has gotten little less oppressive politically and much more opened economically.

When I left the country in the late 80s, Vietnam was still in full Communist mode. It economy was completely under the control of the government and the oppression was unbearable. Much had changed. Soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the normalization with the US, Vietnam liberalized it economy. Almost half of its economy is now privately owned and private enterprise is encouraged. People are no longer starving and destitute. In the 80s, my father went to prison for crime of association, he befriended a dissident. Now the very same dissident, the poet Ha Si Phu is out of jail, under house arrest. Vietnam is still oppressing dissidents, but the common tactics are no longer imprison, torture, and execution. It is still occurred but less common; in fact execution is now unheard of. House arrest or internal exile, and other less harsh measures are the new modus operandi. Vietnam is still far from being a Jeffersonian democracy – but no longer a blood thirsty Stalinist state.

I credit the normalization process for this improvement. I was too young and bitter to see the potential benefit of normalizing relation with Vietnam. Tie between the US and Vietnam allow the US to pressure Vietnam for reform; there was economic incentives for reform instead the old threat of sanction. But there are much more works to be done and the US now, due to economic tie, has more leverage with Vietnam than ever before. We should demand more reforms from them, both on the economic as well as the political front.

Phan Van Khai came to the US for several reasons. First Vietnam want to garner US support for The World Trade Organization membership. Second Vietnam want to improve political as well as military tie with the US, with the threat of Chinese hegemony in mind. The US should support Vietnam on both counts, but with conditions.

Vietnam need to go forward with its economic liberalization. After the initial wave of reform, it has been dragging its feet for the last several years. More than half of the economy is still state owned, most of the state own companies are unprofitable, incurring large loss and survive on expensive state subsidy. The US need to press Vietnam for further privatization. It needs to loosen its grip on the banking sector, allowing private banks to operate freely. Vietnam need to come up with a comprehensive commercial laws. There is no law in Vietnam currently governing commerce. This lack of certainty discourages foreign direct investment and encourage rampant corruption. Corruption is one of the major obstacles foreign companies doing business in Vietnam face.

On the political front, the US should use its leverage to bring about reform. I am not expecting a pie-in-the-sky result, small progress is what I seek. The one-party system need to change. But the first step should be the legalization of political party. Parties other than the Communist party must be allowed to formed and organized. I am not so bold and delusional as to demand free and fair election, simply free political parties. The next reform is freedom of the press, which encourage transparency and discourage corruption.

Lastly, the reform most dear to my heart, freedom of religion. Supreme Partriach Thich Huyen Quang, the leader of my religious denomination, is currently internal exiled and house arrested in a remote village, his health is deteriorating. His sole offense was to demand that the government stay out of religion – a separation of church and state. The government of Vietnam has no business appointing Buddhist clergies and decide who can be ordained, only the congregation can do that.

It is time the US pressure Vietnam in observing the minimum of human right standard, mainly freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Not only it is the right thing to do but it is in the US interest that Vietnam become more democratic and free. The Bush Doctrine of spreading Democracy is the result of lesson learned that democratic nation make better and more reliable ally than undemocratic one, and there are serious long-term consequences in supporting undemocratic regime. With the geo-strategic calculation of allying with Vietnam to balance the growing power of China, a democratic Vietnam as ally only enhance the US status and credibility in the region.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Ten Commandments for Developing Countries

Kishore Mahbubani, former Singapore ambassador to the UN, offered valuable advise to the developing world. Third-worldists for years screamed neo-colonialism and neo-imperialism; however the problems are often much closer at home. Kishore Mahbubani came up with Ten Commandments for Developing Countries – development economic in a nutshell. I will refer to these golden rules often in my blog.

I. Thou shalt blame only thyself for thy failures in development. Blaming imperialism, colonialism, and neo-imperialism is a convenient excuse to avoid self-examination.

II. Thou shalt acknowledge that corruption is the single most important cause of failures in development. Developed countries are not free from corruption, but with their affluences they can afford to indulge in saving and loan scandals.

III. Thou shalt not subsidize any product, nor punish the farmer in order to favor the city dweller. High prices are the only effective signal to increase production. If there are food riots, thou shalt resign from office.

IV. Thou shalt abandon state control for free markets. Thou shalt have faith in thine own population. An alive and productive population naturally causes development.

V. Thou shalt borrow no more. Thou shalt get foreign investment that pays for itself. Thou shalt build only the infrastructure that is needed and create no white elephants or railways that end in the deserts. Thou shalt accept no aid that is intended only to subsidize ailing industries in developed countries.

VI. Thou shalt not reinvent the wheel. Millions of people have gone through the path of development. Take the well-traveled roads. Be not prisoners of dead ideologies.

VII. Thou shalt scrub the ideas of Karl Marx out of thy mind and replace them with ideas of Adam Smith. The Germans have made their choice. Thou shalt follow suit.

VIII. Thou shalt be humble when developing and not lecture the developed world on their sins. They listened politely in the 1960s and 1970s. they no longer will in the 1990s. [still relevant in 2000s]

IX. Thou shalt abandon all North-South forums, which only encourage hypocritical speeches and token gestures. Thou shalt remember that countries that have received the greatest amount of aid per capita have failed most spectacularly in development. Thou shalt throw out all theories of development.

X. Thou shalt not abandon hope. People are the same the world over. What Europe achieved yesterday, the developing world will achieve tomorrow. It can be done.
Doctor Mahbubani is a Singaporean and an expert on development economic, a country that in a few decades move from abject poverty to incredible prosperity. A country that defies the ideology of third-worldism. Singapore has absolutely no natural relsource, it even has to import fresh water. It has no place for waste and sewage, it has to pay Malaysia for sewage and waste service. It is behoved us to listen to Doctor Mahbubani.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Enemies Within

Wretchard of Belmont Club reminds us of the enemies within. If you think that the charge of anti-war movement being fifth column is a myth, here is a story for you. On October 29th, 1963, a Special Force Lieutenant Nick Rowe was captured by the Viet-Cong. For the next five years, his was kept in U Minh Forest, a mosquito infested salt water swamp. Despite tortures (real tortures, not the shit in Gitmo), he held fast. He stuck to the story that he was a civil engineer on a reconstruction project, no military experience. His insistence and consistency (despite physical torture and threat of execution) led the enemies to be believed that the story was true.

However, being paranoid Communists that they were, they found a way to check Rowe’s veracity, people who were willing and eager to help. (Full story is here)
Acting on a request from the North Vietnamese, students in a so-called anti-war organization in the United States researched public records and formulated biographies on Americans captured in Vietnam. After reading Lt. Rowe's biography, his Viet Cong captors became furious. They marched him into a cramped bamboo hut and forced him to sit on the damp clay floor. Several high ranking Viet Cong officials were staring down at Lt. Rowe. They held out a piece of typed onion skin paper.
"The peace and justice loving friends, of the National Liberation Front, who live in America, have provided us with information which leads us to believe you have lied to us," they informed Lt. Rowe. "According to what we know, you are not an engineer . . . you have much military experience which you deny . . . You were an officer of the American Special Forces." Lt. Rowe sat dumbfounded, unable to comprehend that his own people would betray him. He felt it was over. He had lied to the communists for five years. Worse in their eyes, the Viet Cong had believed him. They had lost face and, for that, he would be punished.

Soon after, the Viet Cong Central Committee for the National Liberation Front sent orders to Rowe's camp ordering the cadre to execute the uncooperative American prisoner. On the day Lt. Rowe was being led to a destination for execution, he and his small group of guards were caught on the edge of an American B-52 saturation bombing raid. The guards scattered, leaving Lt. Rowe with only one. Lt. Rowe knew he had nothing to lose. He bided his time until the remaining guard carelessly moved to Rowe's front, whereupon Lt. Rowe bludgeoned him with a log and escaped.
Many members of the anti-war movement back then are now leading anti-war movement of today. While opposing the Iraq War is not necessary unpatriotic, past behaviors are good indicators of future performance. They have actively aided and abetted the enemies in the past. We therefore have every reason to mistrust them. They care not for our men and women in uniforms, they would not hesitate in helping our enemies to kill as many of our brave soldiers as possible. Still unconvinced, read their own words in this article, and this.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Betrayal of Amnesty International

Much inks, or megabytes have been devoted to the “gulag of our time” comment by Amnesty International. Most of the writing have been focus on the unfairness of the comment toward the US. Sure it was unfair to the US and particularly unfair to the men and women in uniform. But I am not that concerned about the US. It is after all a superpower and superpower is often targeted unfairly. And the negative impact on the US image is minimal; those already hate us will continue to hate us; and most reasonable persons will see that “gulag of our time” is an overblown comment.

But I am deeply concerned about the impact of this incident on the future of human right world wide - in particular to grave injustice suffered by true dissidents, prisoners of conscience, and victims of murderous regimes. To be blunt, Amnesty International have betrayed the very same people it claims to advocate.

Unlike many, I understand the important of organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Right Watch. My family have lived under the brutal tyranny of Communism and had always depended on said NGOs to highlight our condition of injustice. My father was jailed for unknown reason. We speculated the reason for his detainment was his friendship with the poet Ha Si Phu, a well known dissident. His condition of detainment was far worse than at Guantanamo. Real tortured actually occurred there, and people did get executed. My uncles were put into concentration camps (they euphemistically call them Re-Education Camps) after the war in which many inmates died from starvation, lack of hygiene, no medical care, tortured, and summary executions. Many relatives were internally exiled in what they called new-economic zones. They were essentially send off into the jungle, given a few hand tools, and told to live there. At no time any of the said injustices were described by Amnesty International as “gulag of our time.” And I agreed wholeheartedly that they should not. Sure what we experienced were horrible and inhumane, but the Soviet gulags were far more horrible and far more inhumane. We dare not equate our suffering to those who suffered far worse.

My family have experienced things far worse than Guantanamo, and in turn victims of gulags experienced far worse than my family. It is very important that we keep things in perspective. And for a long time, Amnesty International kept things in perspective. It reported everything, but it differentiated between the worst offense and the milder ones, giving priority to the worst atrocities. It ability to differentiate give its credibility allowing better advocacy for the victims.

But in one statement –“gulags of our time” – Amnesty International turned it back on all the victims it claim to represent and advocate, past, present, and future. It is a shocking betrayal to the victims and their relative who depended on and supported Amnesty International all these years. Who will pay attention to the executions of North Korean political dissidents if the condition of North Korea is described by Amnesty International as equal to the US. Who will highlight the rape of Tibetan nuns in Tibet, or mass rapes in Sudan and Uganda, or hideous torture in the dark corner of Libya? If the US is “the gulag of our time,” then there can be no worse offense, anywhere. Sadly there are far worse offense and no one will pay any attention to them. I cry for the victims who stories will be ignored and forgotten.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Iraq, Echo of Vietnam War?

There are echoes of Vietnam War in the blogosphere of late, often ominous warnings of repeating the same experience in Iraq. Here is a pathetic piece from The Cunning Realist comparing Iraq War to Vietnam War which I intend to debunk. It illustrates the writer extreme poor understanding of military history.

Let take a look at a sample of the article's ill-informed argument:

In Vietnam, the enemy's firepower was utterly inferior to ours. While we flew high above the jungle canopy and dropped napalm from modern jets, the war was won and lost in unconventional ground battles. Some of the most effective weapons were booby-traps, which caused the death and permanent injury of thousands of U.S. troops. In Iraq, the most effective insurgent weapon is the low-tech roadside IED, effective both militarily and psychologically and also the cause of crippling permanent injuries similar to those in Vietnam.

Excuse me, “the war was won and lost in unconventional ground battles” and “the most effective weapons were booby-traps?” What uttered nonsense.

Here is the order-of-battle for North Vietnamese Army (NVA) during 1975 Spring Offensive and here is the account of the last battles. It involved of 200,000 troops, more than 700 armored vehicles, and numerous artillery pieces. The most effective weapons the Communist used were tanks and artilleries. By estimate, the NVA had more than 600 tanks and 400 armored personnel carriers. Here is an excellent article on the NVA armored force. How the author of the article concluded that the war was unconventional is puzzling. Perhap he know nothing of the war.

Often the story of the barefeet black pajama Viet-Cong who defeated a super-power is being repeated among non-historian with admiration – carrying with it a mythical quality. It is myth - fable tale. The truth is that the Viet-Cong was easily defeated. By 1970, they had ceased to be a fighting force, or even a political force. From 1969 – 1970, more than 70,000 Communists insurgents turned themselves in through the Amnesty Program. From 1970 onward, the war was fought with North Vietnamese conscripts and massive Soviet military assistance.

Not that it is impossible to compare and contrast Vietnam and Iraq. There are isolated aspects of the two conflicts that can be compared and contrasted. But at least do some homework and get the facts right. Learn the basic of both wars – both are extremely complex in military-political condition and socio-economic environment. Often writers use poor analogy in attempt to disguise the lack of knowledge and their intellectual laziness. The said article is an illustration of such analogy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Over-Pessism at Belgravia Dispatch

Gregory Djerejian of Belgravia Dispatch is alarmed at the situation in Iraq, mainly that the Pentagon (and the milblog supporters) is overoptimistic on the security situation. I concur that the Pentagon - Rumsfeld in particular - often commits the sin of declaring victory too soon - or exagerate the readiness of the Iraqi Security Force. But Greg is committing an equally grievous offense, over-pessimism.

His most serious offense is his lack of faith in the Iraqi Security Force, which he compares to the Vietnamization program (he considers it to be ill-fated). (His two posts on the subject is here and here). It is certainly true that despite the Pentagon claims of 150,000 the Iraq Security Force “train and equip,” they are far from ready to take on the responsibility themselves. But perhaps if Greg takes a closer look at the Vietnamization, he will find that it actually worked. I hate to compare Iraq to Vietnam because of they are vastly different in circumstance, conditions, and development. But there is aspect of Vietnam which we can draw lessons from. A comparison of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and the New Iraqi Army (NIA)

January 1963, The ARVN was soundly and embarrassingly defeated by the Vietcong at Ap Bac. The embarrassing part it that the ARVN force at the battle outnumbered the enemies at least seven to one (by some account 10 to 1), and they had armored and artillery support. The US lost confidence in the ARVN resulted in the increase US involvement in Vietnam. At Ap Bac, the ARVN was showed to be incompetent and incapable. The Vietcong appeared to be invincible.

Five years later during the Tet Offensive, the ARVN fought with valor and skill against the Communist onslaught, this time both from the locally Vietcong and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). The battle of Hue, the 1st ARVN Infantry Division performed admirably, winning the admiration of US forces. By 1972, during the Easter Offensive, the ARVN proved to be capable of winning battle on their own. They held off against a much stronger foe that were better armed, better equipped, a more numerous. From a force that was easily beaten, The ARVN grew and matured through combats.

By comparison, the NIA has done reasonably well. They had not lost any battle as embarrassing as Ap Bac. My personal experience of the Iraqi Security Force in Iraq (at least until the end of 2004) shows that their quality varies from unit to unit. There are excellent units that are capable, competent, and motivate. And there are units that we were better without. But it is important that we remember that the NIA is in its embryonic stage. We started with a blank slate. There are lessens that cannot be taught on the training ground, but must be learned on the battlefield. Mistake will be made, and there will many to be made. But the ingredient for success is there, 150,000 of them. Time, patience, and hard work is require to turn them into a cohesive fighting force. They will grow and mature, but only in combat. The ARVN was 9 years old when they tasted their bitter defeat at Ap Bac. The NIA is barely 1 year old. If Vietnamization is a predictor for Iraq, then there is every reason to be hopeful.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The ICC and Unintended Consequence

Carl Nyberg asked [in reference to my post on the ICC here] “Why are ad hoc courts preferable?” I think the answer deserves a separate post.

Often US opponents of the ICC often cite that the ICC maybe used against the US. I am not all that concern. I doubt that anyone dares to detain US soldiers. They may issue indictment, but if they cannot even detain third world paramilitary leaders, how are they going to detain military members of the most powerful military on earth.

I am more concern about the development of judicial system in underdeveloped and developing nations. The existence of the ICC is a disincentive for poor countries to develop their own judicial system. If one can get someone else to do it for you, why set up courts, appoint judges, train lawyers, develop due process, write legislature – all the legal infrastructures needed for a civil society will not be developed.

One can argue that the ICC article 17 said that it only take a case if “the State is unwilling or unable genuinely to carry out the investigation or prosecution.” But the ICC already accepted case that the State is willing and able to carry out investigation or prosecution. Uganda, instead of prosecute their own people, refered cases to the ICC. What to say other countries who want to abdicate their of judicial responsibility won’t refer future cases to the ICC. And if the ICC accepted Uganda, can it refuse other countries? Do not be surprised if 50 years from now, Uganda judicial system will still be non-existent.

Futhermore, the ICC can make the victims can feel alienate from the process. Imagine a poor Ugandan woman who was victimized, raped, has her husband murdered. Now she hear that her perpertrator is being trial in the Hague where she cannot attend, she does not understand the process, and play no part in the procedure. How is justice being served for her? The Rwadan tribunal also create an absurdity than the chief perpertrators receive a lighter sentence than their hencemen. Many lower ranking perpetrators who were trial in Rwanda will receive the death penalty, but the higher status ones who were trial by the International Tribunal will not receive the death penalty.

Ad hoc tribunals performed reasonably well. It has the backing of the Security Council and with it enforcement. I do not see any improvement with the ICC, but instead see many dangerous unintended consequences.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Weekly Darfur Post: The ICC

This is a full post via Coalition for Darfur:

The big news regarding Darfur this week is that the International Criminal Court has formally announced that it is conducting an investigation into allegations of crimes against humanity in the region.
This investigation is a welcome, if belated step, but one that is also unlikely to have much of an immediate impact on the violence, disease and starvation that plagues the region.
The investigation is the result of a UN commission of inquiry that began in September 2004. Established under UN Resolution 1564, the commission took three months to investigate "violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Darfur by all parties, to determine also whether or not acts of genocide have occurred." In the report it issued in January 2005, the commission declared that genocide was not taking place, but that "serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law amounting to crimes under international law" had indeed occurred. The report went on to recommend that the UN Security Council refer the situation to the ICC for possible prosecution.
In April, the Security Council did just that and turned over evidence gathered by the commission, including the names of 51 people suspected of punishable crimes. And now, two months later, the ICC has finally begun an investigation.
It has taken nine months from the time the Security Council authorized the commission to investigate the crimes in Darfur to reach the point where the ICC has finally launched an official investigation.
The ICC has only been in existence for three years and has yet to indict or hold a trial for anyone connected with either of its two other cases, despite the fact that the ICC began its probe of Uganda in January 2004 and the Congo in April of the same year.
Furthermore, the ICC statute itself contains a provision (Article 17) regarding "complementarity" that grants states the priority to try their own citizens for crimes that fall within the ICC's jurisdiction. The ICC thus has no jurisdiction over these cases unless it can be determined that "the State is unwilling or unable genuinely to carry out the investigation or prosecution." And making that determination is going to take time.
Considering that Khartoum has already begun to look at ways to exploit this provision and is openly rejecting calls to cooperate with the ICC, it is likely that, as Nat Hentoff noted, "It will be at least a year, maybe two, before the ICC even issues its first indictments."
I have never been an advocate of the ICC. In fact I have alway believed that ad hoc court such as the one in the former Yugoslavia or Rwanda is the prefered route. According to Coalition for Darfur's estimate, it will year, maybe two before any indictment. I am even more pessimistic than that. I believe base previous procedure on Rwanda and Yugoslavia, it will take even longer. And the problem does not end there. Who will enforce the indictment?
I am willing to give the ICC a chance on Darfur, but placing all bet on the ICC to stem the tide of rapes and murders in Darfur is wishful thinking and naive. We need forceful military intervention.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Moonbats and Economic Superstition

Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly put out a list of books that he

…(hate)[cross-out] beg to differ with…[edit] A semi-consensus Top Ten collection of 19th and 20th century books that Political Animal readers believe have been harmful to the cause of human progress.

Among them were “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion”, 1905, by the Russian secret police, “The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan”, 1905, by Thomas Dixon and Arthur I. Keller, “Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races”, 1853, by Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau, and “Milestones”, 1964, by Sayyid Qutb. All and all they are books by radical nutcases ranging from racists to religious fundamentalists. Books that we can all agree have done serious harms to humanity and should never been written.
But interestingly (interesting is an understatement) among the Top Ten were “The Road to Serfdom”, 1944, by Friedrich Hayek and “Capitalism and Freedom”, 1962, by Milton Friedman. I wonder how they got on the list of the Top Ten most harmful books. What semi-sane person would consider Hayek and Friedman to be “harmful to the cause of human progress”. Then I remember that Kevin Drum and his readers are moonbats, they are not sane. To be fair to Kevin, the lists were generated from Kevin Drum’s comment section and it seem that Hayek and Friedman made the list by how often they were mentioned.
I cannot help but chuckle at the phrase “harmful to the cause of human progress.” Here are the two most respected and influential economists in modern age, both are Nobel Laureate in Economics, both are celebrated as visionary in their field. “Harmful to the cause of human progress” is a catchphrase by moonbats to demonize people they disagree with. If anything, Hayek and Friedman are the two most beneficial to the cause of human progress.
And the evidence cannot be clearer. The adoption of market-economy has spurred the fastest growing economy in those of the world that practice them. Those countries that subscribed to free-market economy prospered, their standard of living improved, many became democratic. Those that shun them remain stagnate in poverty and destitution – left behind by the world. There is also a strong correlation between free-market economy and freedom. Pacific Rim Tigers such as South Korea and Thailand started out as dictatorship. Their progress toward political freedom parallels their progress in economic freedom. It is not coincident that those that practiced free-market economy became democratic. Capitalism is good not merely because it is the most effective and efficient system, but because it is the most humane and compassionate system.
Hayek is proven by history and events to be prophetically right, and his critics to be superstitiously wrong. Those that put Hayek and Friedman on the lists of harmful books are certifiably delusional - belong squarely on the extreme fringe of the political spectrum.

Friday, June 03, 2005

The Incredible Shrinking Tent

Do you ever wonder what happen to fiscal conservatives? Did they just all drop dead? The Economist remind us of the day of Barry Goldwater, when conservatives still want less government. Why do we have more governments, it is especially ironic when a self-proclaimed conservative is in the White House, and we dominate both house of Congress.

As this Economist's article explains, the Global War on Terrorism is a poor excuse.

…The explanation among Republicans is the war on terror. Surely you need to spend more on defence when the country is under attack? Surely you need a stronger federal government when terrorists are trying to kill you? As the Cato Institute shows, this is tripe. Even if you strip out spending on defence and homeland security, Mr Bush still win the prize as the biggest booster of public spending for three decades... [Emphasis is mine]

There is a definite shift in conservative ideology when it comes to the government.
Ten years ago, the champions of conservatism were anti-government radicals such as Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey. Today they are patronage-wallahs like Tom DeLay. The congressional Republican Party, once a brake on spending, is now an accelerator. Congress trimmed Mr Clinton's budgets by $57 billion in 1996-2001; in Mr Bush's first term, it added an extra $91 billion of domestic spending.
That is $148 billion in additional domestic spending. But it is not the issue that is being discussed among conservatives. What happen to the “Contract with America” when Newt Gingrich promised to balance the budget. Has the Conservative Revolution of 1994 become counter-revolution? Instead of fighting for smaller government, defense of marriage, abortion, and Terri Schiavo dominate conservative forum. Social conservatives have always been part of the conservative movement. They always had the fair share of attention, equal to that of other blocs. But today, their issues are the only issues that matter, all other priorities push aside. No, I am not anti-social conservatives. I am willing to support their agenda, but I expect them to push my agenda with equal zeal.

Why nobody seem to be upset about Republican defection on Social Security reform, but plenty of anger over judicial nominee. No one is screaming at the rising budget deficit. The Economist has a reminder.

One reason why Ronald Reagan had such an invigorating impact on his party is that he never allowed the Christian right to gain too much power at the expense of the Goldwater right. Messrs Bush and Rove may have to pay more attention to that balance if they are to realise their dream of turning the Republicans into America's permanent ruling party.

The requirement this day for Republican Presidential nominee is that he/she has to be a social conservative. I can live with that. My question is why fiscal conservatism is not also a prerequisite. As I said here before, I am really concern about the shrinking tent.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Weekly Darfur Post: Coffee Annan on Darfur

I read this post via Coalition For Darfur, and I want whatever it is that Coffee Annan is smoking. If the UN Secretary General wants to be taken seriously, he needs to stop making make crazy claim. According to the UN envoy, Jan Pronk, “Mr. Annan was really impressed by the improved situation in Darfur, which he visited on Saturday." Pronk added “"Foreign press reports, especially in the American press, which speak of no progress in Darfur are completely untrue." Untrue! So I guess the reports of rapes, pillages, and mass murders in Darfur are just the work of over imaginative aid workers. And for being over imaginative, they were arrested by the Sudanese authority.

Coalition for Darfur reports:
At the same time, two aid workers from Doctors Without Borders were arrested because of a recent report documenting hundreds of cases of rape in the region.

On top of that, the World Food Program reported that the number of people requiring food aid in Sudan is now more than six million, while the UNHCR reported that Janjaweed and government attacks have all but destroyed village life and forced some 2 million people into makeshift slums. With the majority of villages destroyed and insecurity rampant, it is not surprising that the displaced have become entirely dependent on foreign aid and are increasingly unwilling to return home.

Thus, it is rather difficult to comprehend just what sorts of "improvement" Annan and Pronk claim to have witnessed in Darfur.
Me too. Coffee Annan was in Sudan for less than three days and he already concluded that thing had improved. How's perceptive. Please read the whole thing.