One blogger’s personal bridge to nowhere

Please be nice, Mr. Genocidaire

From the Department of Fat Chance:

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir should cooperate fully with whatever decision the International Criminal Court, or ICC, issues regarding his case and ensure the safety of civilians and U.N. peacekeepers in Sudan.

Pretty please don't make things even worse for us.

Pretty please don't make things even worse for us.

Even if he wasn’t a genocidal dictator who has clung resolutely to power for 20 years by employing ethnic-based massacres as a political tool, I don’t think it’s very likely that Bashir would simply hand himself over to be tried in The Hague. That said, Bashir is a genocidal dictator who has clung resolutely to power for 20 years by employing ethnic-based massacres as a political tool, so I think it even less likely that he will utterly refrain from harassing UN peacekeepers and humanitarian organizations — nothing has stopped him, after all, from doing so even when the international community was explicitly censuring him for it — and act “very responsibly.”

I know the S-G was pretty much bound to say something in this tricky situation, and that that something was pretty much bound to be a hollow pronouncement, completely trapped as he is between his inability to affect the ICC’s decisions and his inability to affect the Sudanese government’s response. One might add, if one finds cynicism gratifying, his inability to affect the situation on the ground in Darfur, but that is not the point here.  Ban finds himself in the same awkward position as the rest of us Darfur-watchers — sitting on his ass waiting to see what the ICC will do and how Bashir will react.  Hopefully he’s preparing for the worst.

(image from flickr user Ammar Abd Rabbo under a Creative Commons license)


February 11, 2009 Posted by | Darfur, UN | , , , | Leave a comment

Oh no! Don’t (not) take away our Fijian troops!

From the Department of It Doesn’t Really Matter:

fijiA (sort of) ban on UN peacekeepers from Fiji, in response to the recent two-year-old coup in the tiny island nation:

While Fiji is yet to be represented at the world’s largest peacekeeping operations since it started in 1999, it is now up to the UN peacekeeping operations to recruit volunteers from among the armed forces of member states.

Okay, so there aren’t any Fijian troops in big UN peacekeeping missions.  But what about the 500 stationed in smaller missions in Iraq and Sinai?  They will have to…well, they can stay.  But no more!  And the UN, forced “to recruit volunteers from among the armed forces of member states,” will have to…continue to implement the same policy that has always governed peacekeeper recruitment.

(image of Fijian beach from flickr user flip.01 under a Creative Commons license)

December 18, 2008 Posted by | Foreign politics, UN | , , | 1 Comment

Mugabe’s positive legacy

Mugabe's legacy

Mugabe's true legacy

With all due respect, Mr. Ban

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Friday to agree to a rapid deal on a new government to “leave his legacy in a positive way.”

…I realize that “positive” is here modifying “way” — as in, presumably, just slink off into exile, à la Mobutu, rather than stay in your palace kicking and screaming until you are dragged out of power by rebels, the military, or old age — but still, can we please not intimate that there is anything positive connected with Mugabe’s legacy?  His original anti-colonial rise is so far removed as to not count as part of that legacy in any meaningful way, and most of the past 28 years have seen Mugabe do little but lay waste to an entire country.

The only real option here is for Mugabe to “leave his legacy” to rot, while others can hopefully try to patch together the society that he has impoverished.

(image from flickr user willposh under a Creative Commons license)

December 12, 2008 Posted by | Africa, UN, Zimbabwe | , | Leave a comment

We’re watching you…

(cross-posted, again, on Dispatch)

satellite.pngWired’s Noah Shachtman informs of a UN agency — one that, I admit, I did not even know existed — using technology to keep track of the pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

The U.N. is staring down on the Somali pirates from space. UNOSAT, the international body’s satellite analysis wing, has produced a pair of reports, giving fresh views of the ships hijacked off the coast of east Africa, detailing their captors’ activities — and even snooping on the pirates’ home base.

Using images taken from the Quickbird commercial imaging satellite, the group is plotting out exactly where ships are being captured, and where they’re being held.

I think that counts as a “new strategy.” One of the problems hampering a more effective response to the lawlessness and piracy maritime terrorism off Somalia’s waters is, well, that there’s a whole lot of water to patrol. But pirates can’t really hide from someone watching from space. And given how difficult it is to mount any sort of intervention once pirates seize their target, knowing where they are is no small piece of the puzzle.

And if spying from satellites doesn’t work, there are always giant blimps aerostats.

(satellite image charting three recently hijacaked ships off the coast of Somalia, taken by UNOSTAT)

December 5, 2008 Posted by | Africa, Somalia, UN | , | 1 Comment

Why newspapers should embrace hyperlinks

bizarro-worldBecause then they could open editorials like this:

If former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John R. Bolton went to Bizarro World, his counterpart there would be Susan Rice.

And if you actually click on the link, you can learn about infamous cartoon villains like Mister Mxyzptlk and Batzarro — or the bizarro versions of Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzales.

(image from flickr user purplepix under a Creative Commons license)

December 2, 2008 Posted by | U.S. politics, UN | , , , | 1 Comment

A “Cocaine Iceberg”

That definitely does not sound good.

God, I hope that is not cocaine...

At least 50 tonnes of cocaine from Andean countries pass through West Africa every year, heading mostly to the streets of France, Spain and the United Kingdom, where they are worth some $2 billion.

This is probably the tip of the cocaine iceberg,” said the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, at a high-level conference in the Cape Verde capital, Praia.

Cocaine seizures have doubled every year for the past three years, with the 2007 total amounting to 6,458 kilogrammes, and major seizures this year include a 600 kilogramme cocaine bust at the airport in Freetown, Sierra Leone, this summer, according to a report launched by UNODC at the Praia meeting.

An iceberg of cocaine is definitely worse than an iceberg of marijuana, I must say.

(sort of x-posted on Dispatch)

(Image from flickr user Zaptel under a Creative Commons license.)

October 30, 2008 Posted by | UN | , | Leave a comment

Donkey ambulance

The UN has found a creative and effective way to transport sick patients in the harsh environment of Darfur.

donkeys and IDPs.jpgTo date, sick people in need of transportation to the nearest clinic have had to endure an uncomfortable ride atop a camel or on the back of an open horse-drawn cart, exposed to the searing heat of the sun.

But the UN refugee agency has stepped in by donating a covered wagon, with padding inside, and a donkey to pull the “ambulance.” It’s not the height of comfort but has been welcomed by the 750 refugees from Chad and the Central African Republic who reside in Mukjar, West Darfur

This is possibly an even better use for a donkey than the famous literacy-promoting “biblioburro.”

(Image from flickr user SPANA Charity under a Creative Commons license.)

October 29, 2008 Posted by | Darfur, UN | Leave a comment

Happiness = marijuana = child soldiers

UN peacekeepers in Liberia are doing some great things.  They are training police, restoring people’s confidence, rebuilding the justice system, and helping the country recover from years of civil war.  But one thing they do not need to be doing is modeling the United States’ extremely foolhardy “War on Drugs.”

The United Nations is assisting Liberian National Police (LNP) tackle the drug trade in remote areas of the West African nation, with the latest joint raid bringing the total amount of marijuana seized to almost 1,000 kilograms.

The stated rationale for these raids?

“Marijuana makes people happy,” said LNP anti-narcotics officer Flomo J. Tomkollie. “To combat the problem, we need to find other ways to make them happy – we need to train people and help them find a job.”

The perpetuation of the myths of marijuana constantly flummox me.  Here, though, the explanation partly lies in a particularly insidious backdrop — the country’s history of child soldiers, who were pumped full of harder drugs, and also given marijuana “in a bid to create dependency.”  Dehumanizing and addling the minds of child soldiers obviously being reprehensible, it is nonetheless ridiculous to claim that “many youth[s] [are] still addicted to [marijuana] five years after the end of the war [my emphasis].”  Marijuana is not a physically addictive drug, it has no natural tendency to lead toward senseless murder, and it is absolutely not antithetical to being “trained” and having a job.  This concentrated anti-marijuana campaign is counter-productive, a waste of resources, and a complete distraction from the real problems that former child soldiers face.

And yes, marijuana can make people happy.  At risk of sounding like a hippy, let’s take that as a starting point, not a symptom.

October 23, 2008 Posted by | UN | , | 2 Comments

No kangaroos in the Security Council

Three candidates — Iceland, Turkey, and Austria — were running for two slots in the “Western Europe and Others” group in today’s elections for seats at the UN Security Council.  Iceland received 87 votes.  Turkey received 151.  Austria picked up 133.  Australia got one.  I think you see where this is going.

Some UN diplomats, though, were apparently not so sure that the vote was due to name confusion.  Four more such little “mistakes” could have forced Austria into a run-off vote with Iceland.

But, they said, the possibility could not be ruled out that it was an innocent joke or an attempt to annoy the Austrians.

Oh, those crazy UN pranksters!

October 17, 2008 Posted by | UN | Leave a comment

The UN is not guilty of genocide

An outraged reaction to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s rambling, anti-Semitic, and, well, outrageous tirade before the United Nations is to be expected, particularly when coming from the likely future leader of the country that Ahmadinejad blames for all the world’s ills.  But attacking the UN with equal vigor for “allowing” the Iranian leader to speak in New York seems rather off target — particularly when accusing the world body of abrogating its pledge against genocide.

New Kadima leader and future Prime Minister of the Jewish nation-state Tzipi Livni even went so far as to say that the UN’s vow “never again” to let something like the holocaust happen is “absurd” in light of its decision to let Ahmadinejad speak.

“Ahmadinejad’s speech makes the situation absurd for an organization that raised the banner of ‘Never Again’ upon its establishment,” said Livni who’s at this moment Israel’s foreign minister.

Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be “wiped off the map,” yes.  That statement could be interpreted, with only a little excess anxiety, as evident incitement to “something like the holocaust.”  But the United Nations is not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and “giving Ahmadinejad a platform” — as the inaccurate formulation of the UN’s role in this fracas often describes it — is not tantamount to allowing genocide.

The phrase “never again” may have fallen by the wayside of Cambodia, Rwanda, and Darfur, but it is not lying dead outside Dag Hammerskjold Place after Ahmadinejad’s speech.  To accuse otherwise is to abandon the seriousness with which that pledge should be taken.

September 25, 2008 Posted by | UN | Leave a comment