Tina K. Russell

December 12, 2008

Relativism

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 3:48 am

Op-Ed Contributor – Grand Theft Nautical – NYTimes.com
There was some semblance of law and order in 2006, when the Islamic Courts Union, loosely linked with Al Qaeda, took over much of the country and imposed Shariah law. Though there were cruel tradeoffs, the Islamists virtually eradicated piracy. The crime was a capital offense punishable by beheading.

When Ethiopian forces, supported by the United States, replaced the Islamists with an ineffective transitional government in 2006, piracy returned with an intensity not seen since the 17th century.

It is evident that no nation can impose its will on Somalia; the colonial British and Italians learned the hard way. And certainly no nation can force Somalis to stop the best business in town. But if the West really hopes to eliminate the scourge of piracy in these strategic shipping lanes, then it should consider involving the courts union, the only entity that has proved it could govern the country, and its militant wing, Al Shabaab, in a new government.

If there is movement to talk to the Taliban in Afghanistan, then there should be some effort to talk to the fundamentalists in Somalia. If the Islamists were permitted to form a viable, functioning and effective government, this shattered land might be able to return to the community of nations — and supertankers will be able to deliver oil to the United States without fear of getting hijacked.

Yes, you read it here first. Who needs human rights when we have cheap oil?

I’ve written here before that I don’t think the West should be obsessed with keeping the “Islamists” out of power in Somalia; I don’t approve of religious rule or Sharia law, but it’s not my place to decide what governments other countries should have. (That, and bloody, endless wars hardly advance the stated aim of upholding human rights.) The concept of international intervention is hotly contested, but I think we can all agree that it’s the sort of drastic step with such dramatic consequences that it should only be used in international emergencies, such as genocide. If we fired our guns on every country with a miserable human rights record, we’d have to start with Saudi Arabia and China on down, a mess that would hardly justify itself.

This op-ed writer, though, takes the opposite extreme; we should endorse cruel, abusive regimes in the interest of stability. We should help them come to power. (I should note that the sort of desperation caused by war, the kind of war advocated by militant idealists and interventionists, is what helps extremists come to power, but that’s a separate subject.) Yes, yes… that’s why the West installed or helped install the Shah in Iran (twice!), Pinochet in Chile, the Taliban in Afghanistan, etc. In fact, he doesn’t even discuss any human need for stability, speaking only of a need for safe, cheap passage for oil tankers. Anything else would be unacceptable!

I need a shower.

October 29, 2008

Values

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 5:19 pm

I’ve spoken recently on Ethiopia’s human rights abuses and Somalia’s right to self-determination. In the interest of fairness, here’s what an Islamist court in Somalia has decided to do with all that self-determination:

World Briefing – Africa – Somalia – Rape Victim Executed – NYTimes.com
A woman was stoned to death for adultery on Monday in an Islamist-controlled region of Somalia. Somali human rights officials said the woman, 23, had been raped, but the Islamist authorities determined that she was guilty of adultery.

That’s disgusting. (The article is just one more sentence, but I snipped that because it’s graphic.) This is reprehensible on, like, a million levels. To note three:

  1. The death penalty is wrong. Always.
  2. They say that she was an adulterer. Even if that were true, which I doubt, it is wrong to punish adulterers. Government should not legislate individual choice, or attempt to fix families.
  3. Punishing the victim is wrong.

While the mistake of punishing the victim occurs on many levels in many governments, to punish the victim of rape is to take what is already a crime to an unspeakable degree. To punish her with death is beyond my comprehension. I cannot imagine how anyone who asserts that is moral can claim with a straight face to speak for God.

Jesus, a prophet of Islam, once espoused that “he who is free of sin shall cast the first stone”; and that was about a woman who was actually guilty of what she was accused of. I step carefully when I talk about this because I think stoning her to death would still be wrong if she were guilty. I think it would be wrong if she were guilty of murder. I think it would be wrong if she were guilty of murder and the execution were administered with a lethal injection of painkillers in the most humane way you could possibly think of. It’s clear, though, that the people who delivered, carried out, and supported this verdict have vast oceans of sin in their hearts, given their willingness, their enthusiasm, for such an unequivocally evil act as this. They should not throw stones; and neither should we.

October 26, 2008

Well, then

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 9:19 pm

Somalia Makes Peace Deal With a Militia – NYTimes.com
NAIROBI, Kenya — Somalia’s transitional leaders made important concessions toward peace on Sunday, agreeing to accept insurgent troops within their ranks and detailing a plan for a phased pullback of Ethiopian soldiers, currently the most powerful force in the country.

Oh! That sounds good.

Somalia and “the Islamist threat”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 8:34 pm

Op-Ed Columnist – The Endorsement From Hell – NYTimes.com
Today, Somalia is the world’s greatest humanitarian disaster, worse even than Darfur or Congo. The crisis has complex roots, and Somali warlords bear primary blame. But Bush administration paranoia about Islamic radicals contributed to the disaster.

Somalia has been in chaos for many years, but in 2006 an umbrella movement called the Islamic Courts Union seemed close to uniting the country. The movement included both moderates and extremists, but it constituted the best hope for putting Somalia together again. Somalis were ecstatic at the prospect of having a functional government again.

Bush administration officials, however, were aghast at the rise of an Islamist movement that they feared would be uncooperative in the war on terror. So they gave Ethiopia, a longtime rival in the region, the green light to invade, and Somalia’s best hope for peace collapsed.

“A movement that looked as if it might end this long national nightmare was derailed, in part because of American and Ethiopian actions,” said Ken Menkhaus, a Somalia expert at Davidson College. As a result, Islamic militancy and anti-Americanism have surged, partly because Somalis blame Washington for the brutality of the Ethiopian occupiers.

“There’s a level of anti-Americanism in Somalia today like nothing I’ve seen over the last 20 years,” Professor Menkhaus said. “Somalis are furious with us for backing the Ethiopian intervention and occupation, provoking this huge humanitarian crisis.”

This is one of the biggest and most-ignored tragedies of recent American foreign policy, and it breaks my heart. I don’t like the Islamists one bit and I don’t think religion has any place in government. But, our attempt to instill that bit of political wisdom by force—by funding the an army with a dismal human-rights record, at that—has caused untold suffering in yet another faraway land.

Somalia is near an important Middle Eastern trade route (a large reason piracy is such a problem). Stability in Somalia would be great for the region (particularly Eritrea—ancestral homeland of a friend of mine—which would like to be known as a Singapore-like trading hub one of these days), which includes the affluent Persian Gulf and the struggling and developing nations in East Africa.

Anyway, Sens. Pat Leahy (whom Cheney once told to “go #@$! yourself”) and Russ Feingold (the one vote against the Patriot Act in the Senate!) are co-sponsoring a bill to tie additional funding to Somalia to them cleaning up their human-rights situation. Call your representatives! Go!

August 18, 2008

Safe for democracy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 3:54 pm

Memo From Somalia – Anarchy-Cursed Nation Looks to Bottom-Up Rule – NYTimes.com
Many Somalis have grown suspicious of a strong central government, especially after the dark years of Maj. Gen. Mohammed Siad Barre, the dictator who ruled from 1969 to 1991. “The state has never had any legitimacy,” said Tobias Hagmann, a Somalia scholar at the University of Zurich.

Clan-based warlords toppled General Siad Barre, then turned on one another. In some places, limited local governments sprouted to fill the authority vacuum. They called themselves “administrations” and provided some services, like resolving property disputes or trying theft suspects in courts based on Islamic and customary Somali law.

By the early 2000s, several of those local courts began to gain strength, and in 2006 they united under an Islamist banner to fight warlords being paid by the Central Intelligence Agency. The Islamic courts won and disarmed and pacified much of south-central Somalia, following their own version of the building block approach. But the United States and Ethiopia considered the Islamic courts a terrorist threat, so the United States helped Ethiopia invade Somalia.

The result today is an ascendant Islamist guerrilla force, a wounded and divided transitional government and an increasingly impatient Ethiopia. Stir in Somalia’s war profiteers, including gunrunners and importers of expired baby formula, and the country seems to be a recipe for long-term disaster.

I strongly condemn any attempt to bring religion into government, as such a confluence spoils both institutions almost past the point of salvage. That said, I’m also not a fan of any attempt of ours to force other countries to adopt our way of government. I hope that, in time, the people of Somalia will see that Sharia law, while in some ways useful, is inhumane and hopelessly outmoded. I also hope that, in time, those who run our government here at home will recognize Somalia’s very real need for law and order, something that’s not being brought by Ethopian tanks backed by United States money.

If we think that any government that brings religion into governing is beyond the pale, we may want to consider that the government-in-exile of Tibet, which which deep Western sympathies rightly lie. The Dalai Lama is the head of the church and the head of state, and his succession is achieved through reincarnation. That means he’s been in power for centuries; I can’t think of any dictators that can top that. China has no right to impose their system of government on Tibet, just as we have no right to impose our system of government in Somalia; and if we were sincere about democracy being the right way, the peaceful way, the only way, then we would accept it when other countries elect leaders we don’t like (say, in Chile, in Nicaragua, in Palestine, etc.).

Don’t get me wrong; I think that democracy, be it American-style presidential or European-style pariamentary (or that interesting… thing they have in France) is the best thing ever to happen to systems of government, and I hope every country in the world sees that before long. I think a government is only made legitimate by the uncoerced consent of the people. However, we ought to be leading by example, showing the greatness of democracy and why foreign leaders should trust in their people. Instead, we’ve worked hard building an unfortunate image of the US as a bully, tarnishing the image of democracy by making moderate opposition leaders targets of public humiliation (a common slur is that reformers in the developing world are too “pro-Western”) and raising an obvious question: if democracy is so great, why has it created a country that clearly does not respect the rights of foreigners?

I think they’re wrong; I think we do respect the rights of foreigners. But, we must show that with concrete action to replace our bellicose chest-beating and military arrogance.

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