Tina K. Russell

September 14, 2009

You First. No, You First.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 10:28 am

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam, the custodian of its two holy mosques, the world’s energy superpower and the de facto leader of the Arab and Muslim worlds — that is why our recognition is greatly prized by Israel. However, for all those same reasons, the kingdom holds itself to higher standards of justice and law. It must therefore refuse to engage Israel until it ends its illegal occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights as well as Shabaa Farms in Lebanon. For Saudis to take steps toward diplomatic normalization before this land is returned to its rightful owners would undermine international law and turn a blind eye to immorality.

via Op-Ed Contributor – Land First, Then Peace – NYTimes.com.

This is a very strange argument when Israel’s excuse for holding up the peace process is that they’re saving diplomatic negotiation as a sort of reward for good behavior, even when their citizens are dying in rocket attacks. Israel and the United States will not engage with Hamas until they renounce violence and recognize Israel, while Hamas is only willing to give Israel a grudging acceptance, and then only if they return the Occupied Territories. If Saudi Arabia joins in this game, it will ensure a kind of reverse Mexican standoff that will ensure nothing gets done, and that Israelis and Palestinians will keep dying in endless conflict merely for dreaming of a homeland of their own.

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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.

August 30, 2008

Respects to Abie Nathan

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 12:46 am

The problem with The New York Times‘s wonderful obituaries is that often it’s the first place I find out about remarkable people, right when they’ve passed away. Take this man, Israel’s Abie Nathan.

Abie Nathan, Israeli Peace Champion, Dies at 81 – Obituary (Obit) – NYTimes.com
Abie Nathan, a maverick Israeli peace pioneer, an entrepreneur and a one-man humanitarian-aid organization, who went from playboy to intrepid “peace pilot,” died Wednesday in Tel Aviv. He was 81.

A Royal Air Force-trained pilot, he crashed into the national consciousness and the quagmire of the Middle East conflict with a dramatic solo flight from Israel to Egypt in an old rented biplane in 1966. A self-appointed ambassador, he wanted to talk to President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt about making peace.

At first Mr. Nathan was seen as “a curiosity” in Israel, said Eitan Haber, a veteran Israeli journalist and former senior aide of the late prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin. “But then it turned out he was ahead of his time,” he said.

Rest easy, my friend. You’ve done your country–and the world–proud.

An epicure, he was always ready to pay a personal price for his principles, embarking on numerous hunger strikes; he also served two terms in jail, in 1989 and 1991, for breaking a law against meeting with Yasir Arafat and other officials of the Palestine Liberation Organization, then banned in Israel as a terrorist group.

After receiving his six-month sentence in 1989, he issued a typical explanation of his person-to-person mission: “Violence will only increase and it will be impossible to heal the wounds, whether among the Arabs or the Jews, unless we decide to sit with each other. Our bullets alone cannot solve the problem.”

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.

July 2, 2008

And those wounds were caused by… whom?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 3:28 am

African Union Calls for Settlement in Zimbabwe – NYTimes.com
The African Union on Tuesday urged the creation of a government of national unity in Zimbabwe to heal the nation’s deep political wounds after President Robert Mugabe’s triumph in a one-candidate runoff election widely condemned as a sham.

I’m too sleepy right now to write much, but I will say that I don’t think a Kenya-style unity government is the right option for this particular crisis. Remember, part of the reason it happened in Kenya was that we needed a solution–any solution–to stop the violence, which was completely out of control and perpetrated by and against the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki’s tribe, the Kikuyu. That is, the stolen election simply caused long-simmering tensions to erupt and an immediate solution was needed, even if it went to the distasteful length of allowing Kibaki to retain his illegitimately obtained seat.

In Zimbabwe, in contrast, there are two parties in this violence: Mugabe’s crew, consistently the perpetrator, and everybody else, consistently the victims. There is no compelling reason to reward Mugabe with legitimacy for beating and killing the opposition into submission. In Kenya, the violence was out of control. In Zimbabwe, the violence is controlled by one man: Mugabe. (I’m also uncertain that Mugabe would be willing to hand any real power to a Prime Minister Tsvangirai, or that the odious and continuous locking horns of Mugabe and Tsvangirai–or whatever bizarre, Hydra-like cabinet springs forth from lengthy discussions and dispute–would produce an effective government.)

I prefer Nicholas Kristof’s solution: we find some way to entice Mugabe to retire, quietly, with whatever shred of dignity he has remaining. Mugabe’s a small man, and people respond to incentives.

Op-Ed Columnist – If Only Mugabe Were White – Op-Ed – NYTimes.com
The solution is for leaders at the African Union summit this week to give Mr. Mugabe a clear choice.

One option would be for him to “retire” honorably — “for health reasons” after some face-saving claims of heart trouble — at a lovely estate in South Africa, taking top aides with him. He would be received respectfully and awarded a $5 million bank account to assure his comfort for the remainder of his days.

The other alternative is that he could dig in his heels and cling to power. African leaders should make clear that in that case, they will back an indictment of him and his aides in the International Criminal Court. Led by the Southern African Development Community, the world will also impose sanctions against Mr. Mugabe’s circle and cut off all military supplies and spare parts. Mozambique, South Africa and Congo will also cut off the electricity they provide to Zimbabwe.

The Chinese word for “crisis” is comprised of two characters: one meaning “danger,” and the other meaning “holy #@$! we’re all gonna die.” We shouldn’t let well-meaning idealism, or the spirit of coming together, obscure that Zimbabwe is the victim of Mugabe’s tyranny and that he is not likely to share power in actuality, whatever he accedes to in name.

April 15, 2008

Hooray for Kenya

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 5:18 pm

allAfrica.com: Kenya: Kibaki And Raila Unveil Coalition Team (Page 1 of 1)

President Kibaki Sunday named a 42-member Cabinet equally shared between PNU and ODM and demoted two ministers in the process.

The much awaited announcement of the expanded government gave the country its second Prime Minister in Mr Raila Odinga, paving way for a new four-and- half-year political dispensation.

He created four new ministries in what he described as a decision to give attention areas critical in the economic development and address regions that have been marginalised by previous governments. The President also moved some ministers in the delicately balanced Cabinet to satisfy regional balance.

Seven women secured places in the new team.

Take a look:

Two deputy Prime ministers Uhuru Kenyatta (PNU) and Musalia Mudavadi (ODM) were named with high profile ministries. Mr Kenyatta, in addition to his new position, will serve as Trade minister while Mr Mudavadi takes over Local Government.

Four new ministries of Northern Kenya and other Arid Lands, Industrialisation, Planning and Vision 2030, and Nairobi Metropolitan Development were created. Wajir East MP Ibrahim Mohamed will hold the Northern Kenya development portfolio, Henry Kosgey (Industrialisation) and Mutula Kilonzo (Nairobi Metropolitan).

President Kibaki kept ministers George Saitoti (Internal Security), Amos Kimunya (Finance), Karua (Justice and Constitutional Affairs), Kiraitu Murungi (Energy), Chirau Mwakwere (Transport), Yusuf Haji (Defence), Moses Wetang’ula (Foreign Affairs), Naomi Shaban (Special Programmes), Sam Ongeri (Education) and Mr Samuel Poghisio’s Information and Communication.

Mr Odinga ensured that the entire Pentagon team of William Ruto (Agriculture), Najib Balala (Tourism), Joseph Nyaga (Cooperative Development) and Charity Ngilu (Water and Irrigation) were named to the Cabinet. Former head of Public Service Sally Kosgei was also appointed minister in charge of Higher Education and Science and Technology.

Lawyer MP James Orengo took the Lands portfolio while newcomer Hellen Sambili will be in charge of the Ministry of Youths and Sports. Funyula MP Paul Otuoma was named to Fisheries Development, while the Roads docket went to Bomet MP Kipkalya Kones. Westlands MP Fred Gumo is the new Regional Development Authorities minister.

Seriously, this brings a tear to my eye. If you think bureaucracy is bad, try ethnic warfare.

(Also, Kenya is a large and diverse land, so it’s no wonder they’ve got a bazillion ministries now. I mean, we have fifty states, and nobody complains… though, hey, if Puerto Rico ever wants to join the club, I’m willing. …And Guam, everybody loves Guam.)

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