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.

July 10, 2009

Forgiveness

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 12:19 am

Letters – How Should We Remember Robert McNamara? – NYTimes.com
To the Editor:

What is one to make of this man’s life? It was, certainly, classically tragic: the war with which he will forever be linked was caused not by inadequate skills or lack of diligence, but by his failure to question that which his boundless intelligence and diligence caused him to believe.

Like the classic Greek tragic heroes, he came to understand his folly and yet was unable to change it. He died apparently haunted by his error.

It is impossible not to feel empathy for this man. But when one thinks of the tens of thousands of young men and women who died young as a result of the Vietnam War, it is impossible to forgive him.

Frederick T. Davis
Paris, July 7, 2009

“Forgiveness doesn’t mean pretending things aren’t as they really are. Forgiveness is the recognition that a ghastliness has happened. And forgiveness doesn’t mean trying to paper over the cracks, which is what people do when they say, ‘Let bygones be bygones.’ Because they will not. They have an incredible capacity for always returning to haunt you. Forgiveness means that the wronged and the culprits of those wrongs acknowledge that something happened. And there is necessarily a measure of confrontation. People sometimes think that you shouldn’t be abrasive. But sometimes you have to be to make someone acknowledge that they have done something wrong. Then once the culprit says, ‘I am sorry,’ the wronged person is under obligation, certainly if he or she is a Christian, to forgive. And forgiving means actually giving the opportunity of a new beginning.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

January 13, 2009

Moyers on Middle East violence

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 6:57 pm

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Please watch.

January 8, 2009

A surge for every occasion

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 5:34 pm

U.S. Plans Border ‘Surge’ Against Any Drug Wars – NYTimes.com
The soaring level of violence in Mexico resulting from the drug wars there has led the United States to develop plans for a “surge” of civilian and perhaps even military law enforcement should the bloodshed spread across the border, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Wednesday.

Mr. Chertoff said the criminal activity in Mexico, which has caused more than 5,300 deaths in the last year, had long troubled American authorities. But it reached a point last summer, he said, where he ordered specific plans to confront in this country the kind of shootouts and other mayhem that in Mexico have killed members of warring drug cartels, law enforcement officials and bystanders, often not far from the border.

“We completed a contingency plan for border violence, so if we did get a significant spillover, we have a surge — if I may use that word — capability to bring in not only our own assets but even to work with” the Defense Department, Mr. Chertoff said in a telephone interview.

Welcome to a world where absolutely any problem can be solved with a “surge.”

I’ve got an idea. Why not cut off the cartels’ supply lines? It’s a threat to our security that drug cartels in Mexico have become powerful enough to challenge the police force in all-out war. Why not address the fact that 9 out of 10 of their guns come from the United States, thanks to our insanely liberal gun laws? Why not address that assault rifles are not used for self-defense, are not used for hunting, and are instead used to kill Mexican cops in a destabilizing situation that could spill into the United States?

The Long War of Genaro García Luna – NYTimes.com
[Mexican police chief Genaro] García Luna was in Washington to make the rounds of U.S. government agencies and Congressional offices … García Luna met with government officials and diplomats and gave a stilted power-point presentation to policy experts. He seemed more interested in the photographs he had brought, his way of making a blunt point about a touchy aspect of U.S.-Mexican relations: the vast majority of weapons in the cartel’s arsenals (80 to 90 percent, according to the Mexican government’s figures) are purchased in the United States, often at loosely regulated gun shows, and smuggled into Mexico by the same networks that smuggle drugs the opposite direction. García Luna has a hard time concealing his anger about the fact that U.S. laws make it difficult to do much about this “brutal flow” of firepower. “How is it possible,” he asked me, “that a person is allowed to go buy a hundred cuernos de chivo” — AK-47’s — “for himself?” In the United States, he said, “there was a lot of indifference.”

Why not address that this kind of madness might be why people want to leave Mexico for our border so badly?

December 22, 2008

Victorious Transsexuals: Bülent Ersoy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 12:34 am

Middle East Online
ISTANBUL – A Turkish court Thursday acquitted a famed transsexual singer of charges of turning the public against military service, citing clauses protecting free speech, Anatolia news agency reported.

Bulent Ersoy, 56, was put on trial after she said in February that if she had a son, she would not send him to the army to fight Kurdish rebels, whose 24-year campaign for self-rule in the southeast has claimed about 44,000 lives.

The court ruled that the alleged offence had not been committed and the defendant had exercised her right to freedom of expression, Anatolia said.

FREE SPEECH WIN! I hope this gives Turkey some serious EU points, with the possibility of many more if they reform the law itself.

December 20, 2008

Footwear and its trajectory

Letters – When a President Is Treated With Disrespect – NYTimes.com
I’m appalled that Arabs are celebrating the act of a disrespectful Iraqi journalist directed at a president of the United States. If an Arab leader were treated with such disdain in the United States, the Arab world would react violently against all Americans.

That’s an amazingly dumb statement! Let me unpack it.

  1. Wait a second, we’re required to look at all leaders the same? The difference with President Bush is that they hate him. I don’t condone throwing footwear at world leaders, but you have to admit he’s a man after many people’s own hearts. (This journalist—and yes, journalists should not be inserting themselves, or their shoes, into their stories this way—reminds me of the old woman who took a hammer to a Comcast call center. I don’t condone what she did, but man, she did something many of us wish we could have done ourselves. They’re both proxies for our very real frustrations.)
  2. Um, you do realize that Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University, was an outright jerk to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he visited in 2007? There wasn’t a violent uprising, then (of course, part of that might have to do with the fact that Moodly-Bob isn’t very popular back home, either).  Ahmadinejad is a nutcase and a horrible man, to be sure, but Bollinger was both being a jerk to a visiting head of state and possessed none of the underdog status or the truth-to-power element of the shoe-tossing journalist. (He also endangered any future opportunities for students to get to see visiting heads of state, a valuable opportunity even—or perhaps especially—when these leaders are reprehensible.) You should really check these things, sometimes.

I think this argument boils down to “if things were different, wouldn’t they be different?”, which is not an argument I’m fond of. It’s like saying, why are you cheering that your home football team won? You’d be angry if the other team won. Stupid, stupid.

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!

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