Sunday, July 27, 2008

Religions cannot only reject terrorism, they need to stand up against it, together

When writing this post, my first thought was Saturday's brutal terror attacks in the Indian city of Ahmadabad, but this can apply to all settings and religious backgrounds. The followers of a religion must do more than simply reject the use of extremism in the name of their faith. In addition to speaking out against the use of violence, they must stand beside different religions, especially when extremists seek to create tension between said religions, often by simply killing as many people as they can, holding their breath, and hoping it will create mayhem and panic. We've seen it in Iraq many times...what appeared to be nothing but a country descending into chaos and civil war was initiated by Al-Qaeda's specific targeting of religious institutions and provoked a conflict that has shaped the political world in a way never imagined.

With things taking a turn for the better in Iraq, it looks like a another target has emerged...central and south Asia. In India and Pakistan, the continued use of terrorism has done considerable damage to the people of these countries, and has wrecked havoc in marketplaces, bus stations, cafes, and other public places. India is one of the most populous countries in the world, with one of the largest GDP's in the world and a formidable military power. Yet somehow, a rag-tag band of so-called Islamic fundamentalist can bring the country to its knees and create shock waves of panic across the nation of more than one billion. By strapping dozens of crudely made explosive devices to bicycles and bins and blowing up as many people as possible, fear is everywhere. In a country like India, where many cities are overcrowded with millions of people, the attackers can fall back into the shadows, leaving the population afraid and vulnerable.

The sick people who carry out these attacks are hardly Muslim at all (I know, I make this point on my blog almost weekly). The attacks happening in India and Pakistan are designed to create as much tension and animosity between rival religious groups (Hindus and Muslims) and rival political parties (AQ and the Taliban's targeting of Benazir Bhutto, Musharraf, and their supporters). Sometimes they succeed, as they managed to do in Iraq for sometime, until the Iraqi people finally stood up and said "Enough!", and other times they stand in solidarity, as they have managed to do in India's religiously diverse communities. Despite dozens of attacks, including Saturday's bomb blasts, there has yet to be large-scale violence against the Hindu and Muslim population. This is the good news, and the fact that their barbaric form of "resistance" has failed to do what's intended must hit back at the forces of terrorism.

Photos from CNN/AP

Friday, July 25, 2008

"Blood Metals"

The video above offers some insight into the situation currently taking place in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or the DRC. For those of you who have very little knowledge of just how serious this conflict is, please watch it, and then think of it together with the story below. The article says the demand for this so-called "coltan" has tapered off (not too many people are buying a Playstation 2 these days) but it also reminds us that Africa is full of plenty of other resources genocidal militias and despotic regimes would love to get their hands on and sell to unsuspecting prospective buyers in the west.

The ongoing violence in Eastern Congo could very well threaten another regional war if a catalyst would set the stage for one. Who's to say the latest must-have piece of technology won't be it?

Did Rare Metallic Ore Fuel African "PlayStation War"?

Remember the 2006 movie Blood Diamond? Academy Award nominated flick starring Leo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly about conflict diamonds mined in African war zones and sold to diamond manufacturers to profit warlords and fund brutal wars involving shocking human rights violations? According to a report by progressive media site Toward Freedom, subtract diamonds and insert Sony's international sales-record-trouncing PlayStation 2.

Blame it on a dull black substance called coltan, also known as columbite-tantalite, also occasionally dubbed "black gold." Coltan has been a source material in the manufacture of cell phones, DVD players, computers, and you guessed it: game consoles. Earlier this month, Toward Freedom claimed the metallic ore had exacerbated a decade-old conflict in the Congo, controversially rebranding it "The PlayStation War."

The allegations include charges that hundreds of millions of dollars worth of coltan was stolen from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during its bloody 1998-2003 conflict, mostly by Rwandan military and militias supported by the Rwandan government, but also by several western-based mining companies, metal brokers, and metal processors that allegedly partnered with the Rwandan factions.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A glimmer of hope for justice

In my opinion, strongly worded language like this is *long* overdue if we are to get anywhere in resolving the conflict in Darfur. I say they should bring out the handcuffs for this guy.

Pursuit of Sudan’s Leader Incites Debate

UNITED NATIONS — The International Criminal Court’s pursuit of Sudan’s president set off fierce debate at the United Nations on Friday, with the Sudanese ambassador accusing the court of trying to destabilize his country and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressing concern about the safety of United Nations personnel in the African nation.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor at the court, is expected to announce on Monday that he is seeking an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan in connection with the widespread killing of civilians in the Darfur region since 2003. The United Nations estimates that the conflict has left 300,000 people dead and 2.7 million displaced, and some diplomats worry that the Sudanese will retaliate against the prosecutor’s move by evicting the relief agencies that the civilians depend on to survive.

In anticipation of Monday’s announcement, United Nations officials and diplomats said, tense meetings were held throughout the day, with China, Russia and the African Union arguing that the indictment should not proceed, and the United States and Europe countering that the judicial process had to be allowed to work independently.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

This just might be the most beautiful country in the world

A couple weeks back, I wrote a post about the complex relationship between the United States and Iran. Needless to say, I am rather alarmed by the already strained tensions that have increased since then, which is the reason I decided to write this post.

The Iranian government has once again demonstrated its desire to create instability in the region with Tuesdays launch of several long-range missiles...including the Shahab 3, a ballistic missile capable of striking almost anywhere in the Middle East, and even southern Europe. However, as the West's standoff with Iran intensifies, I think it is important that people, especially Americans, get to see that Iran--as a country, people, and culture--is not evil, and that there are other options besides violent conflict. Personally, I believe that reaching out to the Iranian people and their amazing culture is the best option we have, as well as making sure that the democratic governments in Iraq and Afghanistan--Iran's most significant neighbors--flourish. I remember a broadcast of the Rush Limbaugh program one time, where the conservative host put together a parody song of the democrats. While I found that hilarious, since I am disgusted with "leaders" like Reid and Pelosi, he also went far enough to suggest that Iranians somehow hate the USA. Seeing that Iran is considered to be the largest state sponsor of terrorism, and routinely threatens Israel, it might not be hard to believe this. But fortunately for those of us who want to see a free Iran AND an absence of a third war in the region, there just might be hope.

First of all, look how beautiful these photos are. I have never had the honor of visiting Iran and experiencing what appears to be a breathtaking culture, but I certainly hope I do...perhaps in the not-so-distant future.

Azadi Tower, what a sight to see.

Before I began following events in the Middle East, I once believed Iran was a "desert". While some of it may be, this fresh fallen snow is just as beautiful as anything you might come across here in California--lake Tahoe--or my former home states, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

There is something to remember here: as Iran's Revolutionary Guards continue to come up with more provocative antics to antagonize the west, and the United States and Israel draw up military plans of action to strike Iran, all sides should realize that the first things to be destroyed will not be Iran's brutal theocratic will not be the state of will not be the American way of life...and it will not be the forces of terrorism that has infested Iran's borders and exported their bloody ways to other countries. No, instead, the first thing to be destroyed will be Iran's most beautiful sights, places to visit, and welcoming people.

By the way, I hope that this article reflects the true nature of Iranians--that they are not sympathetic to the ways of their government, at least when it comes to having closer relations to the west

Thursday, July 3, 2008


Last week, I was about to get a Coca-Cola when I noticed the company is "proud partners" with Beijing 2008. After seeing that, I had to put it down (I like Pepsi better anyway). Below is an example of precisely why I am so angry with the Chinese and what they have been doing.

Now is this a fair demand? China is insisting the Dalai Lama renounce violence and Tibetan Independence. Am I reading this correctly?

BEIJING (AP) — China insists the Dalai Lama prove he doesn't support Tibetan independence or disruption of the Beijing Olympics, telling two envoys for the spiritual leader that such "positive actions" are needed before further talks, a state news agency said Thursday.

The demand made by a top Chinese official in two days of meetings indicated no change in Beijing's position toward the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who has long spoken against violence but is frequently demonized by China's Communist leadership.

Beijing has accused him and his supporters of fomenting anti-government protests that rocked Tibet and other Tibetan-inhabited areas of China in March.

The charge has been repeatedly rejected by the Tibetan government-in-exile, which said Thursday that the Dalai Lama had been "tireless" in expressing his commitment to nonviolence.

"He has also gone out of his way to publicly announce his support for the Beijing Olympics. He has even said that he would like to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympics to show his support," said Thupten Samphal, a spokesman for the exile government in Dharmsala, India.

Asking the Dalai Lama to "renounce violence" is like asking Al-Qaeda to "renounce peace". If anyone should be renouncing violence, it is the Chinese...through all they have been doing to his people, the Dalai Lama is still looking for dialogue with China, yet they actually have the nerve to accuse him of fomenting the violence that has plagued Tibet in recent months.