Political MoJo

Will NATO Go to Darfur?

| Wed Mar. 8, 2006 12:38 PM PST

A few weeks ago we predicted that the Bush administration's bold new promises to help stop the ongoing genocide in Darfur—perhaps by employing NATO—wouldn't amount to much. Sadly, that prediction proved entirely correct. On Monday, NATO's Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Schefer said NATO had no intention of putting "boots on the ground" in Darfur. (As mentioned before, in most European countries there's not really any popular outcry among civil society groups to do anything about a bit of ethnic-cleansing in Africa.)

Eric Reeves, who's followed the Darfur conflict closer than just about anyone else on the planet, notes today that it's not just Europe that deserves the blame here. The United States isn't exactly leading on the issue, either. And while both the EU and the U.S. are pushing for UN involvement, that won't be enough—ultimately, NATO needs to get involved:

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Rumsfeld Blames the Media

Wed Mar. 8, 2006 11:34 AM PST

Donald Rumsfeld thinks the media is responsible for widespread fears of a civil war in Iraq. Recent polls have shown support for the President and the war in Iraq dwindling, with half of Americans calling for a pullout and eighty percent seeing the sectarian violence leading to civil war. But according to Rumsfeld, polls like these aren't reliable as long as public opinions is being corrupted by a press that seems "to be of a nature to inflame the situation and to give heart to the terrorists and to discourage those who hope for success in Iraq."

Although Rumsfeld did not give specific examples of misreporting, he did hypothesize on the root of the problem: "We do know, of course, that al-Qaeda has media committees. We do know that they teach people exactly how to try to manipulate the media," he said. "Now I can't take a string and tie it to a news report and then trace it back to an al-Qaeda media committee meeting. I'm not able to do that at all."

Actually, this isn't the first time Rumsfeld has talked about al-Qaeda's media apparatus. Last month he accused the organization of poisoning Muslim views of the United States through media vehicles like the internet and instant messaging. "Our enemies have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today's media age, but for the most part we—our country, our government—has not adapted," he said. "In some cases, military public affairs officials have had little communications training and little, if any, grounding in the importance of timing and rapid response, and the realities of digital and broadcast media." But if military specialists in public affairs haven't had training in communications, what is it exactly, that they are trained to do?

Today is International Women's Day and Blog Against Sexism Day

| Wed Mar. 8, 2006 9:59 AM PST

Today is International Women's Day, which George W. Bush has already celebrated by lying about the status of Iraqi women. It is also Blog Against Sexism Day; a list of participating blogs can be found here.

Bella Abzug once said:

They used to give us a day--it was called International Women's Day. In 1975 they gave us a year, the Year of the Woman. Then from 1975 to 1985 they gave us a decade, the Decade of the Woman. I said at the time, who knows, if we behave they may let us into the whole thing. Well, we didn't behave and here we are.

For many, International Women's Day is either a nice commemoration or just another liberal plot. Its real purpose, however, is to call attention to the need for equality and justice among all people.

Guest Workers, Again

| Tue Mar. 7, 2006 6:21 PM PST

Linda Chavez-Thompson, the executive vice-president of the AFL-CIO, has an op-ed on immigration in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today that hits a bunch of good notes, including:

Temporary guest worker programs are not a cure-all. Real immigration reform cannot and should not be designed primarily to enlarge guest worker programs that have served only to provide employers with a steady stream of vulnerable, indentured workers they may exploit for commercial gain.
Right. The historical experience is pretty clear on this. Between 1942 and 1964, when immigration was still very much restricted in the United States, the federal government operated the Bracero Program for agricultural work. Immigrants who enrolled were put in holding pens at the border, waited with their numbers for a job, and then stripped and "deloused" and shuttled off to the U.S., where they were bound to their employer and virtually powerless.

Iraqi women without headscarves threatened, attacked, and killed

| Tue Mar. 7, 2006 4:52 PM PST

According to the Women's Rights Association, a Baghdad NGO, since 2003, the number of women in Iraq attacked because they were not wearing headscarves has more than tripled. Between 1999 and March of 2003, there were 22 attacks and one death; since then, there have been 80 attacks and 4 deaths, with no figures are available yet for 2006.

The decision to not wear a headscarf is concentrated in the area around Baghdad because that is where Iraq's modern society has grown. According to a WRA spokeswoman, there are now significantly fewer women and girls around Baghdad wearing headscarves, but many have been threatened by relatives or have been imprisoned inside their homes.

A year ago, insurgents took an Iraqi woman in Western dress out of a local pharmacy and executed her. She was found with two bullet holes in her head, and she had been covered with a traditional abaya veil with a message pinned to it that said "She was a collaborator against Islam." She was not the first woman to have a "collaborator" label pinned to her clothing.

"Honor killings" are still permitted in Iraq. One woman was strangled by her father because she went to visit him without her veil, which her husband had asked her to remove after their marriage. Her husband says there has never been an investigation of his wife's death. A police spokesman said that there is little the Iraqi police can do in these cases because "We're in a Muslim country... if you interfere in family cases concerning veils, you're considered a betrayer of Islam. We cannot touch such cases."

Human Rights Watch points out that--though the new Iraqi constitution permits women the right to transfer citizenship to their children, it fails to give women equal rights within the family. HRW also confirms that Iraqi women are being attacked for dancing, socializing with men, and not wearing headscarves.

An International Women's Day news release from the White House, dated today, states "No longer denied basic rights and brutalized by tyrants, Mr. Bush says those women are now making their own history."

More on the India Nuke Deal

| Tue Mar. 7, 2006 1:15 PM PST

Fred Kaplan gets at some of the problems with the Bush administration's recent nuclear deal with India. Among other worries, India could start building fast-breeder reactors—which can be used to build lots and lots of plutonium bombs—inside its unmonitored military facilities. The whole thing also undermines the Non-Proliferation Treaty: after all, if the U.S. can offer India nuclear technology without requiring the latter to disarm (or even, more weakly, put a moratorium on new weapons), what's to stop Russia and China from offering, say, Pakistan or Iran a similar deal?

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Chinese Censor Ang Lee

Tue Mar. 7, 2006 12:09 PM PST

An AP headline today reads, "Chinese newspaper praises director Ang Lee"—the Academy Award-winning director of Brokeback Mountain. "Ang Lee is the pride of Chinese people all over the world, and he is the glory of Chinese cinematic talent," said China Daily, the official newspaper of China, in a front-page article. But Lee is actually from Taiwan, a detail the People's Republic of China would prefer to omit, since Taiwan is still claimed by China.

And despite the country's praise for Lee's award, Brokeback Mountain is actually banned in China, seen only by those who can get their hands on a pirated copy. Moreover, Chinese censors edited Lee's acceptance speech at the Oscars down for public consumption, taking out both his thanks to "everyone in Taiwan" and his gratitude to "the two gay cowboys." (Until 2001, the Chinese Psychiatric Association considered homosexuality a disease, treatable with shock therapy.)

Supreme Court Backs Military Recuriters

Tue Mar. 7, 2006 11:51 AM PST

Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that universities must open their doors to military recruiters if they want to continue receiving federal funds, even if those universities oppose the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Many university law schools had claimed that being forced to associate with the recruiters was an infringement of their free speech rights. But in his unanimous opinion Justice John Roberts countered this argument, citing the federal law that requires universities to accept recruiters in order to receive funding:

Republicans for South Dakota's Abortion Ban

| Mon Mar. 6, 2006 6:42 PM PST

Further evidence that John McCain is no "moderate":

A spokesperson said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., would have signed the South Dakota [abortion] legislation, "but [he] would also take the appropriate steps under state law -- in whatever state -- to ensure that the exceptions of rape, incest or life of the mother were included."
But, of course, the just-signed law criminalizing virtually all abortions in the state doesn't contain exceptions for rape or incest (it does, however, as Digby notes, contain a "sodomized virgin exception"). And McCain's not the only one: Gov. Mitt Romney (MA) and Sen. George Allen (R-VA)—both top contenders for the GOP's presidential nomination in 2008—are also endorsing the coat-hanger law.

After promising to help families with disabled children, Bush cuts their funding

| Mon Mar. 6, 2006 4:00 PM PST

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, passed in 1975 and amended in 2004, entitles all children with disabillities to a "free appropriate public education," and currently covers 7 million children. In February, George W. Bush promised to "work to remove barriers that still confront Americans with disabilities and their families." However, as with most of Bush's promises, this one means something other than what it says.

The 2007 White House budget proposes to save $3.6 billion over five years by eliminating key Medicaid funding that helps disabled children. According to Representatives George Miller and Lynn Woolsey, the funds Bush wants to cut are used to provide medical equipment for buses, provide transportation to medical appointments, and cover the administrative costs of identifying children who need special medical and educational services.

In addition to cutting the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act by $6 billion, Bush has also proposed a cut of $15 billion for the No Child Left Behind Act. And, as Think Progress points out, America's children have already been harmed by the Medicaid cuts made in January. which caused 39,000 children to lose their Medicaid coverage altogether.