Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

Monday, June 20, 2005

SecState Rice Visits the Middle East

Secretary of State Rice (abbreviation-speak shortens that to SecState Rice) is in the Middle East right now. She spent the weekend in Palestine and Israel negotiating part of the details on Israel's planned withdrawal from Gaza. They agreed that the Israeli army should destroy homes built by Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip and Palestinians should be paid to clear the rubble after the Israeli army and settlers leave. Apparently, the middle class homes barricaded on the most fertile land in the area were deemed a waste of space by Palestinian Authority officials. They want to build multi-family homes, schools, and other buildings on the land. The Gaza Strip is one of the most over-populated areas in the world - 1.3 million Palestinians live there without adequate housing, so the fertile land being given back by Israelis should help.

The Israelis, by the way, didn't want to see "militants" taking over their former homes and Israeli politicians thought the site of Palestinians raising Palestinian flags in the abandoned homes on national television would spur the ultra-right wing.

More Info:
"Israel's Next War?" - a Frontline documentary on Israeli religious right-wing extremists* in Gaza. You can watch the program online (best viewed with a high-speed connection).

"Settlers' Homes on Gaza Strip Will Come Down, Rice Says," by Glenn Kessler and Scott Wilson in the Washington Post

"Israelis and Palestinians Agree On Demolishing Houses in Gaza," by Steven Weisman and Greg Myre in the New York Times

"Israel, Palestinians Agree That Settlers' Homes Will Be Razed: Secretary of State Rice announces the decision in Jerusalem, erasing one issue in the Gaza withdrawal. It is unclear who will foot the bill." by Ken Ellingwood and Tyler Marshall in the Los Angeles Times

*this description of the people involved in the Frontline documentary is directly from the Frontline website on the program.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Nuclear Accident Coverup?

Disclosure of a huge radioactive spill in England could turn the tide against nuclear proliferation, but US media won't say a word.

Mismanagement at the "Thorp" spent fuel reprocessing plant at England's notorious Sellafield facility allowed some 22,000 kilograms of uranium and 200 kilograms of plutonium—enough for 20 nuclear weapons—to go missing over the course of at least 3 months. A leaking pipe was spilling a nitric acid solution of the radioactive metals into a huge sump tank to create a "Level 3 Incident" on the 7-level International Nuclear Events Scale.

Although the word from British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) is that everyone in nearby Cumbria, on England's west coast, is perfectly safe, the incident is more than a public relations nightmare—it is a financial mess. Thorp (Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant) was generating £1 million a day towards the United Kingdom's £2.2 billon annual nuclear facility cleanup budget. Thorp's revenue came from contracts to reprocess spent fuel from power stations in the United Kingdom and 8 other countries, but in its 12 years of operation it never came close to fulfilling its quota, and was already being sued for having fallen years behind schedule. Now the government faces heavy costs to design and build robots to repair the leaking pipe (any human entering the building would die from the radiation), process the dissolved metals into manageable form and store the hot material somewhere, somehow.

BNFL management is being punished with bonus cuts for its "complacency".

What does this latest Sellafield problem (there have been many others) say about the economic viability of nuclear power? For over half a century no real solution for nuclear waste disposal has emerged. Direct monetary costs of "temporary" storage are staggering and current environmental and public health costs may be even higher. In many ways—technological, economic, moral, political, and criminal—nuclear power operations promote nuclear warfare and nuclear terrorism.

The American public should consider Sellafield in shaping its attitude toward resuming construction of nuclear power plants. But it can't. American media have reported nothing about the entire Sellafield disaster. Can anybody guess why not?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

World Refugee Week and the real hero of "Hotel Rwanda"

June 15, 2005
Today I attended the reception that our WILPF sponsor, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, held honoring World Refugee Week, June 15 - 20. She and other Representatives introduced HR 306 calling for better protection of refugees and humane treatment of the world's nearly 20,000,000 refugees. Along with the ambassador from Rwanda and a representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, we heard the "real" Paul Rusesabagina, made famous by the movie "Hotel Rwanda", give his analysis of the conflictand genocide in Rwanda and the need to work with refugees all over the world. If you haven't seen the movie "Hotel Rwanda" I highly recommend it. The producer of the film was also present.

Congresswoman Johnson also made a strong plea to work for peace throughout the world in order to end the growing refugee crisis.

Christine Gedin, a young woman of Sudan, who has spent much of her life as a refugee and is now with the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, made a poignant plea for women in warring nations, as well as women from all over the world to join in ending war and helping refugees to return home or find asylum. She would be an excellent member of WILPF.

It was an inspiring, though somewhat depressing, afternoon. There is SO much to do....everywhere we turn! One excellent sign of hope was the number of young men and women from the Congressional staff who attended. Their response to the speakers was enthusiastic. Let's hope their enthusiasm turns into dynamic service.

Peace, Phyllis Yingling

Abuse in Kirkuk Aided by US Military

It is almost impossible to believe today's lead story in the Washington Post. "Kurdish Officials Sanction Abductions in Kirkuk: U.S. Memo Says Arabs, Turkmens Secretly Sent to the North," by Steve Fainaru and Anthony Shadid explains the contents of a confidential State Department memo regarding the abduction of Arabs and Turkmens and their secret transfer to other cities.

While you might expect that without international help, an ethnic minority would seek retribution from their neighbors for Saddam Hussein's actions, it is amazing that the USG has done absolutely nothing to prevent the wide scale abuse of human rights. Indeed, the DOD is complicit in the kidnappings, since the US military aids the politically controlled Kurdish military in these abductions. Further, despite all of the evidence that these Kurdish military groups are corrupt, American commanders continue to call them extremely reliable allies.

Background info from the article: Hussein practiced ethnic cleansing during the 80s, and moved Arabs and Turkmens north into Kurdish cities.
Kurds, who are just shy of a majority in the city and are growing in number, hope to make Kirkuk and the vast oil reserves beneath it part of an autonomous Kurdistan.
You wonder why people distrust the USG? It's because of statements like this:
Blagburn, the intelligence officer, said that even though the Emergency Services Unit is largely responsible for the secret transfers, it continues to provide valuable assistance in the counterinsurgency. Blagburn termed the unit "a very cooperative, coalition-friendly system."

"We know we can drop a guy in there and he'd be taken care of and he's safe," Blagburn said. "That's the reason why the ESU is used most of the time. That's basically the unit we can trust the most."
Good to know torturers are willing to help out the US Occupation forces when they're needed.

I am thoroughly disgusted by this administration and their horrible abuse of power and mockery of democracy. I am grateful someone at State leaked the memo to WaPo and hope that it will soon be available to the public in its entirety.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Challenging American Corporate Power in Iraq

I received this link from a member of the Challenging U.S. Foreign Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East Campaign leadership committee. "Iraq's Other Resistance: Oil workers in Basra are ready to fight privatisation," by Greg Muttitt appeared in Friday's Guardian newspaper.

It is amazing to read about the courage of Iraqis to rebuild their country despite the many setbacks caused by corporate and coalition forces inefficiency.

Friday, June 03, 2005

What Could Be More Pressing Than Genocide?

A fellow Chicago WILPFer pointed me to this Open Letter to President Bush on Darfur: Specific Actions to Stop the Ongoing Genocide, on the Black Commentator website.
The Open Letter to the President on Darfur asserts the need for an urgent international intervention to support the African Union’s mission in Darfur, in order to:

  1. stop the killing and provide security for millions of internally displaced people (IDPs);
  2. facilitate the urgent delivery of humanitarian assistance;
  3. enforce the cease fire and provide a stable environment for meaningful peace talks to proceed; and
  4. facilitate the voluntary return of IDPs to their land and the reconstruction of their homes by providing a secure environment.

The letter calls on the Bush Administration to:

  1. work through the United Nations (UN) to achieve a stronger civilian protection mandate for the African Union mission and for a broader international force, and
  2. encourage the UN to quickly approve and assemble a robust international force to integrate or co-deploy with the African Union and reinforce its efforts.
It is vitally important that we demand more action from the U.S. Government and the international community to stop the genocide in Darfur.

More information:
Nikolas Kristof of the NYT
Responding to readers - ways to help and more info on his current work in Darfur
"Day 141 of Bush's Silence," op-ed (with online multimedia presentation) from Sunday's NYT

Sudan: The Passion of the Present" blog recommended by Kristof for daily updates on the genocide

Eric Reeve's Sudan website, also recommended by Kristof. Reeves is a professor at Smith College in Massachusetts.