Monthly Archives: June 2008
A key to the massive use of fossil fuels in the U.S. is gross overconsumption. We use way more than necessary, through a combined dependence on the automobile and an infatuation with big, gas-hungry cars, trucks and SUVs., through wasted energy consumption in our homes and offices in everything from their construction to “phantom loads” and light bulbs, and through the amount of green house gas emitted by livestock supplying an overconsumption of food. We must learn to use less.
A New York Times article discusses the Bush Administration’s intentional disregard of advice from the Environmental Protection Agency. In this case, the White House refused to open an email reporting on whether or not greenhouse gases are dangerous to the environment or health. In response, the EPA watered down the report.
The original idea was that if greenhouse gases were ruled to be a danger, they could be regulated under existing environmental laws like the Clean Air Act. This, said the chairman of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality, could result in a “train wreck” of piecemeal regulation. The EPA’s report apparently did not agree with this policy, so the Administration placed its fingers squarely in its ears, tightly shut its eyes, and waited for the report to dilute itself.
This is not the first time the White House has ignored the advice of the EPA and the EPA has rolled over. A similar situation arose when the EPA decided not to let California set tougher emissions standards for vehicles. In that case, the EPA administrator, Stephen L. Johnson, overturned the unanimous decision of his staff, who wanted to allow the California regulations, and said that global, not regional policies are the best way to resolve the problem. This decision came after Johnson had closed door discussions with White House officials, and documents on what led to this decision have been shielded from oversight efforts by “executive privilege.”
I’ve heard that sometimes if you ignore something it will go away. I guess I never realized how true that is.
To mark the International Day In Support of Victims of Torture, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon called on all UN member states to accede to the Convention against Torture and the Optional Protocol, which allows international visits to places of detention. From the UN News Center:
“[t]he foundation of international human rights law strictly prohibits torture “under any and all circumstances. And yet, 60 years since the adoption of the Declaration, torture persists, devastating millions of victims and their families,” he said, adding that the Day was “a call to speak out and take action on their behalf and against all those who commit torture and all forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”
The struggles to deploy and fully equip the joint UN-AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) are well-documented and oft commented-upon. Less frequently does one hear of what the peacekeeping force is doing to protect the people of Darfur. Yesterday, the mission’s representative, Rodolphe Adada, took to the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal to give readers a sense of what peacekeeping on the ground actually looks like.
Writing from Al Fasher, Darfur, Adada confidently assures the world that, despite the international community’s slow response in providing equipment and personnel, “We are not sitting on our hands waiting for the troops and material to arrive.”
Every day our blue-helmeted peacekeepers carry out patrols right across Darfur, an area the size of Texas. They defend thousands of innocent Darfurians, such as women from the camps gathering firewood to cook meals for their families. One of the most disgusting aspects of this conflict has been the widespread rape of women by armed thugs on all sides. Unamid is carrying out more and more night patrols to increase this protection around the clock.
Critics say we are hunkered down, yet the facts speak for themselves: In January, when our mission began, we carried out 271 patrols. Last month, it was 644, or more than 20 a day.
Our peacekeepers intervene on a daily basis across the length and breadth of Darfur to calm tensions arising from cattle losses, water distribution and land ownership – issues at the heart of the conflict. These missions are critical, successful and welcomed by Darfurians, but they do not make international headlines.
Some of our more impassioned critics call on us to intervene more forcefully. I would remind them that Unamid is a peacekeeping force. We are here to keep a peace that doesn’t exist. It is the duty of the belligerents – and there are many – to make peace. As Gen. Martin Luther Agwai, our force commander, stated recently, even if we were at full deployment our peacekeepers are not here to stand between rival armies and militias engaged in full-scale combat.
Adada’s last point bears remembering. Peacekeepers are deployed to ensure compliance with an existing ceasefire, something that does not exist in Darfur right now. They are not armies, and are not meant to square off against opposing armies. Given the unwillingness of both sides of Darfur’s conflict to commit to a meaningful peace accord, as well as the inability of Member States to furnish UNAMID with what it needs, Adada’s peacekeepers are doing the best they can.
There’s been a lot of buzz in the blogosphere over the meeting hosted by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week that resulted in the UN Security Council’s resolution declaring rape as a weapon of war.
Now that the word is out, there’s much to be done, including a push for international law of rape as a war crime. In the meantime, serious kudos goes to the UN Security Council for creating this resolution. As I said last week, while rape as a weapon of war has existed for a long, long, time, it’s only begun to be documented and its recognition is a huge step. And now it seems the resolution has already begun to mobilize the international community; UNIFEM’s “Say No to Violence Against Women” campaign has signed on ten more supporting countries this week.
One of UNIFEM’s goals is to have 1 million names signed before November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, when the signatures will be handed over to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. So get to it and sign your name.
It appears that yesterday’s Guardian Op-ed, in which Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai urged the international community to back up their “words of indignation…by the moral rectitude of military force,” was something of a fraud. In a letter the editor Tsvangirai denies authorship of the piece.
An article that appeared in my name, published in the Guardian (Why I am not running, June 25), did not reflect my position or opinions regarding solutions to the Zimbabwean crisis. Although the Guardian was given assurances from credible sources that I had approved the article this was not the case.
By way of clarification I would like to state the following: I am not advocating military intervention in Zimbabwe by the UN or any other organisation.
This is thoroughly bizarre coming from the Guardian, which has taken down the original op-ed with out explanation. In the meantime, yesterday’s post on the implications of UN intervention in Zimbabwe has been updated.
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.