Praying for a toxic end?

This editorial in The Times of India says almost everything that no one in power wants to talk about:

Nuclear energy is toxic
21 Nov 2007, 0001 hrs IST,S H VENKATRAMANI

Amidst the chest-thumping over signing the Indo-US nuclear deal, we have turned a blind eye to the dangers of nuclear energy. We are celebrating our success in persuading the US to rescind its earlier sanctions against India.

The deal will give us access to state-of-the-art nuclear reactor technology. But we have forgotten that there is a very thin line separating nuclear reactor technology and nuclear weapons technology. We need to understand the dangers of using nuclear reactors.

Developed countries, particularly the US, are worried about growing international suspicion that North Korea and Iran are close to making their own nuclear bombs. If countries and sovereign governments cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons, we cannot ignore the possible threat of extremists and radical elements accessing nuclear reactor technology and making their own nuclear bombs. The present political crisis in Pakistan, for instance, opens up the possibility of such groups acquiring access to nuclear bombs.

What makes nuclear energy itself so dangerous is that every commercial nuclear reactor produces 400-500 pounds of plutonium in a year, along with other nuclear waste material. Just 10-20 pounds of plutonium is needed to make a bomb. An average nuclear reactor, therefore, produces enough plutonium waste to make 50 nuclear bombs in a year.

Lethally radioactive plutonium thus brings nuclear reactor technology dangerously close to nuclear weapons technology.

 

In Australia, a political candidate is urging voters to:

Pray for more uranium use: Tollner

An election forum in the marginal Top End seat of Solomon has heard that people should be praying Australia sells huge amounts of uranium to China.Incumbent Coalition candidate Dave Tollner used the forum to claim nuclear power is the only way to effectively tackle global warming. He was scathing about any policy that would see Australia reduce its uranium mining.

“We should be praying that China and India take as much of our uranium as possible to reduce their reliance on coal power. The fact is, the only way that we are going to produce ongoing baseload power… is to export as much of our uranium to them as possible.”

Ignorance and greed really do go hand in hand, don’t they?

And, finally, is DU the way out?

Can anything be done to halt the use of these genocidal weapons? Francis Boyle, Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois and author of The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence, thinks so. He has launched a campaign for a global pact against uranium weapons.

Boyle points out that the 1925 Geneva Protocol prohibits “the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases and of all analogous liquids, materials or devices.” Clearly, he says, DU is “analogous” to poison gas.

The government of France is the official depository for the 1925 Geneva Protocol. Boyle contends that rather than aiming for an international treaty prohibiting the use of DU, which would probably take years, pressure should be put on every state to submit a letter to the French government to enforce a ban.

“All that needs to be done is for anti-DU citizens, activists and NGOs in every country to pressure their foreign minister to write to their French counterpart, drawing attention to the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare of 17th June 1925, prohibiting uses as above.”

The letter should add that this Protocol is believed to “already prohibit the use in war of depleted uranium ammunition, uranium armor plate and all other uranium weapons.” A request should be made that the letter be circulated to all other High Contracting Parties to the 1925 Protocol and addressed to:

His Excellency,

The Foreign Minister,

Republic of France,

37, Quai d’Orsay,

75351 Paris, France.

Or Fax: 33-1-43-17-4275.

Professor Boyle points out, “As the Land Mines Treaty demonstrates, it is possible for a coalition of determined activists and NGOs, acting in concert with at least one sympathetic state, to bring into being an international treaty to address humanitarian concerns.”

 

The Minister of Foreign Affairs in Canada is the Honourable Maxime Bernier [Bernier.M@parl.gc.ca].

Joya on Women in Afghanistan

From Malalai Joya, on Afghanistan, in Q&A: “When I Leave My House, Im Not Sure Ill Make It Back”:

IPS: What has changed since Canada’s increased role in Afghanistan?

MJ: It is shocking news, a catastrophic situation for women in our country. I moved back to Afghanistan to be a social activist on women’s issues. Many women have been kidnapped, many are raped, according to official statements, there have been 250 cases of rape in the west of Afghanistan in the first six months of 2007. Every 28 minutes, an Afghani woman dies from childbirth. The conditions are worse than ever for women. 

And let us remember to remind Premier-elect, Brad Wall, that Saskatchewan’s uranium made its way there, too.

Censure sets back democracy & rights for Afghanistan’s People

Does anyone get the fact that by supporting the military action in Afghanistan they are now supporting the reversal of democratic rights and freedoms?

Human Rights Watch has responded to the censure of outspoken Parliamentarian, Malalai Joya:

Afghanistan: Reinstate MP Suspended for ‘Insult’

Censure of Malalai Joya Sets Back Democracy and Rights

(New York, May 23, 2007) – The Afghan parliament should immediately reinstate Malalai Joya, a member suspended for criticizing colleagues, and revise parliamentary procedures that restrict freedom of speech, Human Rights Watch said today.

On May 21, 2007, the Lower House of the Afghan parliament voted to suspend Joya for comments she made during a television interview the previous day. It is unclear whether Joya’s suspension will run until the current parliamentary session ends in several weeks or whether she will be suspended for the remainder of her term in office, which ends in 2009. In addition to her suspension from parliament, several legislators have said that Joya could be sued for contempt in a court of law.

“Malalai Joya is a staunch defender of human rights and a powerful voice for Afghan women, and she shouldn’t have been suspended from parliament,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Joya’s comments don’t warrant the punishment she received and they certainly don’t warrant court proceedings.”

Tory MP defends Karzai?

What follows is an excerpt from the letter my MP, Dave Batters, sent in response to my concerns about the deaths of Canadians in Afghanistan. As you read, keep in mind that it was Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s Parliament that voted a woman, duly elected to serve in the Parliament, out of it.

We also recognize that important progress is being made in Afghanistan because of the sacrifices of those serving in the Canadian Forces. Under the Taliban, Afghanistan had no free elections, women had no rights, and most Afghan children were denied the opportunity of basic public education. Because of Canada’s important role:

* Over five million children have been enrolled in school, one-third of whom are girls
* Free and fair elections, backed by a national constitution, have allowed 10 million Afghans to have their voices heard and their interests represented
* A new Canadian-led project is enabling 1,500 women to develop home-based fruit and vegetable gardens to supplement family diets and generate income
* Medical attention is now accessible to 77% of the population, up from only 10% in 2001, and 7.2 million children vaccinated against polio
* 4000 houses and shelters have been constructed
* 63,000 soldiers have been disarmed and demobilised and 334,000 mines have been defused and removed.

I assure you that the work of our Armed Forces with NATO in Afghanistan has helped to enrich the lives of millions of Afghan citizens and safeguard Canada against the threat of terrorists. I would encourage you to consider what the world has gained from the sacrifice of these brave men and women in uniform.

When Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai visited Canada’s House of Commons on September 27, 2006, he thanked our country’s soldiers for their work and the sacrifices they have made. He stated: “If the greatness of a life is measured in deeds done for others, then Canada’s sons and daughters who have made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan stand among the greatest of their generation.”

Regarding a diplomatic solution, clearly this is always the preferred means of resolving conflict. However, the Taliban are extremists and murderers who show no regard for human rights and the rule of law. I have attached a list of atrocities recently committed by the Taliban to illustrate why a diplomatic solution is probably not feasible or achievable in dealing with this radical group.

Wars are never entered into easily and we take our commitment in Afghanistan very seriously. It is important that Canada leave the local population better off than when we began our operations and that we ensure that Afghanistan remains a responsible participant in the international community. Our Conservative government will continue to support our troops as they work for the advancement of human rights and security in Afghanistan and around the world.

Interesting spin, isn’t it? How an elected official of one country can condone the creation of a culture of fear in another country and call it advancing human rights is completely and utterly beyond me.

BRING OUR TROOPS HOME!

Afghan Parliament Ousts Female Lawmaker

Oh, look, Steve! See what we’re supporting in Afghanistan? I thought someone said that our troops are there to help women and girls.

HA! BRING THE TROOPS HOME!!!

Afghan Parliament Ousts Female Lawmakerhttp://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,,-6649078,00.html
*Monday May 21, 2007 12:01 PM*
*Afghan Parliament Ousts Female Lawmaker*
*By RAHIM FAIEZ*
*Associated Press Writer*

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament voted
Monday to oust an outspoken female lawmaker who has enraged former
mujahedeen fighters now in President Hamid Karzai’s U.S.-backed government.

The lawmaker, Malalai Joya, compared parliament to a stable full of animals
in a recent TV interview.

The video clip was shown in parliament on Monday, and angry lawmakers voted
to suspend her from the body, said Haseb Noori, spokesman for the
parliament. No formal vote count was held, but a clear majority of lawmakers
voted for her suspension by raising colored cards, Noori said.

A parliament rule known as Article 70 forbids lawmakers from criticizing one
another, Noori said.

Joya, 29, said the vote was a “political conspiracy” against her. She said
she had been told Article 70 was written specifically for her, though she
didn’t say who told her that.

“Since I’ve started my struggle for human rights in Afghanistan, for
women’s rights, these criminals, these drug smugglers, they’ve stood against
me from the first time I raised my voice at the Loya Jirga,” she said,
referring to the constitution-drafting convention.

It was not immediately clear if she could appeal against her ouster.

Joya, a women’s rights worker from Farah province, rose to prominence in
2003 when she branded powerful Afghan warlords as criminals during the Loya
Jirga.

Many of the commanders who fought occupying Soviet troops in the 1980s still
control provincial fiefdoms and have been accused of human rights abuses and
corruption. After ousting the Soviets, the militias turned on each other in
a brutal civil war that destroyed most of the capital, Kabul.

Some faction leaders, like former President Burhanuddin Rabbani and Abdul
Rasul Sayyaf, a deeply conservative Islamist, have been elected to
parliament. Others, like northern strongman Abdul Rashid Dostum, were
appointed by Karzai.

Sayed Alami Balkhi, a lawmaker from the northern province of Balkh, said the
speaker of the upper house of parliament sent a letter to the lower house on
Sunday saying that Joya had humiliated and attacked both houses.

“If the lower house does not take a decision about her, we will take a
decision,” Balkhi quoted the letter as saying.

Joya’s outspoken ways have earned her many enemies in Afghanistan. In
February, during a rally to support a proposed amnesty for Afghans suspected
of war crimes, thousands of former fighters shouted “Death to Malalai
Joya!”

Last May, Joya called some lawmakers “warlords” in a speech at parliament,
prompting some parliamentarians to throw water bottles at her. A small
scuffle broke out between her supporters and detractors, and Joya later told
The Associated Press in an interview that some lawmakers threatened to rape
her as payback.

Joya said Monday that if she couldn’t remain in parliament, she would fight
against “criminals” independently. She said if anything were to happen to
her – a reference to a possible assassination attempt – that “everyone
would know” that the people she has criticized like Rabbani or Sayyaf would
be responsible.

“I’m not alone,” Joya told reporters. “The international community is
with me and all the Afghan people are with me.”

Updated to add a link to liberal catnip’s post regarding Peter McKay’s ridiculousity on this issue.

Women, Peace & Security

Wanna talk Afghanistan? Remember, we were told that Canada was going into the Middle East to help the women. Well, if we’re still in there to give peace and security to the women of Afghanistan and their families, then I think everyone should read this and then read UNIFEM’s annotated version. If we’re not there to do that then whose peace and whose security are we working towards?

Lawyers Against the War Letter to ICC

An excerpt from Lawyers Against the War’s Letter to the International Criminal Court dated 25 April 2007

Re. War crimes and the transfer of detainees from Canadian custody in
Afghanistan

We write to draw your attention to possible war crimes committed with respect to the transfer of detainees from Canadian custody in Afghanistan. In
particular, we request that you open a preliminary examination under Article
15 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to determine
whether there are reasonable bases to investigate Mr. Gordon O’Connor, the
Canadian Minister of National Defence, and General Rick Hillier, the
Canadian Chief of the Defence Staff.

Specifically, we are concerned that Mr. O’Connor and General Hillier have:
1. Chosen to allow detainees to be transferred to the custody of Afghan
authorities despite an apparent risk of torture and other forms of abuse;
2. Chosen not to take reasonable and readily apparent steps to protect
detainees against torture and other forms of abuse—for instance, by
seeking a renegotiation of the December 2005 Canada-Afghanistan
Detainee Transfer Arrangement to bring it into line with pre-existing
Denmark-Afghanistan, UK-Afghanistan and Netherlands-Afghanistan
agreements, and now, following credible reports of the torture of
transferred detainees, by ceasing any further transfers.

Read the full letter here.