The Vatican & The Twisted Sisters

Is feminism destroying “manhood”?  That would be good news.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t done much towards destroying Vatican manhood:

While visiting Manila-Philippines, Vatican official Paul Josef Cordes declared yesterday that “feminism” is not only eroding manhood but causing “a crisis in fatherhood.”

According to Cordes, “gender mainstreaming” and “radical feminism” attack biological manhood by insisting that gender roles are learned. He claims that men are demeaned by the ideal of a “sweeter man” who is both emasculated and feminized.

Cordes lays the blame for delinquency and suicides among “fatherless children,” on women. This prompted a local feminist (who considers “sweeter men” as a cause for celebration) to ask the obvious: “How is it that when men abandon their families, women get blamed?”

Cordes’ lament comes in the wake of deliberations in the Philippine Senate, which is likely to result in the passage of pro-women’s rights legislation called the Magna Carta for Women. The bill seeks to adopt the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) into local legislation.

While there is reason to hope that a law furthering women’s rights will be passed soon, it was recently noted in the local media that the influential wife of a former Senator was “lobbying” in the Senate by threatening senators with no less than the “opprobrium of the Catholic bishops.”  Even as I write this post, advocates are hard at work to defend the provisions of the bill, which are being targeted for deletion by the self-appointed Catholic lobbyists.

Good lord!  Or not.

Read the whole thing here

But ya know, the position of the United States on the ratification of CEDAW isn’t much better than what the Romans want, really:

So, where is the whole U.S. CEDAW ratification movement?

Not only has the U.S. not ratified CEDAW, but most supporters of ratification, including new Vice President Joe Biden, treat its ratification like voting for a national flower, taking pains to reassure the public that ratification would not impose any new burdens on the government. Of course, this is true, because with the full support of the Democratic Congress and the women’s movement, the version of CEDAW now pending in the U.S. Senate has been gutted to the core by some eleven reservations, understandings and declarations (RUDs). (A full listing of RUDs is available at thomas.gov under Human Rights Treaties.) The support by liberal proponents of CEDAW, including Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama, is not qualified by the important distinction that the treaty should only be ratified without reservations. These leaders, while well intentioned in their efforts to ratify the treaty, do not realize that if passed with the qualifiers currently in place, CEDAW will threaten the advancement of equality rights globally.

The twisted sister CEDAW would preclude women from challenging laws based on the physical differences between men and women, including discriminatory maternity coverage or criminal abortion laws.

The most deceptive RUD, unopposed by CEDAW supporters, states, Nothing in this convention shall be construed to reflect or create any right to abortion and in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning. This language is touted as neutral or benign but is not. Drafted by the late Republican Senator Jesse Helms, a vociferous opponent of abortion, this language can and has been used as an anti-abortion weapon. Without the right to govern decisions about their own bodies and health, women will never achieve full equality.

Ironically, if the U.S. intention in ratifying CEDAW is to send a supportive message to women globally, our twisted sister version will, in fact, do the opposite. Although the RUDs seemingly apply solely to American women, they eviscerate the core of CEDAW, the definition of equality and provide legal authority to those who want to undermine women’s rights.

Here

Here’s the Women’s Division of CEDAW

Israel & Obama

From Sunera Thobani at rabble:

In one fell swoop, the Israelis have destroyed whatever momentum Obama might have mobilized for a peaceful resolution of the blockade of Gaza and the siege that Gazans and Hamas have endured. Israel has pushed Obama into a corner with this attack, intensifying the suffering of the Palestinian people and making it all but inevitable that retribution will follow.

A state of war with its neighbours benefits Israel’s ambitions in the region, even as it secures support for Zionist lobbies in the western world. During the U.S. election campaign, Vice-President Elect Joe Biden had warned that Obama would be tested early in his presidency. Few expected the challenge to come from a staunch U.S. ally and not from those contesting U.S. power.

Obama’s silence on the Gaza crisis grows more curious by the day; it has already cost him much political capital. He appears weak and ineffectual even before his inauguration, one more symbol of hope capitulating to the realpolitik of the ‘special’ U.S./Israeli relationship.

Read the whole thing here

Obama has seen fit both to comment upon and to act upon matters of economic interest.  Why not upon Israel’s attack on Gaza?  Thobani seeks an answer.

Rabbi Michael Lerner has some suggestions for Obama.  He concludes:

The most significant contribution the new Obama Administration could make to Middle East Peace would be to embrace an alternative strategy: that homeland security is best achieved through generosity and caring for others. If the US were to announce its embrace of a Global Marshall Plan, beginning with the Middle East and backed up with money and the conscious articulation of a Strategy of Generosity, it would do more to help Israel than all the armaments it can promise and all the shuttle diplomacy it might facilitate. If this new way of thinking could become a major part of US policy, it would have an immense impact on undermining the fearful consciousness of Israelis who still see the world more through the frame of the Holocaust than through the frame of their actual present power in the world.

Meanwhile, it breaks my heart to see the terrible suffering in Gaza and Israel, as it does when witnessing the suffering brought to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Darfur—and the list goes one. For me as a religious Jew it is all the worse, because under the guise of serving God, both Jews and Arabs are actually acting out their accumulated pain in ways that will generate future suffering. At the same time Jews in the US who yearn to justify Israel’s actions only confirm to many young Jews that there is no place for them in the Jewish world if they hold a normal ethical sensibility, and further confirms to me how easy it is to pervert the loving message of Judaism into a message of hatred and domination. So I remain in mourning for the Jewish people, for Israel, and for the world.

It’s well worth reading Lerner’s article, here

Nowhere to Run

Well, at least the current Israeli attack on Gaza won’t create any refugees.  Gazans have nowhere to run and face the aggression of Egypt when they try:

… on Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, the ground shook on Sunday afternoon. In a matter of four minutes, Israeli aircraft destroyed 40 smuggling tunnels running under the border. The tunnels are used to smuggle goods and weapons into Gaza.

Area resident Fida Kishta rushed to the border once the smoke cleared – and she wasn’t alone.

Hundreds gathered at the border wall, trying to get across. Egyptian border guards opened fire above the crowds, trying to scatter them. Instead, residents manned a bulldozer and tried to knock down the wall.

When that didn’t work, they set an explosive device beside it, knocking what Kishta said appeared to be a small hole. Dozens of defiant Gazans clambered over it, but were eventually returned to Gaza.

At times, shock turned into confusion and denial. A news photographer who found the body of a friend under the rubble drove him home, unwilling to believe he was dead.

“My children are wetting the bed, they cry when they hear planes,” said Amal Hassan, 38, a mother of three children. “I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Maybe the next bomb will fall here, maybe the next person killed will be one of us,” Hassan said.   [more at The Star]

Gazans are people about whom no one cares at all, apart from Hamas.  No wonder Hamas has their support.

Israel, Gaza & Hamas

From NYT:

When President-elect Barack Obama visited Israel in July — to the very town, in fact, whose repeated shelling culminated in this weekend’s new fighting in Gaza — he all but endorsed the punishing Israeli attacks now unfolding.

“If somebody was sending rockets into my house, where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to everything in my power to stop that,” he told reporters in Sderot, a small city on the edge of Gaza that has been attacked repeatedly by rocket fire. “And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.”

I ask you, how many Israeli children have been killed in their beds by rocket-fire from Hamas?  The answer is, zero.  How many Palestinians have been killed by Israeli aggression in Gaza in the last several days?  More than 300.  How many Gazans will be killed before the Israelis are finished there?  Unknown, but more than zero.

The renewed fighting — and the international condemnation of the scope of Israeli’s response — has dashed already limited hopes for quick progress on the peace process that Mr. Bush began in Annapolis, Md., in November 2007. The omission of Hamas from any talks between the Israelis and President Mahmoud Abbas, who controls only the West Bank, had always been a landmine that risked blowing up a difficult and delicate peace process, but so have Israel’s own internal political divisions.

It appears that the landmine represented by the exclusion of Hamas exploded.  Israel has never been known to show restraint in these circumstances.  That makes them perfect allies for the United States of America.  I’ll be impressed if Obama exerts pressure on Israel to end the suppression of Gazans and its aggression toward the Palestinian people.  I’ll be similarly impressed if he exercises such restraint in Afghanistan.  Surprised and impressed.

1228gazafamily364

From Richard Falk at The Nation:

Certainly the rocket attacks against civilian targets in Israel are unlawful. But that illegality does not give rise to any Israeli right, neither as the Occupying Power nor as a sovereign state, to violate international humanitarian law and commit war crimes or crimes against humanity in its response. I note that Israel’s escalating military assaults have not made Israeli civilians safer; to the contrary, the one Israeli killed today after the upsurge of Israeli violence is the first in over a year.

Israel has also ignored recent Hamas’ diplomatic initiatives to reestablish the truce or ceasefire since its expiration on 26 December.

The Israeli airstrikes today, and the catastrophic human toll that they caused, challenge those countries that have been and remain complicit, either directly or indirectly, in Israel’s violations of international law. That complicity includes those countries knowingly providing the military equipment including warplanes and missiles used in these illegal attacks, as well as those countries who have supported and participated in the siege of Gaza that itself has caused a humanitarian catastrophe.

I remind all member states of the United Nations that the UN continues to be bound to an independent obligation to protect any civilian population facing massive violations of international humanitarian law – regardless of what country may be responsible for those violations. I call on all Member States, as well as officials and every relevant organ of the United Nations system, to move on an emergency basis not only to condemn Israel’s serious violations, but to develop new approaches to providing real protection for the Palestinian people.

UPDATE:

Glenn Greenwald has this:

Opinions about the Israeli-Palestinian dispute are so entrenched that any single outbreak of violence is automatically evaluated through a pre-existing lens, shaped by one’s typically immovable beliefs about which side bears most of the blame for the conflict generally or “who started it.”  Still, any minimally decent human being — even those who view the world through the most blindingly pro-Israeli lens possible, the ones who justify anything and everything Israel does, and who discuss these events with a bottomless emphasis on the primitive (though dangerous) rockets lobbed by Hamas into Southern Israel but without even mentioning the ongoing four-decades brutal occupation or the recent, grotesquely inhumane blockade of Gaza — would find the slaughter of scores of innocent Palestinians to be a horrible and deeply lamentable event.
But not The New Republic‘s Marty Peretz.  Here is his uniquely despicable view of the events of the last couple of days:

So at 11:30 on Saturday morning, according to both the Jerusalem Post and Ha’aretz, as well as the New York Times, 50 fighter jets and attack helicopters demolished some 40 to 50 sites in just about three minutes, maybe five. Message: do not fuck with the Jews.

“Do not fuck with the Jews.”  And what of the several hundred Palestinian dead — including numerous children — and many hundreds more seriously wounded?  

What’s come to be is that anyone who dares critisize Israel on any grounds is automatically an anti-semite who wants to see Israel blown into the sea.  Let me make it clear that I believe Israel has acquired a “right” to exist, or should I say, co-exist, in the Middle East.  I do not blame Israelis or the state of Israel for all of the violence in that area.  Neither do I think that it will ever suffice to say “There are arguments on both sides, so anything Israel does is ‘ok'”. 

I would like readers to consider this – if the Palestinians together or Hamas and Gazans specifically, were able to blockade Israel for months (or a minute?) , causing starvation and mass suffering among the populace, and then kill and injure its citizenry with the full force of a mighty army (which the Gazans will never have), how would we respond?  To say that Israel’s disproportionate response to Hamas is illegal and immoral is not to say that lobbing rockets at Israel is ok.

Barack Obama sanctioned Israeli aggression because of Hamas rocket attacks.  Why doesn’t the corollary apply?

Greenwald again:

… “if a foreign power were brutally occupying my country for four decades — or blockading my country and denying my children medical needs and nutrition and the ability even to exit — I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that.  And I would expect Palestinians to do the same thing”?  But the last thing that our political class ever extends is reciprocal, two-sided analysis to this dispute.

Greenwald also gives us this interesting article by Gideon Levy at Haaretz Israeli News, “The neighbourhood bully strikes again” and points out that no American politician could get away with such a position.  Likely no Canadian politician either.

Here, Dawg gets pounded in the Canadian blogosphere for his “anti-semitism”.

And here’s a comment by someone who styles him/herself “Western Canadian” at small dead idiots animals:

Hammer the shit out of them Israel and close your borders to them. If the general population wonders where their next meal is coming from they might take exception to the militants setting up shop in their neighborhoods and do something about it, maybe.

Close the borders?   If people wonder “where their next meal is coming from”?  If?  The people might “do something about it”?  Give me grace, people who have been the subject of violence and repression over the period of four decades are supposed to have the ability to affect political decisions?  We’d all do well to consider the conditions in which people really have a choice.

Israel, Zionism & the Palestinians

From Avraham Burg at the International Herald Tribune:

The Zionist revolution has always rested on two pillars: a just path and an ethical leadership. Neither of these is operative any longer. The Israeli nation today rests on a scaffolding of corruption, and on foundations of oppression and injustice. As such, the end of the Zionist enterprise is already on our doorstep. There is a real chance that ours will be the last Zionist generation. There may yet be a Jewish state here, but it will be a different sort, strange and ugly.

There is time to change course, but not much. What is needed is a new vision of a just society and the political will to implement it. Nor is this merely an internal Israeli affair. Diaspora Jews for whom Israel is a central pillar of their identity must pay heed and speak out. If the pillar collapses, the upper floors will come crashing down.

[…]

It turns out that the 2,000-year struggle for Jewish survival comes down to a state of settlements, run by an amoral clique of corrupt lawbreakers who are deaf both to their citizens and to their enemies. A state lacking justice cannot survive. More and more Israelis are coming to understand this as they ask their children where they expect to live in 25 years. Children who are honest admit, to their parents’ shock, that they do not know. The countdown to the end of Israeli society has begun.

It is very comfortable to be a Zionist in West Bank settlements such as Beit El and Ofra. The biblical landscape is charming. From the window you can gaze through the geraniums and bougainvilleas and not see the occupation. Traveling on the fast highway ›hat takes you from Ramot on Jerusalem’s northern edge to Gilo on the southern edge, a 12-minute trip that skirts barely a half-mile west of the Palestinian roadblocks, it’s hard to comprehend the humiliating experience of the despised Arab who must creep for hours along the pocked, blockaded roads assigned to him. One road for the occupier, one road for the occupied.

This cannot work. Even if the Arabs lower their heads and swallow their shame and anger forever, it won’t work. A structure built on human callousness will inevitably collapse in on itself. Note this moment well: Zionism’s superstructure is already collapsing like a cheap Jerusalem wedding hall. Only madmen continue dancing on the top floor while the pillars below are collapsing.

We have grown accustomed to ignoring the suffering of the women at the roadblocks. No wonder we don’t hear the cries of the abused woman living next door or the single mother struggling to support her children in dignity. We don’t even bother to count the women murdered by their husbands.

Israel, having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians, should not be surprised when they come washed in hatred and blow themselves up in the centers of Israeli escapism. They consign themselves to Allah in our places of recreation, because their own lives are torture. They spill their own blood in our restaurants in order to ruin our appetites, because they have children and parents at home who are hungry and humiliated.

We could kill a thousand ringleaders and engineers a day and nothing will be solved, because the leaders come up from below — from the wells of hatred and anger, from the “infrastructures” of injustice and moral corruption.

If all this were inevitable, divinely ordained and immutable, I would be silent. But things could be different, and so crying out is a moral imperative.

Read the whole thing here

I Gotta Stop This …

… ’cause I can’t stop anything:

The vast resources the U.S. and Europeans are pouring into ailing financial firms could lead to disastrous consequences for global efforts to reduce poverty and mitigate the impacts of climate change, warns a new study by an independent think tank.

The study, entitled “Skewed Priorities: How the Bailouts Dwarf Other Global Crises”, points out that the U.S and European governments are willing to help financial firms in crisis with more than 4 trillion dollars — an amount estimated to be 40 times higher than what is being spent on measures to fight climate change and poverty.

According to researchers at the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies, which released the study’s findings Monday, governments of the rich industrialised countries are very likely to use the cost of their financial sector bailouts as an excuse to backtrack on global aid for poverty and climate change financing commitments.

Read this if you want, here

Or, listen to this:

k.d. – ‘crying” – oh YEAH!

be still my pounding heart – or not!

Sean Penn with Chavez & Raul Castro

From Sean Penn at The Nation:

Soon to be Vice President-elect Joe Biden was rallying the troops: “We can no longer be energy dependent on Saudi Arabia or a Venezuelan dictator.” Well, I know what Saudi Arabia is. But having been to Venezuela in 2006, touring slums, mixing with the wealthy opposition and spending days and hours at its president’s side, I wondered, without wondering, to whom Senator Biden was referring. Hugo Chávez Frías is the democratically elected president of Venezuela (and by democratically elected I mean that he has repeatedly stood before the voters in internationally sanctioned elections and won large majorities, in a system that, despite flaws and irregularities, has allowed his opponents to defeat him and win office, both in a countrywide referendum last year and in regional elections in November). And Biden’s words were the kind of rhetoric that had recently led us into a life-losing and monetarily costly war, which, while toppling a shmuck in Iraq, had also toppled the most dynamic principles upon which the United States was founded, enhanced recruitment for Al Qaeda and deconstructed the US military.

 

By now, October 2008, I had digested my earlier visits to Venezuela and Cuba and time spent with Chávez and Fidel Castro. I had grown increasingly intolerant of the propaganda. Though Chávez himself has a penchant for rhetoric, never has it been a cause for war. In hopes of demythologizing this “dictator,” I decided to pay him another visit. By this time I had come to say to friends in private, “It’s true, Chávez may not be a good man. But he may well be a great one.”

Conversations with Chavez and Castro

Sean Penn: The Truth About Chavez and Castro

Oh Please!

The case for withdrawing US and NATO (that means CANADIAN!) troops from Afghanistan:

While Obama’s election may indicate a shift in U.S. foreign policy (and hopefully a rejection of the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war), Obama has prescribed more military operations in Afghanistan.

For more than a year, Obama has argued for redeploying U.S. troops from Iraq to Afghanistan. He has called Afghanistan the “central front in the War on Terror” and has even threatened to bomb Pakistan should there be evidence that Afghan warlords are hiding there and the Pakistani government isn’t “doing enough” about it. (On this last point, Bush has already bombed Pakistan several times over the last few months, prompting the Pakistani government to publicly rebuke the U.S. for violating its sovereignty.)

While Obama’s rhetoric in arguing for increased involvement in Afghanistan makes some sense – he claims that Bush has been so involved with Iraq that the al-Qaeda leaders who allegedly orchestrated the September 11 attacks are still at large – his proposed methodology doesn’t.

Instead of scaling up an already disastrous war, the United States could change course in a way that would ultimately do a lot more to ensure the world’s safety. Such measures should include:

  1. Withdrawing troops. International law is clear on this subject. No country may occupy another indefinitely and certainly not without the will of the people being occupied. If an Obama administration truly thinks that withdrawing U.S. and NATO troops would be a bad thing for Afghans, hold a referendum to see who would like the troops to remain.
  2. Working with the various Afghan factions to begin negotiations. Wars are rarely stopped on the battlefield, and those that are have a tendency to break out again after a few years. The recent history of Afghanistan illustrates this point. It’s better by far for enemies and friends, Pashtun, Tajik, and others to settle differences through negotiation based on mutual respect and the rule of law.
  3. Once stability and security are guaranteed in Afghanistan, beginning the attack on fundamentalism in earnest. Working to incorporate Afghanistan into the international human rights framework through enforcing UN measures which Afghanistan has already ratified, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women is one step that can be taken in this regard. Another is major investment in social infrastructure and particularly health and education measures which will ultimately help Afghanistan recover from being bombed “into the stone age.”

If the idea of immediately stopping all military operations in Afghanistan sounds radical, it shouldn’t. No less than President Hamid Karzai pleaded for an end to the bombings immediately after the U.S. election, as yet another wedding party fell victim to bombs from the sky.

For the sake of all us, Afghan and American, let’s hope President Barack Obama heeds his call.

It’s a good article and also gives some of the history of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the effects of the US/NATO presence since the US invasion.  Go read it here

What About Congo?

While the United States, Canada and NATO pour money into fighting apparently endless and likely useless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Democratic [sic] Republic of Congo goes up in flames again.  UN troops are clearly helpless to prevent the fighting which has seen hundreds of thousands of people killed and women raped and maimed.  They don’t have the support they need to be effective which begs the question, who are the people the world will protect?  Why not these people?  Or are we really into protecting people at all?

One of the arguments used by George W. Bush et al for going to war with Iraq was to stop the murderous dictator Sadaam Hussein from killing his fellow citizens.  I never believed that was the reason but some people did.  The reason I didn’t believe it was that the US has never seen fit to save the citizens of any country but its own from cruelty.  What I want to know is, why aren’t people howling about the cost being paid by the citizens of Congo and demanding that the world intervene to protect them from atrocities, if they were so upset about Sadaam Hussein?

Rebels vowing to take Congo’s eastern provincial capital of 600,000 people advanced toward Goma on Tuesday as Congolese troops and UN tanks retreated in a haze of fumes.

Adding to the melee, tens of thousands of civilians jammed the roads. Many were carrying huge bundles of clothes, pots and bedding on their heads. Even young children balanced sacks of food on their heads, walking along rutted roads in bare feet.

The United Nations refugee agency said it was struggling to prepare for the arrival of an estimated 30,000 civilians fleeing the fighting between rebels and government forces.

Some refugees, who had spent the night sleeping on ground muddy from tropical showers, lobbed rocks Tuesday at UN tanks with Uruguayan troops also heading away from the battlefield.

“What are they doing? They are supposed to protect us,” complained Jean-Paul Maombi, a 31-year-old nurse from Kibumba.

As some tanks fled the fighting, UN officials ordered staff to stay home Tuesday and away from rock-throwing mobs. The commander of the embattled Congo peacekeeping force resigned Monday after just a month on the job, and officials were hastily trying to find a permanent successor.

Peacekeepers fired into the air at one UN compound that came under a hail of rocks Monday, and city leaders said three people were killed. Mobs hurled the stones to protest the UN’s failure to protect them from the rebels, despite having 17,000 peacekeepers in its Congo mission.

Renegade Gen. Laurent Nkunda has vowed to seize Goma, a lakeside city of 600,000 on the border with Rwanda in Central Africa.

Mr. Nkunda signed a cease-fire with the government in January, but defected because he said the government showed no interest in protecting his Tutsi people — a tiny minority of 3 per cent in east Congo — from Rwandan Hutu militiamen who escaped to Congo after helping perpetrate Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. Some half a million Rwandan Tutsis were slaughtered in that genocide.

But Mr. Nkunda’s ambitions have expanded since he launched a fresh onslaught on Aug. 28 — he now declares he will “liberate” all of Congo, a country the size of Western Europe with vast reserves of diamonds, gold and other resources. Congo’s vast mineral wealth helped fuel back-to-back wars from 1997-2003.

More than 200,000 people have been forced from their homes in the last two months, the UN says, joining 1.2 million displaced in previous conflicts in the east. Outbreaks of cholera and diarrhea have killed dozens in camps, compounding the misery.

UN efforts to halt Mr. Nkunda’s rebellion are complicated by the country’s rugged terrain, dense tropical forests that roll over hills and mountains with few roads. UN provincial chief Hiroute Guebre Selassie told angry civil leaders on Monday that Mr. Nkunda’s fighters also were using guerrilla tactics.

“We cannot use the helicopters to prevent them advancing, because they hide in the bush, they fight on many fronts, and they hide themselves among the population,” she said. “(That) strategy makes it very difficult for us to master the situation.”

On Monday, peacekeepers in attack helicopters fired at the rebels trying to stop them taking Kibumba, a village on the main road 50 km. north of Goma. But fleeing civilians say the fighters overran Kibumba anyway.

A UN helicopter gunship patrolled the sky Tuesday in Kilimanyoka, 10 km. north of Goma. Rebel spokesman Bertrand Bisimwa said he expected the helicopters to soon attack their front line, which he said is within 20 km. of Goma.

The chief UN mandate is to protect the population. But since the peace deal it also is helping the Congolese army disarm and repatriate Hutu militiamen — by force if necessary.

Yet Mr. Bisimwa, the rebel spokesman, claimed Tuesday the Congolese army has abandoned dozens of its positions to Hutu militiamen.

“It’s the Hutus who are on the front line and whom we are fighting, not the army,” he said. UN peacekeepers “leave us no choice but to fight on.”

Mr. Nkunda long has charged that Congolese soldiers fight alongside the militia of Hutus, an ethnic majority of about 40 per cent in the region.

Some 800 Hutu militiamen have voluntarily returned to Rwanda, the UN says, but the fighters recruit and coerce Congolese Hutu children and young men into their ranks daily — far outnumbering those who have returned home.

Civil leaders led by Jason Luneno said if UN peacekeepers cannot halt the rebel advance, the peacekeepers should leave Congo and “the people will descend into the streets to demand the government resign.”

Tensions also are high on the diplomatic front. Congo this week repeated charges that Rwanda’s Tutsi-led government is sending troops across the border to reinforce Mr. Nkunda. Rwanda denies the charges and the U.N. says they are unfounded.

The UN refugee agency said a team under “tight security” was heading to the village of Kibati to prepare for an influx of refugees. Wailing babies and children with worried frowns were among the thousands there who had no idea where they were headed.

“What can we do? We have nothing,” said Mr. Maombi, the nurse.

From The Globe and Mail

Death in Afghanistan

Following hard on the heels of the recent deaths of two Canadian soldiers and one Canadian diplomat, the murders of aid workers in Afghanistan:

PUL-E-ALAM, Afghanistan — Taliban fighters wielding Kalashnikov rifles fired dozens of bullets into an aid agency’s SUV on Wednesday, killing three female western workers — a Canadian, a British-Canadian and an American-Trinidadian — along with their Afghan driver.

The assault on two clearly marked aid vehicles on the main road south of Kabul comes amid a spike in militant attacks on aid groups this year. Some relief workers are now questioning whether they can still work in remote areas where the help is most needed.

The three killed in Logar province, just south of Kabul, worked for the New York-based International Rescue Committee, said Melissa Winkler, a spokeswoman. She gave their nationalities as a Trinidadian-American, a dual British-Canadian national and a Canadian.

Michael Kocher, IRC’s vice-president of international programs, said “this was simply a murderous act against humanitarian workers — committed individuals who were there to assist the people of Afghanistan.”

Mr. Kocher identified the 40-year-old British-Canadian as Jacqueline Kirk of Outremont, Que. She had been the education program adviser for the IRC since 2004.

Wednesday afternoon Ms. Kirk’s husband Andrew Kirk told CTV that his wife had been going to Afghanistan off and on since 2004. He said they realized there were risks, but thought they were well managed. “She said she felt quite safe there.”

The other Canadian killed was 31 years old and had been in Afghanistan for less than a year. Mr. Kocher said her family asked that her name be withheld until all siblings and relatives have been notified.

Also killed was Nicole Dial, 32, a dual citizen of Trinidad and the United States, who was the IRC’s co-ordinator for children’s program, Kocher said.

The driver killed was Mohammad Aimal, 25, who had worked for the IRC for five years.

Another driver, hospitalized in stable condition in Kabul, is 30 years old. Mr. Kocher said the IRC was not releasing his name.

“These extraordinary individuals were deeply committed to aiding the people of Afghanistan, especially the children who have seen so much strife,” said George Rupp, the president of the IRC.

The group said it has suspended its humanitarian aid programs indefinitely in Afghanistan.

Five gunmen armed with assault rifles stepped out of a small village area and fired at the vehicles, said Abdullah Khan, the deputy counterterrorism director in Logar, citing an Afghan IRC employee injured in the attack who was travelling in a second vehicle.

The women’s vehicle, a white SUV, was hit by dozens of bullets, said Mr. Khan.

The women were driving from the eastern province of Paktia to Kabul in a vehicle marked with IRC stickers when they were attacked.

The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying the target was two vehicles of “the foreign invader forces.”

“They were not working for the interests of Afghanistan and they belonged to those countries whose forces … took Afghanistan’s freedom,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press in a phone call from an undisclosed location.

Mr. Mujahid called the women spies, a frequent Taliban accusation.

[more]

The Taliban entered Afghanistan with the support of the Pakistani government of Benazir Bhutto and the US after the Russians pulled out and established “order”, with the tacit approval of the Pashtun population of the country.  The order they established among tribal warlords was not to the liking of many Afghanis, especially women, nor, eventually, when they became a threat, to Western powers.  Nevertheless, Afghanistan did become some version of a sovereign state under the Taliban.  Whether we like it or not, it’s hardly surprising that the Taliban consider all outside comers to the country to be “foreign invaders”.

Stephen Harper says this attack is just more proof of the brutality of the Taliban and their lack of adherence to international standards of warfare.  Apparently, we are only in Afghanistan to “help rebuild the country”.    That’s simply a lie.

When the West can be proud of its own adherence to international standards of warfare, we may regain the right to make such judgments.  When we stop invading foreign countries in order to secure our own safety and stabilize access to oil resources, perhaps we will be in a position to assist sovereign nations and people in successfully competing in international markets while extending human rights to their citizens.  At the moment, our own motives are shifting and de-stabilizing.  No one is safe.

BTW, the Lehrer News Hour called this incident “the death of one American woman and two other aid workers”.  “Other” aid workers?  I’ve remarked often on the invisibility of Afghans killed in this war.  Canadian aid worders and forces and those of NATO in general are also invisible.