Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Remembering the People of Hiroshima & Nagasaki

August 6, 2010

They say that history is written by the victor. In my experience, history is far too often hidden by the victor. You mightn’t know exactly how many people died in Chernobyl. You might not even know that Chernobyl is in the Ukraine. There’s little doubt, though, that you’re aware of the disaster and the devastating effects of the immediate and longer aftermath. This is mostly because it happened in the old U.S.S.R. and the west made sure you knew the extent of the damage that resulted. The west cared not about the people of the Ukraine. They cared very much about victory in the cold war.

Today marks a historic anniversary. Sixty five years ago today, Harry Truman, the president of the united states, sent the enola gay to drop the world’s first nuclear bomb on a highly populated city in Japan, a country that had so callously and cowardly attacked them. The city was dense with military supplies and resources and even more so with innocent human beings. What kind of psychology underlies the naming of this bomb the ‘little boy’? Astonishing, right? At a little after eight in the morning approximately eighty thousand souls lost their lives. Many of them instantly disintegrated. Casualties are estimated at between one hundred and two hundred thousand lives directly from radiation. The radiation contributed to illness among the newborn for generations. Of course it did, somebody dropped an atomic bomb there. Where? A good few hundred kilometres from Tokyo.

Did you know that? Have you ever considered the fall out from these bombs? Not in the way that you’re quite aware of Chernobyl, right? The information was always there. Right?

Today the world is rifling towards a nuclear-restricted state. We certainly need to deal with the crazy men in Iran, Pakistan and North Korea. It gives me hope that successive presidents of the United States are at least attempting to denuclearise the military. But I still fear that my children’s world will be forever wounded by what looks ever increasingly likely to be a third world war.

President Obama today sent a representative of his government to Hiroshima for the memorial service. The impact of this extraordinary gesture should not be underestimated or lost, no matter what Paul Tibbet’s son declared today.

You were aware, of course, that an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and contributed massively to the end of the Second World War in the pacific. You were likely taught of this incident, depicted as a glorious victory. There are lessons we should learn from both great wars. And they are lessons of persons perished. We should never again let this happen.

In a few days time another anniversary will take place. Maybe you’ll take a minute to remember the people of Nagasaki. Don’t think about mushroom clouds. Or glorious victories. Think about a similar number of our fellow humans dead. Disintegrating. Imagine it was your people. Your family.  Just maybe, if ever our world leaders attempt to do this again, you’ll join me in saying no.

In remembrance of all souls lost during each and every war that has been fought in our world. May our children reach a place where lives are not lost in this fashion.

Today I met an Anti-Semite

June 1, 2010

Today I met an anti-Semite….I was as astonished and angry with the bigot as I had ever been in my life. I still can’t quite believe it. But, we’ll get back to that

There is so much access to history these days. One can spend a lifetime devouring texts describing in minute detail the events of the distant, far and near past. One of the real challenges for both reader and writer is to form an appreciation and understanding of the context. How the events that happened could have ever occurred in a world like ours. How nobody sounded an alarm bell for the horrors that punctuate our past. I wonder how my Grandfather would express his memories of the war with England, the emergency we labelled the second world war and then the awesome power displayed in the six day war. But pick up any newspaper of merit today and you can see a world in chaos. And I wonder how I will explain what is certain to unfold to my kids.

You couldn’t make this up. If you did, nobody would credit it.

In Malawi this weekend the largest NGO in the world, the UN, was joined by every western power with any influence in that place, to secure the release of the two men jailed for having a homosexual relationship. Their fourteen year hard labour sentence was pardoned by the president under direct intervention by the UN secretary general. With no shame the president of Malawi stated that there was nothing wrong with this original sentence and that these men would be re-imprisoned should they continue their relationship. I found myself conflicted. Should we be delighted that human rights prevailed for two individuals or still disgusted by countries harbouring such laws? I take heart that, at least in some places in the world, wrong-doers can be forced by good people to undo their horrors. Not so in Israel, where it appears that one may be able to commit any crime and be left unpunished.

Malawi is sickening. But thankfully there are places in the world like the UK, where a minister was forced to resign this weekend for unlawful expenses claims rather than his homo-sexuality, all of which emerged at the same time. A person should be punished for being corrupt but not for being gay.

Nothing else in the world today was as prominently reported on as the Israeli storming of a humanitarian aid flotilla, which resulted in the death of fifteen people, according to the latest reports. What interests me is how history will treat this incident. I look at this flotilla and recognise it as a symbol of peaceful protest that was potentially mighty enough to bring down the Israeli blockade of Gaza. But if these people choose to attack the Israelis who stormed this boat then they have made a dreadful mis-calculation.

The press is astonishing today. The Israeli newspapers carry stories that the humanitarian ships ‘came prepared for war’ and that these aid workers de-armed the commandos. Now hang on a second. They are commandos! If you want me to believe that they were over-whelmed by the force they encountered on the flotilla then I want to see evidence of the commando-comparable training that these aid workers underwent before the attack. Israel may feel we are stupid, but we’re not that stupid, Sirs, we’re not that stupid. These are elite and fully trained members of one of the most advanced militaries in the world. They had weeks to prepare for this event, for advertising its arrival was the whole point. Their superiors knew the whole world would be watching. And then people died. Interestingly, many western paper editors didn’t notice that these people were human beings that were murdered. They simply refer to the event as a horrendous PR day for Israel.

If at all possible Israel will find a way to wriggle out of this, while the world writes reports. Once again the enemies of Israel will learn a lesson: we can kill thousands or just fifteen, white or Arab, we can do as we wish, we are Israel.

In the back corner of the newspapers today one story hid. There’s a very dangerous man in this world and all the satires don’t seem to generate awareness that he must go. It’s not enough for China. Sure, North Korea blew up the South Korean submarine but no worry. It doesn’t care enough to publically condemn them. But how could it? China watches on a daily basis across the border. The people of North Korea are suffering far longer than those poor souls who were lost on that submarine. Their lives deserve to be recognised too. This man has very serious weaponry and is not fearful of using them. Yet China doesn’t mind, too much.

In the context of such enormous events the story of an individual can easily seem paltry. But this should never be allowed to be the case. Today the archbishop of Nigeria had his resignation for having broken his vow of chastity accepted by the cardinal rottweiler. Interestingly, the fact that this vow was broken via a ‘relationship’ with a fourteen year old girl was not a matter for resignation. Reading between the lines, this child continued to be abused by this man until she was an adult, at which point the entire abuse became ‘a relationship’. As such ‘there was no evidence of child abuse’. Enough of this! A child is not capable of having a relationship, under any circumstances. But apparently there’s a god somewhere who doesn’t care that you forced yourself upon a vulnerable young girl but only that you had sex when you said you wouldn’t. No sir, I don’t think so.

Today Israel murdered fifteen members of a flotilla bound for Palestine with what we have every reason to believe was a purely humanitarian cargo. In the aftermath everyone I met was angered. The Irish Taoiseach and Foreign Minister were strong in their condemnation. Remember, we haven’t even got the report back on the use of Irish passports by mossad. The Israeli ambassador in Ireland tonight announced that he was not ashamed of what had happened. That was calm compared to the other statements from Israel. He said that Ireland would have done the same thing. Actually, we would have taken in this flotilla, fed and watered the crew and announced to the world’s press that we are listening to the concerns of these peaceful protesters. We understand conflict over territory very well in this country, Mr Ambassador, and we never stormed a humanitarian aid group to my knowledge.

I was heartened as country after country of merit, which off course excludes the US when it comes to matters Israeli, came out to condemn what took place in international waters today. The US is a tricky one. In the US it is not about right versus wrong but republican versus democrat in the up-coming half-term elections. It seems that for the US voters murder is not murder when the victims are non-US citizens. Thankfully, the voters of much of the rest of the world are still distracted by right and wrong. I’m starting to believe that the world might not take this one lying down.

And in the background the Elders met to discuss the development of Africa. Mandela, Tutu, Carter, Robinson. Such wonderful persons, such a contribution to the world. What must they have thought as they learned of the news.

But then I met a man who said the most dreadful anti-Jewish sentence possible. I wouldn’t dishonour Jewish people by repeating it here. But needless to say, it was disgusting anti-Semitism at its worse. I was angered and sickened and left him in a clear understanding that there was no place in our world for words like that. I was astonished that people like this existed in our world today. I still can’t believe it. There is no justification for this. No matter how much you disagree with Israeli foreign policies, decent people do not do that. You are the worst of the worst in this world. How dare you, how dare you!

After the first great war the world believed that a forum for settling international disputes was required and generated the League of Nations. The League proved useless against the rise of the Nazis. So the world created a new version of The League, The United Nations, with one major difference: the UN would have a military arm. Since then we have seen the two sides of the UN. For certain countries the UN is a massively influential NGO, particularly when it comes to Human Rights. For others, the UN is an organisation that can be hamstrung with bureaucracy at any time by use of the infamous veto. I fear that this lesson may only be fully appreciated after another great war.

There is quite possibly a storm coming. And if we survive my children will ask me, Dad, how did this happen? I’ll look at them and try to explain the chaos of the time. The circumstance from one corner of the world to the other. But really, I won’t be able to explain the most important part: why not enough people choose to say No, not enough people decided to say No.

Gandhi Policy is Thankfully Ignored in Cork But Sadly Missing in Listowel

May 24, 2010

A few months back an extraordinary situation unfolded in a far from extraordinary town in a rural part of Ireland. The situation punctuated the conviction of a man for the sexual assault of a young lady. Just before and after the sentencing took place a crowd emerged. When I originally read this story I assumed that I was about to be told about the convict being attacked by an angry mob. Far from it.

The crowd was there in support with the convict. This might be considered loyalty for a dear friend or relative, I guess? I don’t approve of what you did but you’ve shown remorse for this horrendous mistake and I shall stand by you? They hugged and back-slapped, shook hands and shared words of support.

This was a man who has not shown remorse. Who denied the incident to the end. Whom a court decided drugged a young lady, took her to a secluded place and sexually assaulted her. Sexual assault is one of most horrendous of crimes. Let’s not understate this.

I’m not interested in this convict. I’m interested in the action of his supporters and the people of Listowel.

Now catholic priests don’t have a leg to stand on in the Ireland of 2010. And the guy who went to the court to embrace this convict led down every catholic in the world. I somehow don’t remember that part in the bible. Counselling a man who feels he was perfectly right to sexually assault a young lady in the dead of night.

What emerged during and after this case was that a large proportion of the Listowel community had hounded and harassed this lady. This poor victim. From the moment she reported the crime this continued. Our country was divided once again. People in Listowel in support of the convict. Every other person outside of that town in support of that victim. I mailed the rape crisis centre in Kerry to pass on my support to this young lady and was joined in thousands of Irish people, the vast majority of whom were from outside Listowel.

And so the situation calmed. Or so we thought.

Today’s Irish Independent reported that this victim continues to be harassed in her home in Listowel. Several incidents have taken place, involving the door of her home being kicked down and her side entrance being forcibly opened. It took some time but the council have now provided her with extra security locks and flood lights. Gardai, the Irish police force, are reportedly supportive and I hope they bide their time and take those responsible down.

The Gardai get an awful lot of slack when they make mistakes. I guess that’s true of all police forces? Well this week I shall be mailing the Garda Ombudsman and the head office of the Gardai to congratulate them on a wonderful job last Friday evening.

In the county bordering Listowel, an armed man walked into a bar and threatened staff and customers with deadly force. A newly formed, armed wing of the Garda happened to be in the area and were quickly on the scene. They entered and were threatened by the gun-wielder. The Garda made the decision to shoot this man and did so without placing his life in danger. The man is in a stable condition in hospital.

In the Ireland of 2010, a police officer shooting a criminal remains an extraordinary event. These brilliant Gardai handled this situation with control and due care for the assailant, the customers and themselves. They are a credit to the force and should be commended for their work. In my opinion we have no right to say No when No should be said if we do not say Yes when Yes needs to be said.

And then a parallel stuck me.

Should the harassers in Listowel be allowed to inflict this undeserved punishment upon the young lady that was sexually assaulted? If someone kicked in your door? If this continued? If this was reported to the authorities and they were unable to collect enough evidence for a conviction?

A gentle Indian man once wrote a letter to the government of the British Empire. It explained that violence should not be met with violence. His reasoning? ‘An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind’.

Gandhi showed the world the power or an unarmed group or peaceful protesters who stand up and say No! The Listowel situation shouldn’t be met with vigilantism, in my opinion. But there are other options. There must be decent people in Listowel, lots of them. People who can stand up and say No!

Malawi Solidarity With the HomoHatred of the Catholic Church

May 22, 2010

I feel powerless and I despair. How is it that so many injustices populate the twenty-first century? And how is it that so many of us feel that no action we could take could make any difference? We see activists around us making valiant efforts to change the world for the better. Often to little immediate effect. But we can inform ourselves. And we can say no when no needs to be said.

Ireland, my home, was a theocracy for many years. In the 1930s our leader, An Taoiseach, Eamon deValera wrote a new constitution for a nascent nation. This was proofed by the head of the catholic church in Ireland, a fact that astonishes many Irish people today. But in the Ireland of the 1930s, sales to the Irish people had to be wrapped with a Vatican Shroud and topped with the bow of Sunday homily support.

In the last twenty years this has changed. In 1991 we were first allowed to purchase barrier contraception without a prescription from a general practitioner. And today our government is moving towards the legal recognition of same sex marriages. This is supported by many people in Ireland, but perhaps not the majority of voters? No matter. One of the wonderful aspects of European legislation is human rights law. It doesn’t matter whether you dislike homosexuality. We Europeans recognise the right for any two adults to be have a relationship. To receive the same legal rights, regardless of the gender of those involved. It may not be utopian yet, but we’re getting there.

I was astonished this Wednesday! An article on the bbc website reported that a judge in Malawi had jailed two men due to their homosexuality. I was stunned to read that the judge had imposed a 14 year hard labour sentence! I was further amazed to hear the basis for this sentence: to keep these men away from Malawian society and to place fear in the hearts of all. I was finally saddened to silence by the HomoHating taunting of ordinary Malawians as these men were taken away to prison.

Thankfully, I was heartened to read the response of the United States and United Kingdom governments, though the Irish response is noticeably absent to date. Both governments reacted with astonishment. However, one can be certain that no action will be taken against Malawi for this despicable act.

Interestingly, many of the HomoHaters in the world believe they are going to heaven. One religion professes that same sex relationships are the basis for paedophilia. Yes, it would be hilarious if not so bigoted. Another professes that a camp person should be beaten with a stick day after day until they come back one day de-gayed and thank you for curing them. It appears that HomoHatred is their way to heaven.

This week was also defined by several articles relating to the Pope. I held up such hope for this guy. He once stood in the site of the World Trade Centre in New York City and apologised to the victims of child abuse committed by members of the catholic church in the United States. I held out such hope.

This week also embraced the one year anniversary of the Ryan report. This publication detailed an astonishing collection of abuses committed by members of the catholic church upon children in Ireland. Some of us protested by signing the book of support for the victims of this abuse. Some of us protested by refusing to go to church. Some of us protest by letting no pro-church comment go unchallenged. I just don’t understand. The vast majority of people who attended catholic mass one year ago continue to do so today. In doing so they applaud and legitimise the churches’ response to this holocaust, as I believe it will one day be recognised. Perhaps I’m being very naive, but I believe that many of these assailants will be successfully prosecuted in the Ireland of the twenty-first century. We’re not prefect but we’re not Malawi.

Of course this is about money. If the church admits responsibility then it will have to financially compensate each and every victim. So from the Pope to the person who still attends church without protesting, money is placed before justice for abused children. The irony of the next newspaper article was not lost on me. A Bishop in Northern Ireland is reported to have spent a week visiting different parishes to perform confirmation ceremonies for catholic children. This guy is reported to have asked each set of these children to donate some of the money that is traditionally received though confirmation gifts to the church! No protest of any kind is reported to have taken place in the church. No doubt upset parents felt they should not ruin their child’s special day any further. This is totally understandable. But yet will they return to church next weekend without a word of protest?

In Portugal this week the Pope stood up and pronounced that same sex marriage is a threat to the very existence of the Universe or something. It was typically HomoHating, the man is consistent. I think your organised protection of multiple child abusers might be more of a threat Sir. Shame on you.

The Pope no doubt sleeps soundly in his bed tonight, secure in the knowledge that his system of HomoHatred is being fully supported in Malawi. Perhaps he’ll pay them a visit some day soon to celebrate the incarceration of those without sin.

The words of the enlightened are so often ignored by those who profess to support them the most. There is one religious text that can be summarised in one line: Love one another as I have loved you. There’s another text too, which can be summarised in one sentence and should be adhered to by anyone who proclaims that they work in God’s name: God is always watching.

Footnote: On May 29th 2010 international pressure resulted in the pardon of the two Malawians convicted for homosexuality. Please see the post related to this, which will be entered shortly. Mic

Fisk’s Wisdom

November 5, 2009

 

Don’t send 40,000 more troops. Send 40,000 doctors and teachers

 

Robert Fisk, Dublin, November 5th 2009