Archive for August 2008
Medvedev spells out five principles of Russian foreign policy
BOCHAROV RUCHEI (Sochi), August 31 (Itar-Tass)
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has declared five principles of the Russian foreign policy following the recognition of independent South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Medvedev had come to Sochi for a number of domestic and international meetings. He told three Russian television channels at his Bocharov Ruchei residence in Sochi on Sunday:
While implementing the Russian foreign policy, I will be guided with five principles,
First of all, Russia recognizes the supremacy of international legal fundamentals, which define relations between civilized nations. Secondly, the world must be multi-polar. Single polarity is unacceptable. Russia cannot accept a world order, in which any decisions will be made by a sole nation, even such a serious one as the United States. Such a world order will be unstable and fraught with conflicts. Thirdly, Russia does not want a confrontation with any country. Russia does not want isolation. We will develop as much as possible friendly relations with Europe, the United States and other countries of the world. Fourthly, the protection of life and dignity of Russian citizens no matter where they live is an absolute priority. We will also stand up for the interests of our business community abroad. Everyone must know that an aggression will be deterred. The fifth principle is Russia’s interests in friendly regions. The same as other countries, Russia has areas of privileged interests. These areas house countries to which we are linked with friendly ties, and I am not only speaking of neighboring countries. As for the future development of diplomatic relations, that will depend not only on Russia but also on our friends, partners and the international community at large. They have a choice.
Hindus get Kashmir land despite Muslim protests
Reuters via World Bulletin
On Sunday, officials and Hindu protesters reached an agreement to use the Kashmir forest land Muslims oppose to build temporary shelters, ending protests in Jammu city. Hindus in Kashmir called off their two-month protest after the government allowed them temporary use of Muslim land at the centre of a row for an annual pilgrimage, officials said on Sunday. The dispute began when India tried to give Kashmiri forest land to Hindus, then snowballed into some of the biggest pro-independence demonstrations in Kashmir since a battle against Indian occupation broke out in 1989. Authorities relaxed a curfew in Srinagar, the summer capital on Sunday. Muslims have vowed to continue their campaign. Indian troops have been criticised by Kashmiris and international human rights groups for using excessive force. On Sunday, officials and Hindu protesters reached an agreement to use the Kashmir forest land Muslims oppose to build temporary shelters, ending protests in Jammu city. “We are temporarily suspending our strike,” Leela Karan Sharma, a Hindu protest leader said, as Hindus burst fire crackers in the streets to celebrate the agreement. Authorities imposed a curfew in Jammu city. In the past three weeks, Indian police shot dead at least 30 protesters and more than 600 were wounded in clashes. India has also intensified pressures against Muslims and detained at least five leaders, including a top woman leader. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in Kashmir because of Indian occupation.
Hindus say deal struck on Kashmir shrine
In Kashmir, plans to donate the land where the shrine is situated to the Shri Amarnthji Shrine Board sparked huge demonstrations by Muslims who believed that the federal government wanted to change the demographics of the area. The decision was reversed in July, prompting Hindus to block the main highway and impose an economic blockade on the valley. Under the new deal, the 40 hectares of land will be available to the board every year but only temporarily. Any tents and shops can only be set up by Kashmiris. In Orissa state, which has been rocked by Hindu-Christian violence after the killing of a Hindu-nationalist preacher, two people were injured when police fired on rioters in Koraput district late Saturday. Violence in the Kandhamal district, where it has been most intense, is reported to have declined. Thousands of people, mainly Christians, have fled to the jungle or government shelters after their houses were burnt down. In West Bengal, thousands of protesters again stopped construction of a factory which is due to produce Tata motors’ Nano car. A team of Japanese experts helping the company went home after work was suspended. In Bihar, officials say that more than 300,000 people trapped in India’s worst floods in 50 years have been rescued but nearly double that number remain stranded without food or water. About 60 people have died and three million have been affected since the Kosi river breached its banks earlier this month on the border with Nepal and changed course.
Russia and the West: A Dialogue of the Deaf
John Laughland, Brussels Journal, Aug 27 2008
Perhaps the most revealing remark made during the crisis over South Ossetia was that by the British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, who attacked Russia in very strong terms for having reverted to “a 19th century approach to politics”. Milliband’s hatred of Russia is built into his political DNA. His grandfather, Samuel Miliband, was a Warsaw-born Communist who famously fought in the Red Army but who then left the Soviet Union for Belgium when Stalin became top dog in Moscow. As a lifelong Trotskyite and supporter of world revolution, Miliband was disgusted by Stalin’s decision to create socialism in one country alone and by his de facto restoration of Great Russian nationalism. Samuel’s son, Ralph, the Foreign Secretary’s father (born in Brussels), became a noted Marxist political scientist. His son David’s embrace now of the neo-conservative project of creating a unipolar world based on American power and the ideology of human rights is therefore a typical illustration of something of which I have written on many occasions in the past, namely the way in which true Marxists find their natural political home in the project of “global democratic revolution” proselytised by George W. Bush.
Indeed, the Foreign Secretary’s remark about Russia reveals more about the speaker than about the matter in hand. Of course the remark is notable for its hypocrisy. Miliband, after all, is a member of a government which has invaded two countries which have in the past been classic destinations for the British troops in the heyday of Empire, Afghanistan and Iraq, and which has also energetically pursued the extension of Western influence into another part of the world famous for being the focus of Great Power rivalry in the 19th century, the Balkans. But the remark is mainly notable for the mindset it reveals. From Miliband’s point of view, Western policy over the last fifteen years has not been a matter of brute force. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the bombing attack on Yugoslavia have not been military invasions, but instead selfless acts inspired by a desire to promote democracy and human rights, and therefore not even political acts in the classic sense of that term. Instead, they are (he believes) acts carried out in the service of humanity, acts which no reasonable person could oppose. Anyone who does oppose them is probably an enemy of humanity itself.
By contrast, continues his reasoning, Russia’s decision to protect South Ossetia from the Georgian attack on the night of 8 August is a cynical exercise of brute force designed solely to extend Russian power into the Caucasus. Indeed, although Moscow actually did react to human rights abuses and war crimes committed by the Georgians when they attacked Tskinvali, the language coming out of the Russian capital has tended to focus more on the country’s national interests and security, and less on appeals to universal principles of human rights. This is what Miliband cannot stand. When George W. Bush gave the order to invade Iraq, by contrast, there was of course a certain amount of talk about America’s need to protect herself from external attack (a threat which was purely invented). But the centre of gravity of the American arguments in favour of that war lay in universalist and unpolitical claims about democratising the Middle East and advancing the global democratic revolution.
The great and controversial German jurist, Carl Schmitt, famously adopted Proudhon’s dictum that “Whoever speaks about humanity is trying to deceive.” It’s a good one-liner but the remark is incorrect. Precisely the danger of the Miliband-Bush vision of politics is that it is not based on a conscious desire to deceive others but instead on self-deception – on a genuine belief in the rightness of the universalist and almost Messianic mission which they embrace. Like the liberal imperialists of the, er, 19th century, these people do really believe that what they are doing is selfless and essentially non-political. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union – an artificial political creation based on a negation of Russian history and reality, on bogus internationalism, and on an allegedly universalist political creed which was supposed to embrace the whole of humanity – Russian politicians have long since abandoned any pretence that their own country has any such universal vocation. When I met President Putin last September, he specifically said that Russia had suffered greatly from having adopted Lenin’s universalist creed of communism. (“Vladimir Ilyich Lenin-Ulyanov said at one point: Russia matters nothing to me; what matters is to achieve world socialist revolution.”)
Not so the United States and Britain. The neo-conservative project of creating a unipolar world based on human rights and democracy (embraced energetically on both the Left and the Right of the American political spectrum, as the recent nomination of Joe Biden as Barack Obama’s running-mate sadly emphasises) does require brute force to implement it. Developments like the “independence” of Kosovo grow only out of the barrel of a gun. But the project is supported in London and Washington by people who have utterly deluded themselves about its truly political nature. It is because the West still deceives itself on this matter, and because post-Soviet Russia no longer does, that East-West relations are a dialogue of the deaf. Both sides are speaking a language the other does not want to hear. The Western vision, based on self-deceit, is extremely dangerous; the Russian vision of politics is far more realistic. It is to be hoped, therefore, that the reassertion of a Russian presence on the international stage will force the Milibands of this world, obviously against their will, to realise a basic fact about the human condition. It is that the world has been divided into different states ever since the collapse of the Tower of Babel, and that politics consists therefore not in fantastic projects to construct a new tower in its place, but instead in making the best job one can out of the bricks which remain.
Troopergate in Alaska (extract)
Dave Lindorff, CounterPunch
[...] The evidence suggests that Gov. Palin may have abused her power as governor of Alaska to fire the state’s public security director, after he blocked her efforts to destroy the career of a low-level state trooper who happened to be her former brother-in-law, because she wanted to avenge a sister engaged in an ugly post-divorce custody dispute. Published allegations would show that both Gov. Palin’s husband Todd Palin (who works for British Petroleum), and members of her staff, repeatedly called and harangued state Public Safety Director Walt Monegan, who says he was “pressured” to fire the brother-in-law, Officer Mike Wooten. The Palins have charged that Wooten drank beer in his patrol car, hunted moose illegally and that he once fired his taser at his 11-year-old step son—charges that Wooten has denied. They have also claimed that Wooten threatened Sarah Palin’s father—also denied by Wooten.
Also interesting—the charges that were made against Wooten were for things that he allegedly did years before, and for which, where appropriate, he had already been disciplined or exonerated by his employer. That taser incident, if it happened, was when the stepson was 11. The boy, now 17, reportedly lives these days with the allegedly trigger-happy step dad. The alleged beer and hunting incidents also predate the divorce, which raises questions of why, if those charges warranted Wooten’s firing from the police force, the supposedly ethics-obsessed Palin would not have raised them back at the time with his superiors.
Palin has improbably denied that she had “anything to do with” her husband’s calls to Monegan. She subsequently fired Monegan and got his successor to fire her sister’s ex from the police force. (Her pick to replace Monegan is being accused of sexual harassment!). The Republican state legislature has voted $100,000 to fund an independent investigation into the abuse of power charges against Palin, and there is talk of a possible impeachment proceeding, too. Palin has denied that she did anything wrong. The investigation, which is expected to take three months to complete, will drag on through the entire presidential election campaign.
Advisers say conservative ire pushed
McCain away from picking Lieberman
Elisabeth Bumiller & Michael Cooper, IHT, Aug 31, 2008
For weeks, advisers close to the campaign said, McCain had wanted to name as his running mate his good friend Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, the Democrat turned independent. But by the end of last weekend, the outrage from Christian conservatives over the possibility that McCain would fill out the Republican ticket with Lieberman, a supporter of abortion rights, had become too intense to be ignored. McCain began the search for a running mate shortly after he secured the Republican nomination, with some 40 names on a list. By early spring he had cut it to 20, including, a top adviser said, at least five women: Palin; Meg Whitman, the former chief executive of eBay; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Carleton Fiorina, the former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard; and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas. But it was not until the last few weeks that McCain winnowed his list to five or six finalists. They included, a McCain adviser said, Pawlenty, Romney, Lieberman, Palin and Tom Ridge, the former governor of Pennsylvania who also supports abortion rights. Palin, unlike the others, was barely mentioned in news media speculation.
The finalists, including Palin, were vetted, a campaign adviser said, and McCain then asked his inner circle — Salter, Rick Davis, Steve Schmidt and Charlie Black — to provide him with assessments of each. “He said, ‘Give me plusses and minuses on each of these people,’ ” Black said. One of McCain’s closest friends, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, weighed in as well, pushing so hard for Lieberman — McCain, Graham and Lieberman are longtime traveling companions — that he vexed some of the other advisers. Others in the inner circle favored Pawlenty or Romney. Palin had no strong advocates in the group, an outside adviser said, but she had no detractors, either. Last Sunday, 24 hours after Obama announced his running mate, Senator Joseph Biden Jr. of Delaware, McCain met with his senior campaign team at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Phoenix. By then, campaign advisers said, the group had long decided that McCain’s “experience versus change” argument against Obama had run its course, to the extent that it had worked at all.
On August 26, the same day Medvedev announced Russia’s recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, a spokesman for the Palestinian group Hamas welcomed the move. He said that there were similarities between the situations of the Abkhazian and South Ossetian people, and the Palestinian people. The spokesman said: “We, Palestinians, also struggle to attain recognition for our rights, the main of which is the right to be an independent state. We hope that the decision of Moscow becomes the beginning of recognition of peoples which combat for freedom and justice.”
Storm scrambles GOP convention
Mike Allen & Jonathan Martin, Politico, Aug 30 2008
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Bush is unlikely to make it to the Republican National Convention, and McCain may deliver his acceptance speech via satellite because of the historically huge hurricane threatening New Orleans, top officials said. Late Saturday night, the RNC was planning to issue a release announcing the formation of a “working group of representatives from each of the states in Hurricane Gustav’s path. The group will ensure that all affected delegates have information and assistance in real time. The Affected States Working Group is led by all five state party chairs from the affected area, along with other delegation officials. The purpose of the group will be to regularly brief their delegates and convention planners, provide access to timely information and assistance, and give input on appropriate steps that can be taken from Minnesota.”
Officials insisted that the convention, scheduled to open here on Monday, will go on — albeit in a more limited and sedate form — even if Hurricane Gustav stays on its projected path. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered a mandatory evacuation beginning at 8 a.m. Sunday after federal officials said Gustav could grow to a catastrophic Category 5 and hit Monday afternoon somewhere between eastern Texas and western Mississippi. McCain made plans to travel to a threatened area of the Gulf Coast on Sunday, accompanied by his wife, Cindy, and running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. They planned to meet Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in Jackson, Miss., aides said. McCain was scheduled to deliver his acceptance speech Thursday but now may do so from the devastation zone if the storm hits the US coast with the ferocity feared by forecasters.
Organizers confronted a plate of unhappy options, wanting to appear in touch and sympathetic while still carrying out their necessary business of officially nominating the party’s presidential candidate. One top convention planner said Saturday night to expect a more definitive plan by mid-afternoon Sunday. The source indicated that organizers had held off on making any firm pronouncements because of the uncertainty as to when Gustav will make landfall, and because they wanted to get a better sense of its impact before making decisions. Convention planners were preparing contingencies for making the nomination official even if delegates from the threatened area were missing. Officials were considering a video link for Bush, among other possibilities that they would not specify. The Red Cross may come in to the Xcel Energy Center to mobilize the delegates in a giant service project, preparing care packages for the hurricane zone, organizers said. The White House announced that Bush on Sunday morning will visit the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a briefing by federal, state and local officials.
Republican officials here are preparing for radical changes to every element of the convention. If the storm is as bad as feared, they will dramatically alter the tone of the speeches, cut way back on the partisan red meat, eliminate the glitzy entertainment and, if they can do so legally, use the gathering for a massive fundraising drive that may even feature a passing of buckets on the convention floor to benefit the Red Cross, according to a top GOP source. “We’ll have to acknowledge that Americans are hurting,” said this Republican. Much can be changed or altogether dropped from the convention, but it emphatically must take place in some form, because McCain needs to be nominated to be legally placed on the ballot in all 50 states. “There are no exceptions to that,” said the source. For now, though, they’re hesitant to act too quickly. But as the hours pass, the television networks, which have already invested considerable cash in the made-for-TV quadrennial ritual, are becoming increasingly impatient and are pressing party officials to firm up plans. The networks are stretched thin, in terms of both personnel and equipment, between here and the Gulf region and need to make their own decisions. But Republicans are reluctant to react too quickly under pressure. “We don’t want to be pushed into a herd mentality by the television media,” said a senior GOP source.