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Monthly Archives: March 2009

MYANMAR – Karen Christians face joint army and Buddhist onslaught

MYANMAR – Karen Christians Face Joint Army and Buddhist Onslaught

By Lee Jay Walker
Tokyo Correspondent  -  THE SEOUL TIMES

 
Ethnic Karen kids playing soccer

Myanmar is beset by many internal problems and the current military junta desires to crush all opposition. Therefore, many minorities fear a fresh onslaught because regional powers desire to exploit the resources of Myanmar or they hope to gain an important leverage because of the geopolitical element.

Either way, it spells disaster for the main ethnic and religious groups which desire either greater autonomy, a federal state or independence. Added to this tragedy, is the betrayal of Karen Buddhists who have allied themselves with the military junta in their struggle to defeat Karen Christian forces. So can the Karen Christian leadership hold out against the joint forces of the military junta and the Karen Buddhist army ?

Before focusing on this it is important to mention the nature of this Karen Buddhist military betrayal because in the past the Karen had only one enemy, the military junta. However, today the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) is an ally of the military junta and now they are fighting their own people. Therefore, the Christian dominated Karen National Union (KNU) faces an uphill struggle because they face both external and internal forces, which seek to crush the KNU and all other opposition to the military junta.

The Karen follow different religions and the majority are still Buddhist and others are Animist, or they fuse both faiths together, however, the Christian religion is also vibrant. Within the KNU it is clear that Christians have major power and influence but the KNU is open to all faiths and many Buddhists within the Karen community despise the military junta. However, for the DKBA they seek to crush the KNU and other opposition to the military junta within the Karen community.

Benedict Rogers (12 Dec, 2004), a human rights advocate and journalist, stated at the British House of Commons that “Christians among the Chin, Kachin, Karen and Karenni ethnic nationalities report serious religious discrimination and persecution, including the destruction of churches and Christian symbols. In Chin State, all crosses on mountain-tops have been destroyed and Christians have been forced to build Buddhist pagodas in their place. Church services have been disrupted, and Chin children from Christian families have been taken and placed in Buddhist monasteries, where they have been forced to become novice monks. The printing of the Bible is banned, and Christians in government service are denied promotion.”

Therefore, it is clear that many ethnic groups are suffering at the hands of the military junta. Benedict Rogers also gave an example of the Buddhist DBKA onslaught because he comments that “On 25 March, 2004, for example, in a Karen village, the SPDC-aligned militia, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), ordered villagers to clear an area for the construction of a Buddhist pagoda, directly in front of a church. Christians were then ordered to construct the pagoda, and forbidden to construct a cross they had planned to build. Church services were drowned out by the DKBA using loudspeakers, who urged villagers to convert to Buddhism. Threats were made that, once the pagoda was built, Christians would be forced to leave the village. The DKBA threatened to kill the pastor, who fled for his life.”

This example is one of many and since 2004 the pressure is increasing against the KNU because their power base is getting smaller and this applies to land and numbers who are willing to fight against the military junta and DBKA. In 2008 the charismatic leader of the KNU, Pado Mahn Shar, was assassinated in Thailand and this killing was not only brutal, but it was a harbinger of more bad news.

For shortly afterwards the government of Thailand began to move closer to Myanmar because of the need to exploit the natural resources of land which once was under the control of the KNU. This applies to gold, zinc, rubber, timber and antimony. Given the recent loss of land to the military junta and the DBKA then it is clear that the KNU is losing major revenues and these revenues can no longer prop up the quasi-government of the KNU.

Also, in 2009 the government of Thailand ordered KNU military commanders to leave Thailand and to move back to Myanmar. At the same time the government of Myanmar and Thailand plan to develop hydroelectric dams along the Salween River. Therefore, the more Thailand depends on important raw materials and energy from Myanmar, the worse it becomes for the KNU.

So today the KNU is being attacked on all sides via different forces and their situation looks bleak. This applies to the growing strength of Buddhist forces who are exploiting the situation in order to crush Christianity; the joint military operation between the military junta and the Buddhist DBKA; loss of land and power within their stronghold; the loss of valuable resources which enabled the KNU to function a quasi-government; decreasing revenues also hinders the militarization of KNU units; and the safety net of Thailand is all but finished.

In recent times hundreds of Karen villagers have been overrun in the Dooplaya District and in other areas. Once more Buddhist forces within the DBKA destroyed Christian churches and enforced the supremacy of Buddhism via harsh methods. Organizations like Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) and others are demanding action because of the seriousness of the situation. CSW issued the following statement which is that “We call on the UN Security Council to impose a universal arms embargo on the regime in Burma (Myanmar) and to refer a case against Burma’s Army Generals to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.”

CSW also continued by stating that “It is now time to secure real and lasting change for the Karen people and all the peoples of Burma.” After all, other ethnic groups also suffer deeply in Myanmar and Muslims also suffer enormous persecution. In the past many Muslim mosques have been destroyed and Buddhist monks demanded the destruction of the ancient Hantha Mosque. Therefore, anti-Muslim riots have been common in parts of Myanmar. So it is clear that all minorities suffer enormous persecution and the same applies to anybody who opposes the military junta.

Overall, the picture looks really grim for the KNU and Christian child soldiers and military units of the KNU face an uphill struggle to survive. Richard Lloyd Parry, Asia Editor for The Times, a British newspaper, stated “The Karen conflict began with British betrayal after the Second World War and has stubbornly lived on. But now, as it marks its diamond jubilee, the war is nearing its endgame.”

Therefore, if the endgame does happen, like some people predict, then the only winners will be the military junta and militant Buddhists within the DBKA. However, it will be another “nail in the coffin” for the brave Karen people who fought so bravely against Japanese imperialists during World War Two and then fought for freedom within Myanmar. Given this, will the international community abandon yet another minority because they happen to reside in a distant land and because they have no international clout?

Lee Jay Walker
THE SEOUL TIMES
leejayteach@hotmail.com

 

 

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USA – Proposed solution to America’s long lost war on drugs

Proposed Solution to America’s Long Lost War on Drugs

Special Contribution
By John Gorrindo    -  THE SEOUL TIMES

 

Operation Mallorca, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, 2005 US Department of Justice press release

It was refreshing to hear a United State’s Secretary of State actually admit America’s fair share of culpability for the plague of death the drug cartels have perpetrated on the Mexican people.

“Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade. Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians,” Secretary Clinton said upon her official State visit to Mexico on March 25th.

As a high ranking member of the U.S. government, Clinton’s admission is laudable, but no prescription for winning the war itself is therein expressed. If history is any guide at all, no amount of police or national guardsmen will ever change America’s appetite for illegal drugs. The demand will always be there, and the rules governing this multi-billion dollar underground economy is no different than the so-called legitimate market place: If there is a demand, there will always be a supply. The crux of the war with Mexico’s drug cartels boils down to a question of whether Obama and his administration have the guts to act with a bold, new tack on the question of illegal drugs. The question is, “How innovative and courageous are you really, Mr. President? During your campaign you called for change in America- here’s your perfect opportunity, sir.”

Tragically, despite decades of opportunity, America’s ruling class has not shown the political courage to steer a rational course as per policies concerning illegal drugs. If pragmatism had held its own against demagoguery, Mexico and America wouldn’t have presently found themselves embroiled in such a devastating war against narcoterrorism.

Drugs have always been a powerful wedge issue in America’s long running culture wars- so much so that the first thing that comes to mind when talking about illegal drug use is the word war itself. It was then President Nixon who in 1971 first officially declared a War on Drugs, calling drugs “public enemy number one.” But Nixon’s real political intent was to pit his vaunted “silent majority” against the “moral degenerates” that threatened America’s very soul.

Nixon’s War on Drugs was a calculated tactic in a broader divide-and-conquer strategy that he hoped would help him remain on top of the political heap. The strategy was as simple as it was time-honored: create a life-threatening enemy; demonize that enemy; and then call for aggressive “law and order” solutions to defeat that enemy. Such fear-mongering was sure to rally the masses behind a president leading the charge, Nixon believed. American politicians have a nasty habit of fed off the diversion a common enemy provides.

But there were plenty of antecedents to Nixon’s call to war. America had already long been held hostage to a coterie of policy makers whose self-righteous indignation towards mind-altering substances were the determining factor in the government’s approach to regulating drug and alcohol use. Federal drug policy was founded on ideological and religious grounds. Drug use was considered a moral failing, and called for punitive action. Few saw it as a public health or medical issue.

During and after World War I, a consortium of socially conservative organizations succeeded after years of effort in persuading federal and state governments to outlaw alcohol through amending the U.S. constitution. During that same time, the Harrison Act of 1914 was also passed. This federal law was the first to criminalize drugs in the United States. These vice laws were passed not in response to the argument that drug use caused crime. It was not law enforcement that lobbied for the Prohibition, for instance, but religious groups such as Protestant missionary societies in China, and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Their stance against alcohol and drug use was that it was “sinful,” and that sinners should go to jail. It was the drug user’s very soul that was at stake, and the government’s obligation was to save that soul from its own devices.

Prohibition on alcohol proved to be an abject failure. A powerful underworld of organized crime led by figures such as Al Capone was spawned to slake the unquenchable American thirst for liquor. Alcohol had such strong roots in American culture that Prohibition was impossible to enforce. After a thirteen year reign, it took another amendment to the U.S. constitution to rescind Prohibition in 1933.

During that same time period, the use of drugs such as marijuana and opiates was not nearly as culturally widespread in the United States. With xenophobia in America abounding in the World War I era, such classes of drugs were considered culturally foreign; their effects damaging to a person’s ambitious drive, and as such could be propagandized as foreign threats to the moral health of America. Ultimately, as compared to alcohol, it proved easier to legislate against their use.

The cultural revolution of the 1960′s swept through America with a violent wind. Social experimentation and personal explorations into the worlds of sex and drugs were all part of a new preoccupation with individual freedom. Over the course of the next fifty years, drugs such as marijuana and cocaine have become rites of passage for not only millions of young Americans, but also American presidents as well. The last three presidents have all admitted to the use of either marijuana and/or cocaine. No longer foreign were these “exotic drugs.” In fact, marijuana had become America’s number one agricultural cash crop! Some estimates cite the number of Americans to have experimented with illegal drugs to be well over one hundred million.

In 1996, the National Review and its editor William F. Buckley published a daring symposium under the title The War on Drugs is Lost. (http://www.nationalreview.com/12feb96/drug.html)

Its authors were in the main conservative, and Buckley himself was considered America’s intellectual Godfather of the conservative revolution which had helped produce the Reagan era.

To quote Buckley’s lead-in sums up the frustration, citing the War on Drugs as a plague equal to drug use itself: “We are speaking of a plague that consumes an estimated $75 billion per year of public money, exacts an estimated $70 billion a year from consumers, is responsible for nearly 50 percent of the million Americans who are today in jail, occupies an estimated 50 percent of the trial time of our judiciary, and takes the time of 400,000 policemen — yet a plague for which no cure is at hand, nor in prospect.”

The symposium’s message was simple: it was time to decriminalize drugs in America. The most honest of conservatives now understood that America would have to become a police state sacrificing its dearly held values of freedom in order to win that war. It was a message whose time had come amongst even many conservative intellectuals, but to this very day, American politicians consider such a policy as tantamount to political suicide.

Where is there voice given to decriminalization as a weapon in the current war against the Mexican Drug Cartels? American establishments of government and the mainstream press have stubbornly refused to publically consider it. But if the violence spilling over the border into America begins to take an uncontrollable toll on American lives, one can predict that the “D” word- decriminalization- will start to be heard. It seems nothing short of desperation will overcome the American inertia and lack of political courage when it comes to at least testing-out decriminalization.

American politicians have routinely been deathly afraid of the “D” word, yet for years polls show the American public basically amenable to the following: The War on Drugs has failed, at least some illegal drugs should be decriminalized, and a public health approach should be tried as opposed to filling American prisons with casualties of that war.

And decriminalization of marijuana is exactly where the next phase of the War on Drugs should begin. Marijuana sales account for 50% of Mexican Drug Cartel income, and if the American government would establish new regulations for the legal production, distribution, tax, and conditional use of marijuana, it would threaten the Cartel with potential loss of half its income.

There already is provision for the medical use of marijuana in several American states. The door to decriminalization has already been cracked open as marijuana is widely acknowledged as having unique and proven medical applications nowhere else found in the pharmacopeia. Decriminalization becomes a matter of sorting out the various competing jurisdictions of state and federal law. No easy task, this, but doable.

Attacking the Cartel’s bottom line will be as powerful as any weapon or tactic imaginable. The Cartel is no less susceptible to a siphoning-off of funds as was Al Capone. Cutting off money supplies will quickly undermine the Cartel’s ability to buy weapons- many of them supplied by the American marketplace- and to continue financing private armies as populated by corrupted Mexican police and military personnel.

As President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano roll out their plans for engaging the Mexican War Cartels, we shall see just how bold their thinking really is. America’s longest war is also its longest lost war. The War on Drugs was lost long ago and America continues to be intent on losing it.

If Obama confidentially agrees with the concept of decriminalization, would he be willing to spend the political capital necessary to fight for it? The question will not doubt soon be answered.

Many political pundits are quick to summarize the Mexican-American drug war as one where “drugs flow north; money and weapons flow south.” The dynamic is used to describe the sick symbiosis that plagues relations between the two countries. Even with direct military intervention, America couldn’t ever hope to forever destroy the cross-border drug trade. It would resurrect itself in the blink of an eye. Interventionist policies have failed with disastrous results in South American countries such as Columbia and Peru, for instance.

But America can tackle the problem domestically. America’s anachronistic, counterproductive domestic prejudices and laws have been as responsible as any single factor in shaping the current horrors being played out in not only Mexico and America, but across the Americas itself.

Morality is a poor substitute for pragmatism in the War on Drugs.

 

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TURKEY and the secular card, myth or reality?

Turkey and The Secular Card, Myth or Reality?

By Lee Jay Walker
Tokyo Correspondent   -  THE SEOUL TIMES
 

Turkey and the Secular card, myth or reality?

Turkey is often praised for being secular and a future role model for other mainly Islamic societies because of its rich history of secularism. America and the United Kingdom, and other nations, often claim that Turkey is a beacon of hope and that it is evidence that democracy and secularism can exist within a mainly Muslim nation state. However, during this so-called “golden age” of secularism it is clear that religious and ethnic minorities have suffered greatly in modern day Turkey. So how true is it that Turkey is secular?

If we look at the founding father of modern day Turkey, Ataturk, then it is clear that he himself supported the destruction of Christianity via the Armenian and Assyrian Christian genocide of 1915. Therefore, it is clear that Turkish nationalism and secularism is tainted by its anti-Christian nature and also its anti-Kurdish nature. After all, the nation state of Turkey was about Turkish nationalism and secularism did not protect the religious or ethnic minorities of this diverse nation.

In spite of this, the myth of modernity and secularism based on the founding father prevails and Western nations are very optimistic about Turkey. Yes, Ataturk faced many difficulties and from a Turkish point of view he was very astute because he preserved a Turkish state when it was threatened by others. Yet in order to do this he crushed others and therefore the “bedrock” from the start was frail because it was based on Turkish nationalism.

Ataturk did implement many reforms in order to modernize Turkey and he did lay the foundation stone for a secular based state. In this sense he crushed Islamist hopes of a Sharia Islamic state and he gave more rights to females which did not exist in the old Ottoman Empire. But his legacy of modernity and secularism is tainted by the overt nationalism of old Turkey and this nationalism is still strong in modern day Turkey.

So if secularism means having the right to crush Christian minorities, moderate Muslim minorities like the Alevi, and ethnic minorities like the Assyrians, Syriacs, Armenians, and, most notably, the Kurds in modern day Turkey; then it is not the secularism which I support. So surely modernization and secularism is tainted by this overtly nationalist state and of course the Sunni orthodox mindset means that religious inequality is the norm?

In the 1990s the Alevi Muslims witnessed an upsurge in attacks against them. For example, David Zieden, who wrote an article called The Alevi of Anatolia, states that “Renewed inter-communal violence is sadly on the rise. In July 1993, at an Alevi cultural festival in Sivas, a Sunni fundamentalist mob set fire to a hotel where many Alevi participants had taken refuge, killing 35 of them. State security services did not interfere and prosecution against leaders of the riot was not energetically pursued. (41) In 1994, Istanbul municipal leaders from the Refah Islamic political party tried to raze an Alevi tekke (monastery) and close the Ezgi cafe where young Alevis frequently gathered.”

Meanwhile, if we focus on recent times then it is clear that persecution is still continuing. After all, in 2007 three Christians had their throats slit. Two of the victims had converted from Islam to Christianity, therefore, Necati Aydia, 36, and Ugur Yuksel, 32, were killed by Islamic fanatics on the grounds of merely leaving Islam. While the other murdered Christian, Tilmann Geske, 46, was a German citizen. One of the killers stated in the Hurriyet newspaper, that “We didn’t do this for ourselves. We did it for our religion. May this be a lesson to the enemies of religion.”

Before concluding it is important to state that you have many positive elements within Turkish society who desire change and who support a genuine democratic Turkey, which is inclusive. Also, if we view this nation from its past history and from a Turkish point of view, then clearly this nation faced many obstacles. For Ataturk, the infancy of Turkey was about survival and many Turks also suffered greatly. Given this, it is apparent that you have many positive elements within modern day Turkey and this nation does desire to join the European Union. Also, for America, Turkey is a vital strategic ally and a valued member of NATO.

Despite this, if we look at the rights of Alevi Muslims and Christians in modern day Turkey, and the persecution of Kurds; it is clear that orthodox Sunni Islam and nationalism is still being used by conservative elites. These elites still desire to crush both religious minorities and ethnic minorities. So are minorities equal in modern day Turkey? I think their treatment is the answer to this question and in recent times we have heard about several Christian murders. Also, for the more numerous Alevi Muslims and Kurds, then it is also clear that they face huge discrimination. Therefore, I believe that secular Turkey is a myth because in reality this nation state is focused on nationalism and clamping down on all minority faiths.
 
 

 

 

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BOLIVIA under Morales and the indigenous issue

Bolivia under Morales and the Indigenous Issue

By Lee Jay Walker
Tokyo Correspondent – THE SEOUL TIMES

 
President Evo Morales of Bolivia

President Evo Morales of Bolivia promised to challenge the status quo when he was elected and he is still sticking to this policy despite the complex political situation. Therefore, the indigenous issue alongside social disparity and implementing radical reforms are still part and parcel of the Morales political camp. Despite this, the political situation is still tense therefore can Morales overcome many countless obstacles that he faces?

It must be remembered that President Morales re-wrote the history books because he became the first fully indigenous head of state since the Spanish Conquest changed the landscape of South America. This in itself was revolutionary but more important, Morales firmly believes in socialism and the need to create a nation based on social equality. However, while the political landscape may be changing, it is apparent that elite vested interests remain and the future of this divided nation is far from certain.

For this reason, Morales called a referendum on August 14, 2008, in order to increase his power base. Of course this was a gamble but the gamble was rewarded because 67.4% of the electorate supported Morales. Therefore, the opposition was dealt a severe blow because Morales was given a fresh mandate but differences still remain in many parts of Bolivia.

From the outset the indigenous population and the marginalized believed that they had a head of state that would help to redistribute power, wealth, and land. After all, the Movement for Socialism (MAS) had been involved in many social protests prior to taking power. For example, during the Cochabamba protests of 2000 the socialist movement made it clear that their loyalty was with the alienated and dispossessed. Therefore, MAS promised to help the marginalized via genuine reforms and part of these reforms would come via the redistribution of gas wealth and by implementing land reforms.

However, you still have major opposition towards Morales and in the past tensions have erupted over many different issues. For example, in early 2007 around 20,000 miners took to the streets after Morales introduced a tax hike. While more threatening for Morales, six of the nine governors who have power throughout Bolivia are opposed to him. The Santa Cruz region, for example, is blessed with an abundance of oil and agricultural resources, and clearly the political leaders of this region are not happy about Morales. Similar ill-feelings can be felt in La Paz, Cochabamba, Beni, Pando, and Tarija.

The major issues in these areas are varied but clearly centralization and declining revenues are at the heart of the matter. The same can be said about challenging the status quo and undermining the traditional nature of Bolivian society, whereby the landowning class had major power. Given this, many governors are demanding greater autonomy and the need to introduce de-centralization policies.

Morales and MAS responded towards this major threat via the introduction of a new Bolivian constitution. Therefore, Morales lambasted the opposition in Santa Cruz last year for “fomenting and funding the autonomy movement in a bid to grab national resources.” He further added that he would not tolerate the break-up of Bolivia because the demise of Bolivia would merely create more chaos and lead to greater poverty.

At the moment, however, the opposition appears to be too divided and they are mainly concerned about regional issues or preserving their power base. These divisions mean that Morales can further bypass the opposition by appealing to the masses and by rallying them around the unity of Bolivia. Also, it is still apparent that Morales is widely respected amongst the indigenous population, the marginalized, within the socialist movement, and amongst other groups which are represented in Bolivia.

Jim Shultz, director of the Democracy Centre, which is a human rights organization located in Bolivia, states that “This is a country that has existed in a state of de facto apartheid for decades, centuries, millennia, depends on how you want to count it.” He further added that “For people who were used to being marginalized, even though they’re the majority, to see somebody who looks like them, who dresses like them, who talks like them, become the president of their country, you can’t underestimate the emotional symbolism of that.”

For now, Morales remains popular amongst the poorest in society and within the indigenous population. Yet poverty remains a major issue and the boom years of past high prices for petroleum is over at the moment, so an easy source of revenue will not apply in 2009 if prices remain in the doldrums. Therefore, Morales needs to implement “real reforms” because an economic downturn could unleash new political forces and the opposition will try to make the most of any natural divisions.

At the same time, Morales needs to become more pragmatic with regards to international foreign investments because many international investors are worried about past infringements. This applies to nationalization and a less than fluid legal framework.

Overall, it would appear that the road ahead is still rocky and the opposition will pounce on any major internal crisis given the opportunity. Given this, it is essential that Morales implements more pragmatic reforms and steadies the socialist power base. He also must try to reach-out to the opposition because they are not united, and he can reduce their collective threat via genuine compromise when it is applicable and in the interest of Bolivia.

For now, the downtrodden still have a leader who can appeal to them and indigenous people now see hope. Yet with each passing year, it will become apparent that words will no longer be enough, therefore, more reforms are needed. However, Morales must do this by being more open to fresh international capital and by utilizing the energy and mineral reserves of Bolivia.

LEE JAY WALKER
leejayteach@hotmail.com
THE SEOUL TIMES

 

 

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MEXICO – Drug cartels and the American market

Mexico — Drug Cartels and the American Market

By Lee Jay Walker
Tokyo Correspondent – THE SEOUL TIMES

 
Mexican President Felipe Calderon

Another day passes in Mexico, and once more it is another bloody day because five more beheadings have just taken place. This is modern day Mexico, it is a nation in crisis and the drug cartels are causing carnage and mayhem in Mexico, and in other regional nations. Therefore, how can President Felipe Calderon prevent this chaos from spreading?

Before pointing the finger at Mexico, it must be stated once more (like I reported last year) that America is also the cause of this mayhem. After all, it is the lucrative illegal drug market which is the cause of this problem. This is often overlooked by other nations, but sadly America is the biggest consumer of illegal drugs in the world, therefore, Mexico, and other regional nations, are faced by this reality.

So it is apparent that Mexico is in a weak position because of external factors. Therefore, because of geography and the major illegal drug market in America, this crisis is now growing out of control. When we add this to abject poverty in parts of Mexico alongside weak centralization in parts of this nation, then it is apparent that drug cartels can manipulate the situation to their own advantage.

The American factor is a serious issue because drug cartels in Mexico are fighting over the control of this lucrative trade route. If America could put “its own house in order” then clearly Mexico would be in a much more stronger position. Therefore, you have to have some sympathy for the leader of Mexico because President Calderon is not in control of the narcotic crisis in America.

Given this, it is vital that America spends more money on launching an internal crackdown against the usage of drugs in America. At the same time, the border between America and Mexico must be brought under control because illegal immigration is a major problem. This applies to poverty within America, which in turn means that drug cartels can manipulate this situation to their own respective advantage. Also, drug cartels can move between both nations and this is a real problem.

The four main drug cartels are the Sinaloa cartel, the Gulf cartel, the Juarez cartel, and the Tijuana cartel. However, you have many other drug cartels and a power vacuum is also causing mayhem, for ironically, every time a major leader is killed or put in chains, then others try to take over and internal and external violence is unleashed. Therefore, the size of the problem is enormous and police corruption is also a major issue, because it is apparent that Calderon fully trusts the armed forces.

In recent times, the US anti-narcotic drive in the Caribbean and Florida was stepped up and this led to some success. However, for the drug cartels in Mexico, this meant that the flow of drugs would increase through their territory and again it was boom time. After all, we are talking about a drug business which is estimated to be between $12 billion dollars to $14 billion dollars a year.

So clearly, Mexico is blighted by geography and the illegal drug consumer culture of America. Mexico is therefore caught in the middle and the lucrative illegal drug market which flows between the suppliers in South America and the consumers in the United States is a nightmare. Therefore, it is apparent that the government of Mexico does face real problems, but these problems are both internal and external.

The internal factors are weak central government in parts of Mexico, police corruption, geography, poverty, the infrastructure, and limited control over the border area with America. Yet the external factors appear even more problematic and clearly these problems are out of the control of Mexico. These apply to drug cartels throughout South America which use Mexico in order to export their illegal drugs, the enormous consumer market in America, the failure of America to solve their own drug problems, geography, and the lack of transparency amongst regional drug agencies and national governments.

Currently, around 40,000 troops from the Mexican army are trying to stem the tide of this crisis and in time they hope to crush the drug cartels. Yet since the armed forces entered the fray, it is apparent that the situation is still ongoing. Of course, Calderon is doing is best to defeat “this terrible cancer” which is eating away at parts of Mexico.

However, until the domestic illegal drug market is brought under control in America, I believe that Calderon and Mexico are merely banging their head against a brick wall. So it is vital that America and Mexico work hand-in-hand in order to fight against this growing menace. At the same time, other regional governments, for example in Colombia, must also forge a joint strategy because the problem in Mexico is not made in this nation, but it belongs to both the suppliers and consumers.

America also must stop being so complacent and the enormous drug culture of this nation needs to be tackled. Also, genuine action is needed and it is needed now. This applies to law enforcement agencies throughout the region, numerous national governments working together, the military, and other organizations, must all try to solve this enormous crisis. Another major area applies to poverty reduction measures. Yet will collective policies be implemented or will the emphasis be just put on the armed forces of Mexico?

Lee Jay Walker
leejayteach@hotmail.com
THE SEOUL TIMES

 

 

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SAUDI ARABIA allowing 8 year old girls to marry old men

Saudi Arabia Allowing 8 Year Old Girls to Marry Old Men

By Lee Jay Walker
Tokyo Correspondent   -      THE SEOUL TIMES

 
Saudi Arabia allowing 8 Year old girls to marry old men

In the nation of Saudi Arabia the despotic feudal system remains and the rights of girls, women, non-Muslims, Shia Muslims, and others, are violated by the Sunni Islamic justice system. Despite this, major nations still desire to trade with Saudi Arabia and the oil factor and geopolitical issue, appears to override human rights. So when will Saudi Arabia be challenged by the international community?

Before focusing on deeper political issues it is important to mention that laws in Saudi Arabia are based on Sharia Islamic Law and the Hadiths. Therefore, we are not talking about people on the margins of society who have no power, but who support child marriage; on the contrary, we are talking about major political leaders and Sunni Muslim religious leaders who support child marriage.

Therefore, the kingdom’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, supports child marriage and to him, and other Sunni Islamic leaders, they will site the life of Mohammed, who also married a child. Given this, Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh supports young girls as young as ten years of age to get married to elderly men. He stated that “It is incorrect to say that it’s not permitted to marry off girls who are 15 and younger.”

The Grand Mufti, of course, will look to Islamic scripture and focus on the Hadiths and then regulate this within Islamic Sharia Law. So he further added that “A girl aged 10 or 12 can be married. Those who think she’s too young are wrong and they are being unfair to her.” While only last month, a Saudi Arabian judge justified the right of an 8-year-old girl to be married to a 47-year-old man. The judge, Sheikh Habib Abdallah al-Habib, refused to annul the marriage after the mother signed a petition against the marriage of her young daughter.

This problem does not only apply to Saudi Arabia because violations like this can be found in many other societies, however, the political ties between major nations and Saudi Arabia is a reality. Also, in other poorer societies the rule of law may either be weak or centralization via the state may not be enforceable. However, in Saudi Arabia, we are talking about the judicial system, leading Sunni Islamic clerics, and of course the government is turning a blind eye to this serious issue.

Today, in Saudi Arabia, and other nations like Yemen, you are seeing grass-roots organizations rising up to challenge the conservative status quo. So some moderate Sunni Muslim clerics are speaking out and the media is also highlighting these cases in order to challenge the system. Therefore, some changes are happening and these brave individuals, organizations, and clerics, need international support.

Wajeha al-Huwaider also spoke out against the violation of human rights in Saudi Arabia. Wajeha al-Huwaider stated that it is essential to stand up against people who want to “keep us backward and in the dark ages.” This brave individual is the co-founder of the Society of Defending Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia. Organizations like this need greater global media coverage and the same applies to economic and political support.

Change of course must come from within but outside nations, institutions, and individuals, must play their part because issues like this must not be held to ransom by any one nation or religious faith. Issues like slavery, religious persecution, child marriages, and other global issues, must come under a global charter.

Of course, it is clear that nations and societies are at different development stages but issues like child marriage and slavery can not be ignored. So nations have a collective responsibility to defend people who are not protected by national laws. This does not imply that direct confrontation is the way, but economic, political, and other pressures must be enforced and the same applies to isolation within international institutions.

If America and the European Union, and other major democracies, are concerned about human rights and social justice, then they must stand up to the ruling elites in Saudi Arabia. After all, conversion from Islam to Christianity is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia and not one Buddhist temple or Christian church is allowed in this nation.

When we add religious persecution to child marriage, alongside the persecution of women, then clearly this nation needs to be challenged. The democratic world “must not sell its soul for oil and geopolitics.”After all, the global community ignored the role of Saudi Arabia with regards to global terrorism, and September 11 was the ultimate consequence of this, for the majority of attackers were Saudi nationals. Therefore, violations of human rights will come back to haunt other societies if they keep on turning a blind eye and the issue of child marriage is very serious.

Lee Jay Walker
leejayteach@hotmail.com
THE SEOUL TIMES

 

 

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USA – Bail outs must be questioned after AIG losses

USA — Bail Outs Must Be Questioned after AIG Losses

By Lee Jay Walker
Tokyo Correspondent  – THE SEOUL TIMES

 
Logo of American International Group (AIG)

The United States of America (USA) is going from one crisis to another and apparently the only answer is to throw more bad money at inefficient companies. After all, money keeps on being pumped into companies like AIG but nothing appears to change, apart from growing debt. Therefore, it is essential to question the economic policies of America because since the crisis began, it is apparent that the only policy is to bail out companies which appear to be in complete free fall.

So once more AIG is given taxpayers money and according to the mantra of President Obama, it is the same conclusion, spend tax-payers money and forget about any other alternative policy. Yet AIG could easily abuse tax-payers money in order to undercut their rivals and this is the problem. Once you intervene in the market, then the free market or capitalist system is undermined because of favouritism and unfair competition.

Therefore, if any respective bank abided by the fundamentals of banking, they should be rewarded for being efficient, conservative, and businesslike. Instead, inefficient banks or other financial institutions can just cry wolf and then go begging to Obama. After all, Obama appears to enjoy the publicity surrounding the injection of tax-payers money into many different sectors. Yet is big government the answer to the current economic crisis?

If we look at the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan we see the same flaws. After all, what Obama is saying, is that people who looked after their finances properly must be penalized. This can be the only conclusion, because people who took high risks or were greedy, are now going to obtain support from the government of America via conservative tax-payers who behaved properly. Is this a policy based on justice?

Jeffrey A. Miron, a senior and highly respected lecturer in economics at Harvard University, sums it up correctly. He states that “… government payments to troubled borrowers come from people who did not stretch their finances to buy homes, or who bought small, less expensive homes, or who economized on other expenses. That is, the plan penalizes cautious taxpayers to bail out those who took bigger risks.”

Therefore, just like the financial sector, it is inefficient companies which are being supported and instead of natural consolidation or the demise of inefficient companies, we are seeing a “basket case” scenario where Obama seeks to massively increase both the national debt and the power of government. However, like Jeffrey A. Miron points out, “Insisting that borrowers, not taxpayers, bear the consequences of these questionable decisions would provide the right incentives for appropriate risk-taking. This applies to homeowners and bankers alike.”

Therefore, real accountability is not being applied properly and prudent borrowers and companies are paying for something they never created. The natural logic being that in the future the same problem may arise but why worry, after all, the “nanny-state” of Obama or a future leader will bail you out. So individual tax-payers and companies which are efficient and paid vast sums in corporate tax, are now being told that they have to fork out once more in order to protect the people who created the economic crisis in the first place.

Obama, however, comes up with a different conclusion. For Obama states that “I know how unpopular it is to be seen as helping banks right now, especially when everyone is suffering in part from their bad decisions. I promise you, I get it. But I also know that in a time of crisis, we can not afford to govern out of anger.” In truth, Obama may indeed be very sincere and of course the central government must do something but this must come via real policy objectives. At the moment, I fail to see real policy objectives apart from keeping companies and home-owners afloat.

Shankar Vedantam, Washington Post Staff Writer, states that “What Obama did not mention, however, is that saving banks and financial institutions has the unintended consequence of saving many bankers, CEOs, and Wall Street tycoons from the consequences of their greed.” Therefore, Vedantam supports a middle way between the rationalism of Obama and the every-day anger of many tax-payers. This middle way, explains Vedantam, is that you should “Pour taxpayer money into fixing broken institutions, but make sure those responsible for the catastrophe pay – and pay publicly.”

Overall, I would argue that money spent on AIG and others, at the moment, is like one big “money black whole.” It appears that companies like this just plead for more funds and at the moment, they get it. Yet no fundamental change is taking place, instead the Dow Jones is either in free fall or it is static, and corporate and national debt just keeps on rising. Sooner or later, if the situation does not change, you will see greater social tensions and government policy will come under real attack. Therefore, will Obama take real measures to reverse the crisis or will he just keep on throwing money in all directions?

Lee Jay Walker
leejayteach@hotmail.com
THE SEOUL TIMES

 

 

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