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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Was the war on terror a mistake?

That's the implication of comments by Britain's foreign minister, David Miliband, in the Guardian and reported on by the BBC. One key graf:

The more we lump terrorist groups together and draw the battle lines as a simple binary struggle between moderates and extremists, or good and evil, the more we play into the hands of those seeking to unify groups with little in common. Terrorist groups need to be tackled at root, interdicting flows of weapons and finance, exposing the shallowness of their claims, channelling their followers into democratic politics.

The "war on terror" also implied that the correct response was primarily military. But as General Petraeus said to me and others in Iraq, the coalition there could not kill its way out of the problems of insurgency and civil strife.

And he concludes:

The call for a "war on terror" was a call to arms, an attempt to build solidarity for a fight against a single shared enemy. But the foundation for solidarity between peoples and nations should be based not on who we are against, but on the idea of who we are and the values we share. Terrorists succeed when they render countries fearful and vindictive; when they sow division and animosity; when they force countries to respond with violence and repression. The best response is to refuse to be cowed.

Waterboarding is torture. So said Attorney General nominee Eric Holder at his Senate confirmation hearing today. That means his Justice Department will be obliged to prosecute those who ordered it and carried it out, right?

More on waterboarding. An article by Scott Shane in the January 17 New York Times explores the possibility that Holder's declaration does indeed oblige his Justice Department to consider prosecuting those who carried out torture. Stay tuned.

More Israeli war crimes. The U.N. accuses it of illegally firing white phosphorus shells.

UNICEF: Children bearing brunt of Gaza war. From CNN.

Amnesty International calls for arms embargo. The organization cites evidence of U.S. arms shipments to Israel just before and after the beginning of the Gaza war. Thanks to UA for bringing this to our attention.

Muntader al-Zaidi. The International Herald Tribune reports that the journalist who threw his shoes at George W. Bush has not been allowed visits from family nor lawyers since December 21. Al-Zaidi's only real crime, of course, is that he missed. Seriously, however, Bush's "young democracy" is obviously still taking baby steps towards basic civil rights. (Be sure to visit the Free al-Zaidi Web site.)

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