Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Post

The week-end is too short.

Things that come back to bite you:

The cancer-stricken Lockerbie bomber can get out of bed and walk although he is clearly a very sick man, said the father of a victim after visiting him in Libya.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi invited Jim Swire, whose 23-year-old daughter Flora was one of 270 killed in the 1988 bombing, to visit him and the two men spent an hour together on a hospital ward in Tripoli on Tuesday.

Swire, who is British, is convinced of the Libyan's innocence and has spearheaded a campaign for an inquiry into the bombing.

Megrahi, the only person ever convicted of the attack, was released from a Scottish prison in August last year on compassionate grounds after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Scotland's devolved government, which has control over its own justice matters, freed the bomber after he was given just three months to live and he returned to Libya to a hero's welcome.

But more than a year later he is still alive, to the anger of relatives of the mainly American victims who died when Pan Am flight 103 blew up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie.

That man should have stayed in prison. I'm sure there is a "blood for oil" scandal here.

Yankee, go home:

American Rodney Watson will always remember watching a fellow soldier brutally beat an Iraqi civilian in anger over a divorce letter from his wife.

He'll recall the soldier spitting racist slurs in the faces of the people they were there to help, and then the same man turning to tell him, an African-American, not to worry — he'd never insult Watson like that.

After one year of duty overseas, Watson refused to return to an institution where he knew he'd be called a snitch for reporting such actions and where he felt his country was actually in a war to reap oil.

When ordered back to Iraq, he fled to Canada in 2006 with the draft dodgers of the Vietnam War era top of mind.

But he didn't expect he'd be trading one prison for another.

Last year, the 32-year-old was the first U.S. war resister to take sanctuary in a church after Canadian immigration officials ordered him deported.

Watson marked his one-year anniversary inside the Vancouver United church Saturday with all the hope he could muster, while longing for a day of fresh air in Stanley Park where he could watch his toddler son run.

"I can't be a part of that and it breaks my heart knowing that I risked my life in war and now I'm being treated like a criminal," Watson said, gazing Sunday around a gathering area in the church that's become his home.

"I can't even be a part of (my son's) life outside of this building. I feel like I'm being punished for having a good spirit."

Watson, from Kansas City, Kan., is among about 40 Americans who've been fighting legal battles, with the help of the War Resisters Support Campaign, to remain in Canada over their views on the Iraq war.

He now lives in a one-bedroom apartment inside the church with his wife and son.

His anniversary comes less than two weeks before MPs debate a private member's bill that would allow like-minded people to apply for permanent resident status in Canada.

If Watson were to return to the U.S., he faces a dishonourable discharge and a year in military prison. He's still awaiting a ruling on an application to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

"It would be funny for us to jail people for hard time, which is what they're getting down in the States, for agreeing with us about the Iraq war," said Toronto-area MP Gerard Kennedy, who spearheaded the bill. "We should stand behind our principles."

Parliament has already passed non-binding motions to stop the deportation of war resisters twice, but the Conservative government hasn't heeded those votes.

I have zero sympathy for "war resisters" (read: cowards or miscreants). The United States eliminated the draft in 1973. Anyone joining the army, therefore, does so of his own free will. They make no pretense about anything. If you join the armed forces, your body belongs to them for whatever amount of time. One could go to war or serve on a base. One can also take issue with the "immorality" (read: unpopularity) of war or unsubstantiated claims. These "war resisters" should take their feeble cases up with their government, not sponge off of Canadian misguided will. We should not be encouraging this. A soldier hiding from an unpopular war isn't the same as a North Korea refugee.

Speaking of which....

North Korea wants something:

North Korea beefed up its military arsenal near its border with the South last year despite a severe economic downturn, a government source in Seoul was quoted as saying Sunday.

The communist country deployed some 200 additional units of 240-mm multiple-rocket launchers along the heavily-fortified border, Yonhap news agency reported.

The 240-millimetre, which can shoot up to 22 rounds every 35 minutes and has a range of 60 kilometres (37 miles), is considered by the South's military as a "core threat" to the capital city of Seoul and populous suburbs, Yonhap said.

Seoul, about 50 kilometres south of the tense border, has a population of 10.4 million people, more than one fifth of the nation's total population.

The US has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea as a deterrent against the North, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in a ceasefire.

The source said Pyongyang also deployed 2,100 new artillery guns and 300 tanks, adding that the communist state is now known to have some 10,600 projectile weapons and 4,200 tanks.

The South's defence ministry said in a 2008 white paper that Pyongyang is armed with about 8,500 artillery guns and 3,900 tanks.

If China gave its pet project, North Korea, permission to fire on Seoul, the city would be wiped out in an hour. Even the idea of this should be frightening and infuriating to the average South Korea. I would militarize as soon as possible and I don't mean the mandatory two years of military service for young men or having the Americans back South Korea. I'm sure there is a countdown for when Kim Jong-Il dies and his son and the military duke it out for China's property (read: North Korea).

More restive unrest:

Four Buddhist villagers were shot dead and their homes set ablaze in Thailand's troubled Muslim south, police said on Sunday, the latest in a spree of deadly attacks blamed on separatist rebels.

The incidents all took place on Saturday night in the Bacho district of Narathiwat, one of three predominantly Muslim provinces bordering Malaysia where more than 4,100 people have been killed and 8,000 wounded in six years of unrest.

Police suspected the attacks were carried out by a group of about 10 ethnic Malay militants riding in a pickup truck and armed with M-16 assault rifles.

Among the victims was an 83-year-old man shot dead before his house was burned to the ground. The rebels then stormed another house nearby, shooting dead a 46-year-old man and his wife before torching the building, police said.

A 76-year-old woman was later killed in the same district in another gun and arson attack.

"We expect this is Muslim militants trying to evict Buddhist villagers from these areas," a police official said.

The incidents came amid a recent upsurge in violence in the once independent Muslim region, where Buddhists represent about 15 percent of the population. Symbols of the Buddhist Thai state are often the target of rebels believed to be separatists.

No credible group has claimed responsibility for the violence or stated goals or demands. A combined police and military security force of around 60,000 has failed to make any inroads toward quelling the unrest in the rubber-producing region.

According to official statistics, more than half of the victims are Muslims. Experts believe such attacks are aimed at silencing government informants or punishing Muslims for working for the Thai state.

In case there is a lack of clarity, there are people who do not respect even the sanctity of human life let alone cultural or religious differences. Such people cannot be appeased.

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